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If Bernie Goldberg had a son, he'd look nothing like Trayvon Martin

Thank God Fox News is around to remind us how absurd some conservatives can be.

On Monday night’s O’Reilly Factor, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s guests included a number of voices speaking about the Trayvon Martin case, in which last month a black teenager walking (presumably home) while carrying snacks one night in Florida was shot and killed by an armed community patrol officer.  The man who killed him – George Zimmerman – claims under the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law that the act was committed in self-defense, even though a call to 911 reveals that Zimmerman followed a fleeing Martin despite instructions by emergency agents to not do so (and that a racial slur may have been used when tracking him).  The killing – or more accurately, the decision thus far by police to not arrest Zimmerman – has sparked outrage among many in America’s black community who view the case as symptomatic of the country’s continued institutional racism. As such, it has garnered the attention of America’s media.

Trayvon Martin rally March 21 (photo: Sunset Parkerpix/flickr cc)

Fast-forward to Fox News contributor (and former Emmy-award winning journalist) Bernard (“Bernie”) Goldberg yapping away on the O’Reilly Factor, criticizing the “elite liberal media” for giving too much attention to the case.  His argument is that “black-on-black crime” (which is responsible for most deaths of black Americans) goes under-reported.  Goldberg claims such crimes don’t garner the same outrage from civil rights leaders like the Reverend Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, both of whom have led rallies for the thousands who have descended upon Sanford, Florida in protest of what they see as the police and government’s inaction and injustice.  Though I loathe giving Goldberg any sort of promotion, you can read most of his case – and the argument he made on the show – here on his website.

This should hopefully come as no surprise to anyone, but I’m not a regular Fox News viewer.  Still, sometimes I think it is important to sneak a peek at how “they” think.  Most of what I hear I find laughable.  However, Goldberg’s comments really struck a raw nerve.  Goldberg – in all his chutzpa – juxtaposed the Martin case with that of a black toddler killed in what one can presume was a drive-by shooting involving gangs.  (He also assumes that the shooter must have been black, and refers to it as black-on-black crime.)  In trying to understand why the media focuses so much attention on the Martin case, but no attention on the toddler case, Goldberg forgets one significant difference, namely that the Martin’s case involve an armed representative of the majority shooting to death an unarmed member of the minority.  Black Americans don’t need a white Fox News commentator reminding them that their communities have problems, many of which stem from socio-economic vulnerabilities.  What they need from him is to realize the difference.

The analogy was insulting and reminded me that the majority – errr, correction: the white, male majority – just doesn’t get it.  They don’t get institutional racial injustice.  Goldberg and others like him are so far removed from the narrative that they must only imagine the narrative to be a fantasy, made-up for the sake of convenience (and apparently the enjoyment of the liberal media).

Late last week, U.S. President Barack Obama – America’s first black leader – chimed-in on the Trayvon Martin story.

Did he do so for political reasons?  Unlikely.  Did he think he’d get more votes?  Probably not.  Some 95 percent of Black Americans voted from him in 2008.  Did he think continued silence might backfire?  Perhaps.  Still, whatever the reason, the brief words he spoke touched many people.  Keeping a distance from the story – as was probably right for a person of his stature – he simply said, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”  That’s not a literal statement: Obama doesn’t really think that genetically he and Michelle would have conceived a boy with similar features.  What he was saying was that as a black man growing up in America, he remembers what is was like to be gawked-at in shops as if you were suspicious, he remembers the difficulties in getting a cab late a night, he knows that stories of black men being disproportionally locked-up in American jails, he knows the black American mothers who worry as they send their sons out that some trigger-happy slightly-nervous member-of-the-majority might shoot them.  Trayvon Martin could have been his son – figuratively.  But he could have never been Goldberg’s son because Goldberg doesn’t know these people, he’s never heard them, he repeatedly dismisses their narrative and did so once again.

Bernie Goldberg with former athlete Bob Uecker and other white men (photo: steven_jamesP/flickr cc)

Make no mistake: America is not an integrated utopia that many would have you believe.  It is very ghettoized, with many black Americans still living on the margins of society.  Goldberg is living in one America, these people– Travyon Martin’s family – are living in the other.

When I was black…
I often joke that when I was little, I used to be black.  The truth is, for a few years, growing up, one of my best friends in school was a black kid named Jerome.  I would spend almost every weekend with Jerome and his extend family: cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents.  I would leave at the start of the weekend and come back at the end.  I ate their food, used their showers, spoke up in their arguments, laughed at their jokes. But one day in the park with the whole extended family, while laughing, someone turned to me and said, “You know you’re not black, right?”  I was speechless.  Fine, I didn’t really think I was black.  But I didn’t know I wasn’t, either.  Meaning, I was aware that I looked different than they did, but I hadn’t yet digested the concept of race.  It was foreign to me.  I remember that moment as the loss of some sort of innocence.  That moment, I remember learning race.  And if you can learn race, you can learn racism.

Years later, I worked for one year at the Anti-Defamation League, where a wonderful woman who was in charge of educational programs that brought Los Angeles’ Jewish and black students together once told me why she does what she does.  She said that if racism can be learned, it can also be unlearned.  And the way to do so was through interaction, through recognition.  Admittedly, I guess I have always had that drive for interaction, for recognizing the other.  I grew up in a Jewish household, the grandson of Holocaust survivors.  My mother insisted on avoiding anything German, and thus one family trip across Europe once meant having to drive around Germany so as not to cross through.  Of course, what did I do in high school?  I studied German.  I figured it couldn’t hurt to understand Germans and German culture… in German.   Years later, I drew the same conclusion as an Israeli who went to work at Al Jazeera.  I knew it would be a challenge, but one worth taking if I was every to begin understanding the Arab world… and Arabs.  And in the past two years, I made a similar venture – though perhaps one not as controversial – by working for the Chinese media.  I figure: China is the future, so it’s best to start understanding it sooner than later.

I’ve always had a preference for understanding-from-the-inside that which I don’t understand at all.  I don’t want someone to tell me Germans think that x, y, z.  I want to hear the Germans say it.  I don’t like someone telling me that Arabs believe this and think that.  I want to experience it for myself.  I don’t want people to explain China to me.  I want to sense China from my Chinese colleagues.  Goldberg and his colleagues do none of that.  They judge the world, they judge the black community, they judge the murder of Travyon Martin … all through the comforts of their own shoes.  That is the convenience of majority.

Oddly enough, hours earlier I was at an event that stuck me with a parallel tone.  +972’s Aziz Abu Sarah was moderating a panel at the J Street Conference.  Among the participants were two Palestinian citizens of Israel who, along with Aziz, effectively said to Israelis (and American Jews): you don’t see us, we are an invisible minority to you.  After hearing this discussion and connecting it to my thoughts on Goldberg, I wondered if Israelis don’t react to the injustice of many Palestinians because, like Goldberg, they enjoy the convenience of the majority?  If an armed representative of that majority shots and kills an unarmed member of this minority, do Israelis ignore it because it is not their narrative?   Could Benjamin Netanyahu, who leads all of Israel – including its Palestinian citizens – ever rightly claim that if he had a son, he’d look like a Palestinian Trayvon Martin?  Could any Israeli leader ever do that?

At the moment, they can’t.  Half a century of life as the majority has made most Israelis forget or unaware of the vulnerabilities of life in the minority.   They can’t understand that story any more than Goldberg can understand the Martin family’s narrative, as he illustrated through his dismissive responses on Fox News.  And that, I would argue, for the sake of Israel’s future is their greatest challenge.


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    1. aristeides

      I understand that Zimmerman, despite his name, is Latino. A minority.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Bob Gibson

      I’m not sure I get the point of putting a picture of Bob Uecker here. Uecker isn’t just a “former athlete”; he’s something of an American folk hero (and actor, comedian, etc) and an idol for many people (like myself) who grew up during the 80s.

      I think you could have done without putting him in the article, which has the effect of painting him as just another white man who by association (hey let’s just assume!) feels the same way as Goldberg.

      Reply to Comment
    3. “The man who killed him — George Zimmerman — claims under the state’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law that it was self-defense”

      Well, no, actually, he doesn’t:

      “Meanwhile, a lawyer for the man at the center of the death investigation said Florida’s ‘stand your ground’ law doesn’t apply to the shooting that killed the teen.

      ‘In my legal opinion, that’s not really applicable to this case. The statute on ‘stand your ground’ is primarily when you’re in your house,’ said Craig Sonner, Zimmerman’s attorney.”


      Notice that article’s three days old. You’d expect commentators to catch up with reality at some point.

      Reply to Comment
    4. @Aristeides, the labeling of ethnic minorities in the US is difficult. For example, I refer to black Americans, though some say “African Americans.” (Caribbean Americans, who suffer from similar issues of discrimination, say the latter leaves them out.) Other terms are used to described people who whose families – or they themselves – have come from Latin America, including Hispanic-American and Latino/Latina. Zimmerman’s mother, indeed, is from Peru, which itself is very diverse: she could be of indigenous origin, or even European origin. I have never met her and I don’t know. The New York Times has taken to calling Zimmerman a “white Hispanic,” though that in itself might be misleading since it’s not really a term that means anything to anyone. Hypothetically speaking, if Zimmerman’s mother was “Zimmerman” and his father was Hispanic, with a name like “Gonzales,” he probably would have been referred to as a Hispanic male” or “Latino” because that’s how most of society would have grouped him over the course of his life.

      Reply to Comment
    5. @Bob, your point is excellent and I draw no conclusions about Uecker. As you may know, 972 is a an NGO. We do not subscribe to services like Getty Images or AFP or Associated Press, and as such cannot freely use the images most of the well-funded publications do. We rely on images that as “common use,” like the one I selected from Goldberg. (There weren’t man to choose from.) While I do not believe in guilt by association – and thus would never claim that Uecker shares Goldberg’s ideas because they were photographed together – I did find it telling that Goldberg in the photo is surrounded by nothing by white males. That, and the limited options, are the only reasons this particular photo were used. Thank you for your comment.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Thanks, Joe. It appears ABC News’ version contracts the Boston Globes’ publishing of a CNN newswire.
      “The attorney counseling George Zimmerman, who shot unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin as he was walking home from the store with a bag of Skittles, says if charges are filed, Zimmerman will argue that he acted in self-defense and that Florida’s stand-your-ground law applies.”

      Reply to Comment
    7. Eli Bernholz

      With all due respect to what is undoubtedly unfortunate, I think that this issue of black/white/zimmerman holds the key to Israel/Palestine, And want to thank the author and the site for bringing it here. For example the world does little while Syria fights all out, but wants to force inspectors into neighborhoods where minnimal violence occurs. This is because in the ”global consiousness” Arabs are considered on the Black side of the international black/white divide. All you hear is comparisons to South Africa, a undeniably black perpective, adopted by a White audience still resentful of the Jews in their midst, and some Jews themselves have resigned to paying back the white mans burden.

      Reply to Comment
    8. David

      Zimmerman is Latino, but is considered White, because he shot a Black person.
      However, were a Jew to shoot Zimmerman, he would become Latino again.
      Similarly, when it was thought that the Toulouse killer was White, his killing of Jews was condemned as a sign of the sickness of White society.
      However, now it is know that the killer of Jews was Arab, his killing is a symptom of the legacy of colonialism and Islamophobia.
      I know this seems difficult, but it is really quite easy.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Eli Bernholz

      Zimmerman is white because his names the same as Bob Dylans.

      Reply to Comment
    10. aristeides

      Eli – and yet, in the minds of many in the US “black community” the Jews of Israel are still the Hebrew slaves on Pharoah’s plantation, crossing the Ohio/Jordan river to freedom. There seems a fundamental unawareness of any community of brown people with the Arab population, or identification of the IDF with Bull Connor’s police force.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Lauren

      This was a horrible thing that happened. The reason why no arrest has happened is because there is a witness to the incident. I’m sure their trying to figure out what happened.
      How to deconstruct racism in America is a big job. Just blaming old White men is not on target.
      There are 4 things that are really annoying me about this:
      1) O-Bomb-a is using this as away to avoid the wars, economy and draconian police state. He can’t run on anything he has done. Now he can cry about the kid. I wonder if he cried when he invaded Africa and destroyed Libya and now the AFRICOM (military)assault.
      2) The parents of the victim are now looking to trademark “I am Trayvon”. Sounds like their sadness morphed into an opportunity to make lots of money.
      3) An unfair indictment of Whites in America. Al Sharpton and his cronies are getting too much attention!!! Sharpton has a long history of creating racial discord with lies. Research Tawana Brawley, Duke Lacrosse team and so on. The guy is slime.
      4) The sad fact is that Blacks attacking Whites IS underreported. Just last week an elderly couple had a home invasion by Blacks where the 80 year old wife was killed and her husband in critical condition. Yes, some of the Black community is very violent toward’s each other. Life is cheap for many…. that’s why Black children often die in their reckless gun play. I live in the city… I see this all the time. I have also noted a huge uptick in racism against Whites. This is real.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Bill Pearlman

      You know aristedes it must be those Ethiopian Jews that are throwing off the blacks in the United States. A clever ploy by the Zionist elders no doubt.

      Reply to Comment
    13. GilGamish

      Roee writes: “I did find it telling that Goldberg in the photo is surrounded by nothing by white males.”

      What is it telling of ? Are you only in photos that are racially and gender diverse ?

      Reply to Comment
    14. Adam.W

      Actually Zimmerman is Hispanic.
      Obama is half-white. So how do we know he is black? Simple; he self-identifies himself as black on the census.
      Zimmerman(who got his name from his father but his looks from his mother) has self-identified as a hispanic on the 2002 local census in florida.
      He is also a registered democrat.
      Why does this all matter? Because the liberal media in the states have been dying for the already-baked scenario of a white, cranky racist and an innocent, angelic black kid.
      Meanwhile, the shooter is a self-identified hispanic whos father call him part of a ‘Spanish-speaking minority’, and a Democrat not one of those gun-loving Republicans.
      And Travyon Martin may not have deserved being shot, but he was suspended from school many times, caught with drugs, caught defacing lockers, caught with stolen jewellery, accused of assaulting a bus driver and many other things.
      The reason he wasn’t at school the day he was shot was because he was suspended from school because of his violent, thuggish behaviour(yet again).
      The liberal media had already decided on the narrative they had wanted. The result is that the facts have backfired on a huge scale.
      And, Goldberg makes a good point. 90 % of all young black men dies by the hands of other young black men. But that doesn’t give ratings and the moralizing liberals don’t actually give a shit about that(including you, Roe).
      Instead, when there’s a white/black situation(a clear minority, and even in that minority most of the killing is done by blacks against whites, not the other way ’round) the media goes nuts. Time to race-bait! Ratings!
      If there’s something in this story that needs to be overlooked and scrutinized then it’s much of the national media(excluding WSJ and FOX). It’s also, frankly, offensive how much of the media jumped on Zimmerman probably mostly because of his lastname(and thought he was white) and because he was white, he was already deemed to be guilty.
      That’s a racist proposition but you know, when liberals do it, it can’t happen you know. Just like liberals can’t be anti-Semities and hate Jews(via proxy by Israel). Of course not.
      There’s something corrupt here and you know it.

      Reply to Comment
    15. Bill Pearlman

      The suburbs of Orlando in 2012 is not Alabama 1956. And I’m sorry we have black president now. Don’t tell me that society is permeated with racism. What you have here is an idiot cop “wanna be” who got carried away and killed what by all accounts seems an innocent kid. If he had been arrested and the wheels starting to turn this wouldn’t be the story it is.

      Reply to Comment
    16. Keisha

      Roee, thank you so much for your understanding and sharing your wealth of experience with in this commentary…it’s truly appreciated.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Eli Bernholz

      What difference does it make if Zimmermans father was Jewish? Or grandfather? Since Judaism is ”purely” matrilenial(at least in Israel). Seems like a moment for ”white” american jews to start standing up to the virulent replacment theologies of Jerimiah Wrights.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Ilan

      Adam W., you remind me of that Simpsons episode when Homer started watching Fox news. Anyway, The point is that Zimmerman wasn’t arrested for the shooting.

      Reply to Comment