When news of the tragic murder of Trayvon Martin began to emerge, there were indications that the admitted killer, George Zimmerman, was motivated by racial bigotry. Although there is no irrefutable proof that Zimmerman killed Trayvon because he was an African American, there was a certain segment of the population that considered Zimmerman innocent solely because the teenager was Black and in their minds, a thug. The idea of a business profiting from the a tragedy or anyone’s misfortune, although not illegal, is a sign of low moral character, and no matter how immoral a business owner may be, they would not benefit from a tragedy without equally immoral consumers. This past week, an unidentified entrepreneur admitted that selling paper gun targets designed to resemble Trayvon Martin on the night he was murdered was motivated by his desire to “make money off the controversy,” but there is more than just profit involved.
A Florida-based news station found an ad for the targets on a “popular firearms auction website” and although the ad was since removed, the seller reported that the targets sold out in two days. The target’s seller is reported to be a Zimmerman supporter who believes “he is innocent and that he shot a thug,” and apparently there are plenty of racist gun owners who agree with the seller and take pleasure in shooting a Black teenager represented by the targets. The target features a black hoodie similar to the one Martin wore, and although no face is evident, the bag of Skittles in the pocket and can of iced tea leave no doubt it represents Trayvon Martin. The fact that the targets sold out so quickly informs that racism is still alive and thriving in America and that there are Americans who would love nothing more than to kill young unarmed African Americans.
Zimmerman’s lawyer called the targets the “highest level of disgust and the lowest level of civility,” and that “this type of hatred is going to make it more difficult to try this case.” At least the lawyer, Mark O’Mara, recognizes the level of racial hatred among a segment of the population, and his characterization is borne out by another report last week of a National Guard soldier training neo-Nazis in close-quarter combat training and “Army-approved tactics” for a coming race war against “Blacks, Jews, and immigrants at a fortified compound” in St. Cloud Florida near an amusement park south of Orlando. Ten members of the violent white-power group, American Front, were arrested and charged with hate crimes and paramilitary training, and it is disturbing on many levels, but primarily because of the link between a white-supremacist group and a U.S. military employee according to the arrest affidavit. However, one soldier engaging in a white supremacist group does not represent the military by any stretch of the imagination and the real issue is the depth and breadth of racism that drives these hate-inspired bigots to prepare for war against American citizens.
There is an alarming rise in the number of domestic and extremist hate groups in America and they have grown to record levels in 2011 because of a surge in anti-government extremism and opposition to an African American sitting in the Oval Office. The number of so-called patriot and militia groups has exploded since 2008 from 149 to 1,274 and the Southern Poverty Law Center attributes most of the increase to “anger and conspiratorial rhetoric directed toward President Obama.” The FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are growing more concerned about the threat from a subset of anti-government extremists called “sovereign citizens,” and together with white supremacist groups pose a significant danger to the stability of this country.
The racist aspect of these hate groups has been stoked throughout the Republican presidential primary by all the candidates who promoted the idea that President Obama was taking assets from “good white Americans” and giving them to African Americans. Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Willard Romney used racially-tinged remarks that may have gone unnoticed by main stream voters, but for racists, the message was loud and clear; minorities, immigrants, and liberals were hijacking the country because of President Obama’s policies. Many pundits claim racism is not as bad as it once was, and to a point they are not incorrect, but the deep-seated racists are as full of hate as their parents and they are not relegated to the Southern United States. The Trayvon Martin targets are an indication that the idea of killing African Americans has transcended hate groups intent on a race war and coupled with increased sales of assault rifles does not bode well for this country’s security.
Racism has no place in a civilized society, and in lieu of rounding up known racists and presumptive presidential candidates using a KKK slogan as his campaign motto, concerned citizens can pressure the makers of the Trayvon Martin target to cease production and sales. The targets contain an image of a bag of Skittles, and contacting Mars Inc. whose subdivision, Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company produces Skittles to demand they take legal action for trademark infringement on the part of the target’s manufacturers is a good first step to express the outrage decent Americans are experiencing. The company that sells the targets, the Hiller Armament Company, must be pressured and there is a petition to stop the sale of the targets by urging Mars Inc. to “take legal action for unauthorized use of Skittles brand candy in a product sold by Hiller. The Skittles brand is clearly seen on the paper targets sold by Hiller intended to depict Travyon Martin, the unarmed 17-year-old shot to death in February in Sanford, Florida.” If there is one thing Americans have learned since the tragic murder of Trayvon Martin, it is that the threat of losing revenue is a powerful motivator and the last thing a large corporation wants to suffer through.
There is little any American can do to assuage racism because it is a generational disorder passed down from parents to their children, and left unmolested, it will rip this country apart. Maybe pressuring a corporation to halt the sales of a target depicting Trayvon Martin will not stop white supremacist groups preparing for a race war, but it sends a message that Americans will not tolerate hate or a racist profiting from a family, and a country’s tragedy. Profiting from selling the Trayvon targets is as morally wrong and reprehensible as the presumptive presidential candidate using the KKK catch phrase in his campaign, and nearly as dangerous for the well-being of a country still struggling to overcome blatant racism.