By Gee King
Some have argued that the American psyche has been diseased since the country was founded. But at least we used to pretend to have dignity. This week, our culture’s thirst for violence, ignorance and race-based controversy exposed another symptom of our insanity. The George Zimmerman vs. DMX celebrity boxing match is the latest wake-up call to America’s malignant madness. We are sicker than we realized.
The disease is caused by fear. Even though our society is mixed and our president is bi-racial, Americans are still afraid of each other. We joke about it in movies and gawk at each other’s idiosyncrasies on reality TV and viral videos, but it goes much deeper than laughs and stares. 50 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, our minds remain segregated. And our fear keeps us focused on negativity. That’s what guided George Zimmerman’s vigilante mission in February of 2012. When he saw Trayvon Martin, he saw the cultural cues for “thug.” When Trayvon saw him, he saw the cultural cues for “creepy cracker.” They both saw their cultural counterpoints and acted accordingly.
The same fear-based perceptions led to Jordan Davis’ murder. Just the sound of a loud bass line thumping from an SUV full of Black teens was enough to push Michael Dunn to the edge of paranoia. The idea of a White man telling them to turn their music down was enough to enrage the teens. Tensions rose, then Dunn heard the lyrics “kill that b—h.” His fear took over. He saw a phantom shotgun barrel through the window and fired his 9 mm handgun four times, killing Davis. Like Zimmerman, he is claiming self-defense. Like Zimmerman, he acted on fears that society had programmed him with.
The promoter of the Zimmerman fight, Damon Feldman, is blissfully ignorant to the damage his work is doing. When pressed by Hot 97’s morning show to explain why he would promote a child-killer as a celebrity, he played dumb. “I didn’t follow the whole [trail]. There’s a lot of stuff going on in the world,” he mumbled dismissively. If Feldman’s ignorance didn’t free him of moral obligation, he believes his financial interests do. “I’m a business man,” he said matter-of-factly, dropping the classic American trump card that, if played right, can excuse slavery, sexism and child abuse.
Feldman has made a living promoting fights between has-beens like Jose Canseco and the late Rodney King. When Zimmerman approached him hoping to get in the ring, he quickly received 15,000 emails from people eager to take him on. Feldman told Hot 97 he chose DMX simply because he was the most controversial option. “I’m giving the platform for DMX to get in there and get revenge,” Feldman explained. But can justice be served through absurd racial theatrics?
DMX as the angry Black man will only confirm the racial prejudices that drove Zimmerman’s attack on Trayvon. Zimmerman will play the evil White man, stoking anger and fear through his lawlessness and showing people of color how little their life is worth to this country. This will only open more wounds, create more fear and encourage the next George Zimmerman to act on his perceptions.