On Friday night, a young African-American teenager, Trayvon Martin, was shot to death in Orlando by a neighborhood watch captain, George Zimmerman. The media immediately portrayed the death as a case of white on black racism. CBS News, on its Crimesider website, immediately called Zimmerman a “white neighborhood watch volunteer.” Martin’s parents accused the police of racism for not arresting Zimmerman.
There’s only one problem: Zimmerman is Hispanic. Within a few hours of its original report, CBS News was calling Zimmerman a mere “neighborhood watch captain,” without the racial modifier, quoting Zimmerman’s father to the effect that his son is Hispanic.
Zimmerman’s race was already well known by the time CBS News wrote its original story – Zimmerman’s father wrote to the Orlando Sentinel and explained last week that his son is Hispanic because his mother was Latino.
Meanwhile, MSNBC’s Rev. Al Sharpton, never reticent to stoke the fires of racism, will be holding a rally in Sanford, Florida at the First Shiloh Baptist Church. Will he fan the flames of racism or will he follow the path of hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, also African-American, who tweeted, “"Trayvon Martin didn't die so we can create a race war he died so we can promote better understanding. We must start honest dialogue.”
Knowing the media – and Sharpton’s record on race – it will be interesting to watch this story play out.