Not by a long shot.
There is already more than enough coverage out there of the key subtexts of the George Zimmerman trial. The old trail horse of racial division is well on display, and the need of many in the media to turn this into an example of why people should be punished if they choose to carry a weapon can be seen up and down the cable channel rack. But there is one new wrinkle to an old story which is worth noting, and it truly does seem to be recent. The old and busted talking points would have been, “George Zimmerman is a racist, so he needs to be convicted anyway.” But a fresh meme arose at some point during the trial. I’m not sure who the first one was to invoke this bold new mantra, but it was immediately picked up by the prosecutors, by the state AG, and by “analysts” on CNN and MSNBC in nearly every segment. Ben Jealous of the NAACP has been saying it during interviews all day. The family attorneys for the Martins have been repeating it until they trip over the words. Here’s just one example.
The NAACP issued a statement shortly after the verdict saying that justice had not prevailed. Roslyn M. Brock, the organization’s chairman, said the case had “re-energized the movement to end racial profiling in the United States.”
This has caught fire in a way I never expected. We’re done saying, George Zimmerman went after Trayvon Martin because he’s black. The new hotness coming at you from the media – old and new – 24/7, is that Zimmerman “profiled” Martin. And if you think about it, it’s fairly brilliant. The race card has been played so often and for so long that there’s barely any paint left on it. But the idea that anyone – not just law enforcement officers – can “profile” somebody has a fresh coat of paint and sounds like it could sweep in all sorts of disaffected groups. Plus, it has the added bonus of already being a word in common use, nearly always in a pejorative fashion. The judge didn’t allow the word “racial” to be put in front of it – another plus for those who would have Zimmerman’s head on a pike – but that didn’t matter. Everyone heard it in their minds.
The police use racial profiling to unfairly target minorities and now civilians can do it too.
All of this ignores the inconvenient fact that actual “racial profiling” as used by law enforcement is one tool in the process of working toward an arrest. But in the post-Zimmerman era, anyone who winds up in a conflict situation where there is a racial difference between the parties can now stand up and say that the villain was profiling the other party. It provides the convenient mental imagery to lump them in with rogue cops and the rest of the story. Don’t look for this to end any time soon. Profiling is the new substitute for discrimination, even if the perpetrator has nothing to do with law enforcement, and I’m betting it’s going to have a long run.