By Carl Dix and Keith James
In the midst of a racist media onslaught vilifying Rachel Jeantel – including in the The Orlando Sentinel itself - the Sentinel has refused to publish the anti-racist “We Say No More!” statement on Trayvon Martin’s killing as a paid ad, claiming it’s “inflammatory” and “is more of an opinion rather than a substantiated fact and therefore [we] are unable to publish the ad in its present form.”
This is outrageous censorship and racist bias that must not be allowed to stand. It’s crucial to the fight for justice for Trayvon. And that’s crucial for the future of millions of African-American and other youth!
On February 26, 2012, George Zimmerman racially profiled, stalked and then shot Trayvon Martin dead. He is standing trial today because people around the country rose up and demanded that Zimmerman be charged with the murder.
“We Say No More!,” signed by Cornel West, Tavis Smiley, Adam Horovitz of the Beastie Boys, Tom Morello, Noam Chomsky, actors Don Cheadle, Peter Coyote, Lisa Edelstein, scientist Niles Eldridge, Tony Award winning playwright Eve Ensler and many others and originally published three months later in Jacksonville’s Florida Star, states simply:
“We Say NO MORE! The killing of Trayvon Martin and 2.4 million in prison make clear that there is a whole generation of Black and Latino youth who have been marked and treated as a ‘generation of suspects’ to be murdered and jailed. This is not an issue for Black people alone but for all who care about justice; it is not a random tragedy. We Say NO MORE!”
This statement tells the truth about Trayvon’s murder and the “slow genocide” of mass incarceration, but the Sentinel dismissed it as “inflammatory” and ‘opinion, not fact.’
Then, the day after rejecting “We Say No More!” (June 27), the Sentinel promoted on its website, as a “top pick” no less, a racist, inflammatory, and opinionated savaging of proscution witness and Trayvon’s friend Rachel Jeantel, by multimedia reporter and video editor Jon Busdeker titled, “George Zimmerman trial: ‘Yes, sir!’ it’s Rachel Jeantel.” Jeantel, who talked with Trayvon right before he was shot and killed, gave crucial, fact-based testimony making clear that Zimmerman followed Trayvon, confronted him and, after a brief fight, killed him. You’d never know that from Busdeker’s hatchet-job which consisted of courtroom video of Jeantel, cut and edited to ridicule and denigrate her, along with flippant, contemptuous commentary – in short opinions, not facts – including that Jeantel’s testimony “ranged from the tragic to the bizarre.” One has to wonder if the Sentinel attacked Jeantel because she exposed the truth about this controversial case.
John D’Orlando, the Sentinel’s Vice President and Advertising Director, proved equally hypocritical and self-exposing. He told Keith James that the paper would not print the phrase “The killing of Trayvon Martin…,” but only “The death of Trayvon Martin…” because the trial would decide whether Trayvon was killed by George Zimmerman. But Zimmerman’s killing of Martin is not being contested at the trial – including by Zimmerman and his defense team. Why would D’Orlando raise this – other than as a fig-leaf to justify suppressing the “We Say No More!” statement?
And over the past weeks and months, the Sentinel’s extensive coverage of the Zimmerman trial has included biased defense team leaks and statements designed to impugn and vilify Trayvon Martin and justify Zimmerman’s actions. What’s “factual” and “unbiased” about all that?
Many are rightly denouncing this sort of coverage as racist. Spend just a few minutes on the internet, talk radio, or yes, TV and the print media. You’ll find a tidal wave of white-supremacist rants attacking Jeantel, and in reality Trayvon Martin.
This is all aimed at justifying letting Zimmerman walk free again. The “We Say No More!” statement is a powerful rejoinder to such hateful garbage, and the Sentinel’s censorship and the broader outpouring of hate just underscores its truth and urgency. And make no mistake, the outcome of this trial will have an enormous impact on the futures millions and millions of youth like Trayvon. Will they have a bulls-eye on them for every racist and wanna-be cop? Or will these types be forced to back up, back off, and back down?
If Zimmerman walks, it would be a great injustice and a declaration of open season on Black youth. We cannot let this go down in silence! People need to step up political protest demanding justice—right now. We must not sit back and “let the system work” again the way it always has —letting racist murderers, whether cops or vigilantes, go free.
This is why the Sentinel’s refusal to publish the “We Say No More!” statement – which truthfully states the situation confronting Black youth today and calls for justice — is outrageous, extremely harmful, and very dangerous. We must continue to fight for Justice for Trayvon. As part of this fight, we need to beat back this censorship and get this statement published. We Are All Trayvon!
WHAT YOU CAN DO to uphold press freedom, and fight for justice for Trayvon Martin:
Sign this statement. Forward, tweet, Facebook and post this story. Demand the Sentinel reverse this act of blatant censorship and publish the “We Say No More!” statement. Find out more at http://stopmassincarceration.net
Call Orlando Sentinel and voice your outrage:
Sentinel VP and Advertising Director - John D’Orlando at 407-420-5101 JDOrlando@orlandosentinel.com
Sentinel Media Group — Shirley Gibbons at 407-420-5332 SGibbons@orlandosentinel.com
Carl Dix is a long-time revolutionary communist leader and a co-founder of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network
Keith James is an organizer with the Stop Mass Incarceration Network in Los Angeles.
They can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 917-868-6007