Making Sense Of The Issues And Ideologies That Shape Politics In The United States

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Magicians, Misdirection, and Trayvon Martin

One of the most common types of magic trick is the misdirection. With one hand, the magician draws the attention of the audience – perhaps by waving a wand or
making a puff of smoke. Meanwhile, the other hand is surreptitiously doing something integral to the trick. The audience never notices the other hand, and when the magician concludes the trick, it seems impossible – like magic!


The powers-that-be in our nation have learned from our magicians. Lately, the corporate media has been obsessing about the Treyvon Martin case. Of course, it is an outrage when a young black man is shot for looking like a young black man. And of course, racial profiling is a destructive and hateful practice. But as we spend hours and hours debating and discussing this one incident, are we ignoring other more systemic and destructive forms of oppression?

Just as the magician wants our eyes to follow the wand or the puff of smoke, those who push certain social and political agendas want us to keep focused on sensational individual cases. And just as the magician pulls off the trick with the hand we’re not watching, the powers-that-be continue to execute racial and economic injustice in staggering ways that the mass media seldom seems to cover.

For example, consider what is happening to America’s public schools. Many districts are facing draconian budget cuts, cutting alarming amounts of both staff and programs. In my county (Mecklenburg, Virginia), the school district has seen its budget hacked by 12% in the last three years. This year came the shocking news that 50 jobs are being eliminated, many arts and technical classes are cancelled, and the school year is being shortened by 14 days.

Public response to these cuts has been surprisingly tepid. There were a few letters to the local newspaper, and a handful of people spoke at next Board of Supervisors’ meeting – but the population in general seems to take little notice of the fact that public education is being methodically eviscerated. Also unnoticed is the disproportionately negative effects these cuts will have on minority children.

Everyone, however is talking about Trayvon Martin. Have we let the media misdirect us to the point that we care more about a manslaughter trial in a faraway state than we do about the crumbling futures of the children in our own locality? Is there a way for us to refocus on the systemic problems, and the subtle but vicious campaign to destroy the ideal of free education for all?

There are some powerful people in our country who do not want a well-educated general public, who do not believe that the wealth of our land is meant to be enjoyed be all. Their vision of the future is a two-class system where some are educated and wealthy, and the rest are ignorant and subservient. These are the magicians who are waving their hands, and they are much more of a threat to the future of young black Americans than an army of George Zimmermans. They want us to obsess over the Trayvon Martins of the world, and not notice the oppression that is growing in our own backyards.

The question for us is this: Which hand will we be watching?

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