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Racism, Injustice and Explaining America to My Daughter

US Politics & Gov't  (tags: Trayvon Martin, Zimmerman, Not Guilty, Stand Your Ground )

- 2169 days ago -
Those who deny the racial angle to the killing of Trayvon Martin can only do so by a willful ignorance, a carefully cultivated denial of every logical, obvious piece of evidence before them, and by erasing from their minds...


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Jae A (316)
Monday July 15, 2013, 1:11 pm
Fricken AWESOME read ! TY Lily. I hope everyone that possibly has the time reads this one IS most important.

Kit B (276)
Monday July 15, 2013, 1:31 pm

I'm old enough to know this the worst kind of racism, but I don't want it to be so. I fight this internal struggle often, wanting others to see the world as equal and fair for all. If it were, I would be relieved of my most burning passion, human rights.

I don't know why it surprised me to find stories on Care 2 about Martin being an "almost gang banger" a would be thug, up to no good. Sure the defense had to make all of this up, had to create a scary man of nearly 7 feet tall, that was a master of Mixed Marital Arts, a slick, cool customer that walked around with 50 lbs of cement to beat senseless anyone that would mess with this tough guy.

He was a 17 year old kid nothing more exciting, just a kid with a bag of candy walking home. Just a kid, but not like mine or yours, this child was born black. That skin color put a target on this child, not his "hoodie" sweat shirt, I wear one emblazoned with a Cowboys logo and still haven't been shot.

My heart is broken for the loss of this life, for his parents loss of their child, for the brutal wake up call to so many of us that truly wanted to believe that page of our ugly history was finally behind this country. Guard your babies and if they happen to be black, teach to stay off the streets after dark, some one may shoot them for walking home with candy.

Lily T. (8)
Monday July 15, 2013, 1:44 pm
It doesn't though really matter if Trayvon Martin was a wannabe gang banger though, now does it? Zimmerman clearly determined that Martin was "up to no good" based on his perception of African American youth. He followed him, Martin ran, he continued to follow him after explicitly being told not to, and then he shot him dead.

My outrage, my anger which spills over everything pales in comparison to what a member of the greatest marginalized group actually feels. You see, I was lucky enough to be born to a white, middle class existence. i can not imagine what it feels to be continually marginalized, face bigotry each and everyday, to be denied opportunity and then to have people on Care2 that have never experience a moment of discomfort in their privileged existence to deny the existence of racism. These people often did nothing much different than others except married well. They, themselves, have nothing to allow them to support themselves in the manner they have become accustomed to. If circumstance shifted and they now would have to actually take care of themselves and their children, they would be lost. These are the people who partake in exactly what you are speaking of Kit. Thank you Jae, thank you Kit for your comments.

Carole Sarcinello (338)
Monday July 15, 2013, 1:45 pm

Thank you for posting this, Lily . . . and to Miss Kitty for pointing me here.


Vallee R (280)
Monday July 15, 2013, 1:57 pm
DOn't really want to get into this - but I heard some of the original tapes when it happened - 2 hours later - I heard different new and it kept changing all the time to the point is who knows the truth - but will report one thing - they played a tape of Zimmerman calling 911 to report a "suspicious" person with a hoodie walking down the street - that was it - they answered back that Zimmerman should stay in his car - he didn't!

And if you live in Oregon you don't buy anything without a hoodie - for the rain - same here - if I am walking the dog and it is cool or cloudy - I'll wear one to keep warm or dry - I haven't been shot either Kit!

JL A (281)
Monday July 15, 2013, 1:59 pm
I cry because this is reality.
I cry that those who deny the elephant
Will not let themselves read this.
I cry because there so much more
To do and distance to travel.
So I cry and try.

Thank you Lily and thanks for the heads up Kit.

Lily T. (8)
Monday July 15, 2013, 2:04 pm
I have heard the original tapes as have most people. The undisputed facts are that a armed white male followed around a black, unarmed teenager even after being told not to and shot him dead. He can now have his gun back.

Kit B (276)
Monday July 15, 2013, 2:11 pm

I don't really care what he might have done, he was murdered. Clearly. I repeated the stories some are telling themselves for comfort. The unvarnished fact is that Zimmerman could not have known if Trayvon was 30 years old and college professor, or a 17 year old gang banger. Nor was it important to Zimmerman, Trayvon was one of those, the ones who always get away. The jury was not repelled by this, rather they must have empathized with that feeling.

Thanks J L - I think we all have tears.


Pat B (356)
Monday July 15, 2013, 2:25 pm
This is an excellent article, well written, declaring the truth of this matter that should be read over and over..This was a young man, shot down in the prime of his life. 'Z' got away with Murder. My deepest condolences to his family for this tragedy.

Mitchell D (82)
Monday July 15, 2013, 2:36 pm
I know I had tears while reading the piece. I think it got through all of my "reasoning" type of emotional defenses.
There was/is an old movie, called "The Color of Fear," that speaks to the issue of bias, conscious, or otherwise, that i would recommend to anyone doubting the point of view in this piece.
Then there is a book, called, "The Color of Water," that does the same.

It is like one can not grow up in this country, without absorbing bias, mythology about black people, Jews and their "Horns," the idea that ALL Muslims are terrorists, etc.,, but one must examine his/her biases, and actively bring "REASON" as the author insists, to examine them; ask "What is the evidence" for my thinking this way, and really examine it.
We will not become truly "CIVILIZED," until we overcome the ancient animosity towards anyone who does not look like he/she happens to be in MY tribe!

Barbara K (61)
Monday July 15, 2013, 3:37 pm
I just found an article on AlterNet about a juror having a book deal on this trial. That should be grounds for mistrial and it should not be happening already. What an outrage to cash in on Trayvon Martin's death. See here:


Theodore Shayne (56)
Monday July 15, 2013, 3:50 pm
Kit, I have always said that in disobeying the dispatcher's advice and the advice the police gave him he was and is guilty of manslaughter. If he doesn't get out of that car this whole incident never happens. I don't know whether Martin intended to kill him by bashing his head on the pavement but to Zimmerman it must have felt like it.
Defending your family, your home and property is one thing. Willfully carrying a concealed weapon, chasing down an alleged criminal and then discharging said weapon when you are losing the fight is not the same thing as defending your home. Zimmerman had no business playing vigilante.
Lastly but not least; when am I ever going to hear the last from these con men like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton? Now there's a couple of crooks who have nothing but their own profitable aggrandizement at heart; just like the slum lords and politicians back in the 60s and 70s who used the inner city communities to coerce the state and federal governments to give them all that cash. All that cash which never reached or benefited the people. Nothing ever really changes does it?
Me, I prefer to watch what people do and not what they look like.

Rose Becke (141)
Monday July 15, 2013, 3:57 pm

Past Member (0)
Monday July 15, 2013, 4:17 pm
A wannabe cop, with a gun, told by the police to stay put...and a teenager with much clearer can it be? Thanks Lily and Kt for the forward.

Esther Z (94)
Monday July 15, 2013, 4:49 pm
Great article, and it clearly dissected the institutional racism that still permeates in this America we call The Land of The Free! This case has shined the light on how most of us live in two different Americas, one giving justice and equality only if you happen to be of the right race or economic status. But, still there is hope, especially when we have people like Tim Wise, and his daughter, who see and verbalize the injustice, and make an effort in changing the future tide of social policies by writing an honest piece of journalism. There's hope because of people like Kit, a white Southern lady, who can see the injustice and can truly empathize with the plight of child who will never get home because some vigilante racially profiled him, and killed him for no other reason that he "looked" like a menace. As long as we see the injustice, there will always be hope in changing laws and policies that don't treat everyone as an equal.

pam w (139)
Monday July 15, 2013, 5:00 pm
How many times have you served on jury duty? You're told to deliberate only the facts as presented in court and, if there's reasonable must acquit.

Because they didn't have an expert witness voice analyst in the trial....and because both parents argued that they KNEW that pathetic recording "HELP ME" was THEIR son....I don't honestly know how any jury could have made any other decision!

Remember the OJ Simpson trial? The prosecution, so certain they had an iron-clad case, did a sloppy job on their presentation. The jury acquitted him...although anyone with a BRAIN knew he'd done it. Still...the case as given to the jury was full of so many HOLES that they went with ''reasonable doubt."

I think that's what happened here. Had someone been able to state authoritatively that the voice on that tape belonged to either Trayvon or would have been different. But that didn't happen!

Am I disappointed? OF COURSE! Do I understand this verdict? OF COURSE!


Lily T. (8)
Monday July 15, 2013, 7:23 pm
The problem is that a) George Zimmerman acknowledges that he shot Trayvon Martin b) George Zimmerman's defense was self-defense. Self defense is something he has to prove, there is no premise that everyone that kills someone has defended themselves. It is not like the presumption of innocence. For this defense to fly, it has to be proven that he was defending himself.

How is it possible that an armed, white wannabe 200 lbs. cop that followed an unarmed, 158 lbs. black teenager after explicitly being told not to follow, end up shooting him dead and then claiming self defense. That is equivalent of a burglar breaking into your house, which you hit over the head with a vase which results in a cracked skull. When he goes to court, he claims self defense because you broke the vase over his head.

Let me make this clear so you understand. Trayvon Martin's death at the hand of George Zimmerman is not disputed. He is not claiming he did it. He claimed that he was defending himself against an unarmed black teenager that HE WAS FOLLOWING - again, after being told not to, and shot him dead. That he does have to prove, that the act was self defense. Unless shooting young, unarmed black men that a white man feels is suspicious while he is walking the street is legal, then I certainly think the jury was derelict of their judicial duty.

l L (1)
Monday July 15, 2013, 7:25 pm
In the case of o.j.. I watched the trial live.. from the beginning.. By evening those scenes were edited. much of the damaging info was edited out. Not going to relive that.. That's when I learned the tricks played.. the late great planet earth. Neighborhood watch people are not suppose to carry guns.

Laurie H (818)
Monday July 15, 2013, 7:36 pm
Many Thanks for posting, Lily & Kit for sending. The facts are very clear. Zimmerman was told to stay in his vehicle & HE was the pursuer, Travon was not doing anything wrong. Our system is in need of major overhaul & Justice was not served, anyway we slice it!!~

Past Member (0)
Monday July 15, 2013, 7:43 pm
Noted and read. Agree and disagree with some things said here.

Thanks to Kit for the fwd and to Lily for posting.

Robert K (31)
Monday July 15, 2013, 10:47 pm
All this proves that SCOTUS got another one radically wrong in their stupid ruling vis a vis the voting rights act.

Terrie Williams (798)
Tuesday July 16, 2013, 1:57 am
Karma is coming for Zimmerman. One way or another, he will, in the end, face true justice. That is all i can hope for at this point. Nothing will bring back Trayvon and vengeance will not be justice wither. In time, Zimmerman will face his Karma and he will know what for. Even then, he will still be a coward trying to escape his fate.

This has never been the land of the 'free'...only the land of the have's and have nots....just like most of the reat of the world. But we are 'exceptional' at it, right.......

Giana P (398)
Tuesday July 16, 2013, 2:16 am
We've seen this over and over again, in the US, and then quoting the statistics (numbers in jail), we are born into this prejudice and without using our mind, it's easier for us to categorize people and put them in groups, with "common" characteristics, stereotyping them. It's a hard battle to fight because most people do not use their brains.

Sherri G (128)
Tuesday July 16, 2013, 2:24 am
Mr. Tim Wise is indeed very wise and knows the truth when he sees it. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck then it is racism. TY Kit. noted Not only is the message right on his writing made this article very easy to read. I tweeted to my followers, barack obama and my senators.

Lily T. (8)
Tuesday July 16, 2013, 2:49 am
Thank you Sherri for your comments. I think that people make an assumption that since Zimmerman was partially Hispanic that race played no part in Martin's death. Zimmerman felt that Martin was "up to no good", but based on what? Based on being a black teenager, walking in the rain, wearing a hoodie walking back from the convenience store? is that the new bar for "suspicious behaviour"? If so, I urge all African American fathers and mothers to lock their beloved children int their room until we actually develop into the nation " for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." (by the way, I quoted the original - didn't like Eisenhower's inclusion "under God")

sheila l (116)
Tuesday July 16, 2013, 7:58 am
Seems to never go away, til people learn true empathy and caring will that problem be solved!

Gene J (288)
Tuesday July 16, 2013, 9:28 am
Thanks, Kit, for pointing me to this story. Mr. Wise hit the proverbial nail on its proverbial head. This case was as much about the institutional racism that still permeates every niche and corner of America as it was about the facts. That those facts were not enough to find this abominable man guilty of at least manslaughter still astounds me. That the unspoken message interwoven through this entire affair is still not being grasped by white America astounds me as well. Zimmerman had choices, and direction, and chose to ignore them all. Had he simply done what neighborhood watch participants are told to do, report AND not intervene, this child would still be alive. It is my hope that whatever Zimmerman makes from this outrage will be lost to Trayvon's parents in the civil suit I hope follows. In most states I would feel confident of that, but not in Florida. I hope all parents share this article with their children and tell the story as Mr. Wise did to his daughter in the hope that one day we might move beyond this incessant institutional racism and truly be the land of the free. We certainly are not now.

l L (1)
Tuesday July 16, 2013, 12:44 pm
Oh.. this keyboard is rely getting on my nerves...Starting again... Correction.. I watched the Rodney King trial live.. when they showed it later it had been edited. Much of what really happened was ...not.. re..aired.. I commented about that back in the day..Why do I bring this up? Because when you search for truth you really have to search for truth.. We talk of the evidence presented and.. I remember after this event first happened and Z's camp hit the t.v circuits, the evidence out at that time convicted him. They don't look too good right now either. Stuff in this case is contradictory.. You know, Z's lawyers don't make themselves be any different than the mindset of Z because, since when do black people always get away with stuff. Since when does a black person get charged with something and get away with anything? What klan meeting do they attend? Saying this stuff publicly who are they trying to arouse? Other like-minded people?

Sheryl G (359)
Tuesday July 16, 2013, 12:49 pm
George Zimmerman's Father is a retired Judge who also helped in clearing his name in three separate arrests which are now closed records.

I live only 15 straight miles from Sanford, Florida and 20 driving miles. Believe me, I can tell you by living nearby that racial prejudice doesn't just occur with white on black but also Hispanic on black.

We need the Federal Government to review this whole matter. It stinks from start to finish.

l L (1)
Wednesday July 17, 2013, 7:14 am
I agree with you D.

Diane K (134)
Wednesday July 17, 2013, 8:05 am
It is truly sad that a 17 year old is killed & no justice is served in a court of law. Thanks Kit for forwarding & Lily for posting.

Past Member (0)
Wednesday July 17, 2013, 3:39 pm
Are all of you aware of the extreme depth of racism that exists among the black community? Perhaps you should do your research on it. While you are at it, do a bit of research on the extreme depth of racism in Africa. Racism is a raging bull among blacks.

There's extreme racism in the middle east. It's all over the world. There's nothing that the federal government can do to control freedom of speech and how humans behave unless, of course, they break the law in their countries and can be prosecuted.

This article is interesting. What every parent should tell their children, age appropriate that is, is that people are not judged by their skin but they are judged to the highest degree on the choices they make for themselves. It is normal for parents to say to their child or children not to "hang out with" the group of kids at school who are known gang members. Why is that? Would you call that racism? Doesn't matter what color they are but if they have chosen a gang related path then I for one would tell my young children to stay away from them.

Think before you make your comments. As parents, we protect our children and we don't want them going down the path that other children have chosen. We teach them to make good choices and joining a gang is a very bad choice. I'm using "gangs" as an example but there are many more examples.

Our government doesn't have a place in our living rooms when we are teaching our children to grow up and become good citizens and contribute to their community and go on in life and raise their children to be better educated and well on their way to becoming self supporting.

Past Member (0)
Wednesday July 17, 2013, 3:58 pm
DianeK, what part of a selected jury of 6 women agreed to by both the prosecution and the defense who could not find the evidence to convict Zimmerman for murder can't you process? If the evidence cannot support a conviction then you might want to explore the evidence. We live in a country of laws. Only one of the two involved ended up with a beating and that was Zimmerman.

It is very sad that a young black male has shot and killed. You weren't there that night and neither was I. In fact, none of us were there and yet your comments are such that you were there and saw the whole ordeal. You weren't there. You don't know what happened. A verdict was reached and they based it on self defense.


Jae A (316)
Wednesday July 17, 2013, 4:01 pm
It wasn't that the jury couldn't find enough evidence, it was they believe there not to be enough...all they really had to do to find enough was think step by step of Zimmermanns choices he made that day...from the phone call telling him to not interven/stop follow Trayvon throught the time the cowardly bully confronted Trayvon who obviously lost the fight for his life !

Lily T. (8)
Wednesday July 17, 2013, 4:39 pm
Diane - I am glad you are celebrating that it's okay to kill young African American men for the crime of walking down the street. The Jesus (you claim to believe on) is weeping. To go and turn this into some political racist triumph is disgusting. A young man is dead.

Lois Jordan (63)
Wednesday July 17, 2013, 5:23 pm
Thanks so much for posting, Lily....and Kit for the link.
That was a really powerful article, with all points well covered. (BTW, the jury was composed of 6, not 12...all women, I believe). The poll in my house says that Zimmerman should've definitely been guilty of at least manslaughter, and not only shouldn't have been given his gun back, but should never be allowed to own a gun again. He was in the wrong the moment he stepped out of his car to follow Trayvon Martin, and should be considered a vigilante who stalked a teenager with bad intention.
Both Daily Show & Colbert had pieces, and I can't remember which (Colbert?)...made a great point that Zimmerman would now be "in hiding"...forced to walk the streets hiding in a hoodie. It was excellent--check it out for yourselves if you get a chance.
I was very happy to see all the peaceful protests throughout our country, though. This must not be the end. There should definitely be a civil suit, and I've been signing petitions & sending letters supporting that. However, I'm beyond disappointed that we've seen the clock turned backwards on racism in America. All the forward steps we've made since the 1960's are being shredded to the detriment of us all.

JL A (281)
Wednesday July 17, 2013, 7:33 pm
One juror stated that their first vote was split 50-50...not so clear cut a not guilty verdict at all...qualities about person Y to supposedly provide evidence/proof of person Z's qualities wouldn't fly in elementary school classrooms as making any sense or adding value to a discussion...but Archie Bunker and the bigots he represented frequently argued thus to excuse his racism and the racism of others he wanted to agree with.

Kit B (276)
Wednesday July 17, 2013, 8:09 pm

Oh please Diane - The only interest the GOP have this trial is Guns and nothing else. Fear that the crappy, poorly written and highly misused "stand your ground" law might just finally get some badly needed rewrites. I realize as does anyone reading your comments, that your own racist feelings run deep. Do not presume to lecture to anyone about racism. You embody racism.

If "stand your ground" were fair or honest than the one person in this situation that owned the right to fight back was Trayvon Martin. He was assaulted first. Of course, he was not carrying a gun, he used the one weapon that is an honest and fair weapon for self-defense, his hands.

Jelica R (144)
Wednesday July 17, 2013, 8:48 pm
I didn't closely followed the trial, but only reading headlines like "The trial of Trayvon Martin" made me angry. Because I did read many articles last year when Trayvon was murdered, it was clear to me what happened and that Stand Your Ground Law from Brother Koch's vitriolic cuisine could spoil the case. Still, I expected "guilty" with some extenuating factors and, perhaps, the lowest sentence possible. "Not guilty" is a mockery of justice and an insult to all law-obedient citizens. I wonder what the verdict would be if Zimmerman chased and killed some purebred blue-eyed WASP. Would he then be "standing his ground", or would the prosecution presented him as a bully and a murderer?

From many comments of the verdict, I will single out two most harrowing.

The first is the case of Marissa Alexander (also mentioned in the article), who had suffered violence at the hands of her husband (by his own admission in fact), and was sentenced to 20 years in prison after firing a warning shot into a wall when she felt he was about to yet again harm her. She, apparently, does not have the most fundamental human right to self-defense. The right to personal dignity and protection from violent men do not belong to abused women, at least according to the prosecution.

The second was a letter from a grandmother who, with much tenderness, writes about her baby grandson and begs that someone tells her at what age will her little angel become a "malice to society." You see, her grandson is black and this makes him susceptible to racial profiling.

BTW, Diane said here that neither one of us was there and we don't know what really happened. True, there were only Zimmerman and Trayvon; Trayvon is dead and Zimmerman can say whatever he wants. This does not mean that nobody else can't connect the dots. Because, there are many dots and loose ends here ... enter racism and everything is neatly connected. If you don't like the picture it shows, don't blame us who connected the dots. We are not the problem here. Keep searching

Tamara Hayes (185)
Wednesday July 17, 2013, 10:38 pm
A brilliant piece of journalism that cut right to the heart of the matter. Racism is as prevalent today as it was in the 60's. Zimmerman is guilty and white America can't stand that thought. This whole tragic affair has just amplified the division of the races and has shined a glaring light on "The Land of the Free". Laugh it up George while you can because karma is a bitch. Thanks Lily for the excellent post and Kit for the forward.

Sheryl G (359)
Thursday July 18, 2013, 5:51 am
Nicely stated Jelica.

Bottom line, Crime Watch people should......OBSERVE.

If he thought something was not correct, for whatever reason, he should of stayed in the car as told and then waited for the Police.

Then none of this would of happened.

People can describe Trayvon Martin however they want, might I remind you he was 17. Many at 17 ham it up in front of camera's doing all sorts of silly and stupid poses, many at 17 are still confused about life and their own personal identity, children all the time go live with various family members when they are having issues or problems with one parent or the other, at 17 the law considers him a child, no matter how tall.

Therefore, the adult, George Zimmerman, was out of line, and when does an adult confront a "child" like that. If George thought Trayvon was in the wrong place, perhaps Trayvon was in need of the help, not from the area and not familiar with where he was. Instead George Zimmerman jumped way to another place and that is a big problem in this society, is people are so wrapped up in fear of each other that isn't exactly like them that they misjudge all sorts of things and in that misjudgment based on fear, people end up dead.

This pushed upon us fear all the time is the killer of this society. This Media hype of a boogie man around our every corner. To get a better perspective on this please take the time to watch, The House I Live In.
The House I Live In

Jason R (67)
Friday July 19, 2013, 9:43 am
I see one of the resident racists weighed in, defending it by pointing it out elsewhere. Making excuses as right wingers do. Never considering that oppression can create it. Big duh.

Jelica R (144)
Friday July 19, 2013, 7:22 pm

MoveOn: Justice Department: Open a Civil Rights Case Against George Zimmerman

NAACP: Open a Civil Rights Case Against George Zimmerman End "Stand Your Ground" Laws

ACLU: Justice Should Not Depend on Skin Color

The Petition Site: PARDON Abused Mother Marissa Alexander for Standing Her Ground -- and got 20 years! (a case mentioned in the article.)

Jelica R (144)
Friday July 19, 2013, 7:46 pm
I have to share a message from Rabbi Michael Lerner:
How to Stand in Solidarity with African Americans This Weekend:

"I just got off the phone with J. Alfred Smith, Sr., the senior pastor emeritus of the largest African American church in Oakland. He told me how this (Friday) morning, walking with a cane in a wooded area near his home, he saw a white woman with a dog coming toward him. Momentarily he was filled with fear that the dog might attack him and if he lifted the cane to protect himself, who knew if she might be carrying a gun or in some way might put him in danger — fears that are a result of the Trayvon Martin murder. Finally, she smiled at him, and he felt a relief of tensions.

He told me that he was crying when he heard from another pastor at his church that I had approached the church yesterday to ask if it would be okay for Jews and other spiritual progressives (of every ethnic, racial, religious or secular identity) to come to his church this Sunday so that we could show solidarity with the African American community.

He said that he was so overjoyed with this gesture at a time when fears are so profound that he cried, and was still, at the moment he was talking to me, on the verge of tears. Yes, he said, do come, and do spread the word to others, “though just your presence, Rabbi Lerner, will speak volumes to Oakland’s African American community about the solidarity of the Jewish community with our Black community.”

So that is why I’m writing to YOU to urge you to either come with me on Sunday or go to a nearer African American church this Sunday and let the African American community in your neighborhood or town know that they are not alone, that we understand their fear and stand in solidarity with them. No matter where you came out on the Zimmerman trial, you can still stand in solidarity with African Americans, support them in their grief, and signal to them that they are not alone. ..." more >>
... ...

I think this is a beautiful way to show solidarity with African Americans and stand against racism, hate and prejudice.

JL A (281)
Saturday July 20, 2013, 7:25 am
For information related to known biases of source:
"Sohrab Ahmari

last updated: May 24, 2013


Wall Street Journal: Assistant books editor
Henry Jackson Society: Former Fellow

Please note: IPS Right Web neither represents nor endorses any of the individuals or groups profiled on this site.

Sohrab Ahmari is a conservative Iranian-American writer. Formerly a non-resident fellow at the neoconservative Henry Jackson Society, Ahmari is the assistant books editor for the Wall Street Journal. Ahmari’s articles and commentaries have also been published in neoconservative outlets Commentary and the Weekly Standard, as well as the Tablet, Foreign Policy, Huffington Post, and the Boston Globe.[1]

Described by former Media Matters writer MJ Rosenberg as “the neocons’ favorite Iranian,” Ahmari has been a vocal advocate of U.S.-imposed regime change in his native Iran, which he left as a teenager. Rosenberg likened Ahmari to Ahmed Chalabi, the formerly exiled Iraqi politician who curried favor with U.S. neoconservatives ahead of the Iraq War and lent an Iraqi name to the list of those supporting the U.S. invasion.[2]

Ahmari has been a vocal critic of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a nonviolent effort by Palestinian activists and their international supporters to pressure the Israeli government because of its occupation of Palestinian territories. In a 2013 Tablet article, Ahmari argued that “the activists and academics who make up the BDS movement must remove all moral complexity from the century-long conflict, including by portraying the Palestinian national cause as wholly benign—denying even the most obvious facts about the Palestinians." Ahmari did not elaborate on this vague charge against Palestinians except to declare that BDS activists refuse to "acknowledg[e] the obvious about Hamas."[3]

Ahmari drew special notice when he criticized Stephen Hawking, the renowned Cambridge physicist, for endorsing the BDS movement and declining an invitation to attend an academic conference in Israel in 2013. "The hypocrisy and double standards of this are astounding, because Hawking actually traveled to Iran in 2007 to great fanfare from the state-run media there," Ahmari charged in "Hawking's Moral Black Hole," a video posted to the Wall Street Journal's website. "He didn't boycott the Iranian regime, where there's no such thing as academic freedom. … He's also been to China, another country where there's no such thing as academic freedom. But Israel, the one state in the region where there's a vibrant academic life… that's the country you boycott?" In a final quip aimed at the disabled Hawking’s use of an Israeli-produced computer chip to help him speak, Ahmari added, “If [Hawking] were to be [boycotting] in really good faith, maybe he would be doing away with the chip as well.”[4]

Ahmari ignored Hawking's own explanation for his decision to boycott the Israeli conference as opposed to one in China or Iran—namely that Palestinian activists had specifically asked him to. "I accepted the invitation to the Presidential Conference with the intention that this would not only allow me to express my opinion on the prospects for a Peace Settlement but also because it would allow me to lecture on the West Bank," wrote Hawking. "However, I have received a number of emails from Palestinian academics. They are unanimous that I should respect the boycott. In view of this, I must withdraw from the conference. Had I attended, I would have stated my opinion that the policy of the present Israeli government is likely to lead to disaster.”[5]

A writer for The Daily Beast argued that critics like Ahmari missed the point of Hawking's gesture. "[W]ill someone," he wondered, "somewhere in Jerusalem ask why a man of Hawking’s standing, who has visited Israel four times in the past and was willing to come again despite his age and ill-health, has become so alienated, so quickly, from a country he previously admired so much?"[6]

The primary focus of Ahmari’s writings is Iran. He has advocated U.S.-led regime change and chided Western academics for “legitimizing” Iran’s regime by visiting the country or giving interviews on its state media.

In a March 2012 Commentary article, Ahmari suggested that tensions over Iran’s nuclear program could be used to promote a regime-change agenda. “The Iranian regime’s intransigence with respect to a number of hotly contested issues—above all, its nuclear-weapons program—is setting the stage for a military conflagration between Iran and the West,” he wrote. Noting that such a confrontation “could spell the fall of the clerical regime under the weight of far superior Western militaries,” Ahmari channeled Iraq-era neoconservative claims that U.S.-led regime change in one country would lead to democratization in others. “Regime collapse in Iran,” he wrote, “represents a historic chance for advancing democratic development there and, by extension, the wider Middle East and North Africa.”[7]

Ahmari opposes “containing” a nuclear Iran, invoking alongside geopolitical concerns a common neoconservative talking point that Iran’s leaders are too irrational to be reasoned with and willing to sacrifice themselves in order to spite the West. “The Iranian regime is [a] complex entity,” he wrote in a March 2012 brief for the Henry Jackson Society, “with multiple factions vying to shape its future. Yet the fact remains that one of these factions—the one currently ascendant in Iranian politics—is genuinely beholden to an apocalyptic, messianic worldview.” He concluded that “Tehran’s ideological extremism—combined with a credible nuclear deterrent—will likely leave Western powers and their Arab allies in an unenviable position: confronting Tehran and risking nuclear catastrophe or acquiescing to Iranian aggression.”[8]

Ahmari has been critical of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), a U.S.-based Iranian-American advocacy group that opposes Iran’s clerical regime but favors diplomacy over sanctions and military confrontation. In a February 2012 opinion piece for Foreign Policy, Ahmari and coauthor Peter Kohanloo described NIAC as “decidedly ayatollah-friendly” and suggested that its opposition to U.S.-led regime change in Iran was out of step with the broader Iranian-American community.[9]

MJ Rosenberg, however, noted that a Zogby poll referenced by Ahmari and Kohanloo showed that only 30 percent of the Iranian Americans surveyed listed “promoting regime change” as one of their top priorities for U.S. policy toward Iran. “NIAC opposes the Iranian regime and supported the 2009 protests against it. But it believes that the most effective, and probably only, way to successfully change Iranian behavior is through diplomacy, not sanctions and war threats,” he wrote. “This drives the Iranian neocons nuts.” Rosenberg added that another poll showed that only 3 percent of Iranian Americans favored U.S. military action against Iran.[10]

In a post coauthored for the Weekly Standard blog, Ahmari and Kohanloo suggested that the democratic uprisings of the Arab spring had somehow “revealed the left’s intellectual inconsistency and hypocrisy regarding America’s role in the Muslim world.” Drawing no distinction between calls for the United States to pressure an allied autocratic government and spurning calls to intervene against a hostile one, the authors claimed that progressive groups like Just Foreign Policy and Code Pink had “all but demand[ed] American military intervention” in Egypt but had found “speaking out—let alone acting—in support of Iranian democrats [to be] out of line.”[11]

A piece from February 2011 shows that Just Foreign Policy’s Robert Naiman had called for “specific threats [by the Obama administration] linking U.S. aid to … the protection of peaceful protests” in Egypt, including “the cutting or suspension of particular [U.S.] aid programs” to Egypt and the “canceling [of] U.S. visas of specific Egyptian officials”—demands that fall far short of military intervention. Moreover, although Naiman expressed doubts about western media reports saying the 2009 elections in Iran were rigged, he added in a September 2009 op-ed, “I strongly sympathize with the protesters' desire for more social freedom, and empathize with their outrage over the crackdown.”[12]

Ahmari is co-editor of Arab Spring Dreams, a 2012 collection of essays by young dissidents in the Middle East. One reviewer praised the book for highlighting the "homophobia, sexism, racism, corruption, election fraud, [and] dictatorship" experienced by many in the Muslim world, but concluded that "the book’s major flaws do in fact overwhelm the positive aspects." Alongside numerous errors of historical fact, the reviewer chided Ahmari and his collaborators for imposing a uniform narrative over disputed events—for example, attributing the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri to Hezbollah without acknowledging the considerable controversy surrounding this claim—and for maintaining an “Islam vs. the West” frame for regional politics. “As much as the book aims to convey the complexities of the Muslim world,” the reviewer wrote, “by using such an ‘East-West’ paradigm they are perpetuating simplicities the editors seek to de-construct!” The reviewer also faulted Ahmari and his co-editors for what he saw as their “rancid” whitewashing of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, for their unnuanced view of Islamist political parties, and for ignoring the historical role of the United States in suppressing pro-democracy movements in the Middle East.[13]"
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