Trayvon’s killer deploys the ‘black friend’ defense


In the wake of his blaming a hooded sweatshirt for Trayvon Martin’s death, Geraldo Rivera offered a statement Tuesday to Politico that I can’t call an apology, for fear of reprisal from the folks at Merriam-Webster:

“I apologize to anyone offended by what one prominent black conservative called my ‘very practical and potentially life-saving campaign urging black and Hispanic parents not to let their children go around wearing hoodies.’”

You hear that? He’s sorry, it seems, but only if you were offended by his “campaign” to save the lives of black and Hispanic children. And yes, it’s a campaign, because one black person told him as much. So calm down, everyone!

Geraldo’s self-martyrdom is symptomatic of one of the many varied strains of the I Have a Black Friend™ defense. (Let’s call it IHABF™ for short.) But it’s not as egregious as the IHABF™ that Trayvon’s killer is using, and even more blatantly so. 

Perhaps since there was no denying George Zimmerman’s guilt in the shooting, proxies like his own father have busied themselves proving he’s a nice, un-racist guy. (When they show up, that is.) Foremost among Zimmerman’s backers, though, has been a 53-year-old black man named Joe Oliver, Zimmerman’s former co-worker. The man who says he’s known the shooter for six years has been doing a media tour, essentially acting as Zimmerman’s defender in the “court of public opinion.” And yes, as you see above, he is black – a fact that makes this a rather blatant case of IHABF™.

Among the highlights of Oliver’s defense, some of which were highlighted by NewsOne:

It is fascinating to see how Oliver’s blackness is used (if not viewed) as validation for Zimmerman – but Trayvon’s blackness seems to be increasingly incriminating in the eyes of critics. (Zerlina Maxwell had a good breakdown of the attacks on Trayvon’s character Wednesday in theGrio.) It’s apparent how this could be helpful to Zimmerman, in that “court of public opinion.”

If only Oliver weren’t so terrible at this. The best part? It seems Oliver isn’t even close with Zimmerman. This is what he said during Tuesday night’s tense interview on “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell:

I want to point out and clarify my relationship with George because the characterization has been as a close friend. I’m being described as a close friend because I’m the only one speaking out for him. But my relationship with George is more of an older uncle. I’m old enough to be his father.

So, he’s not even a close friend? This isn’t I Have a Black Acquaintance™, it’s I Have a Black Friend™! Why is Oliver doing all this, then? Why is he going full IHABF™?

Perhaps Oliver himself said it best last night to Lawrence: “My role in this just doesn’t make sense.” Nothing to add.

Trayvon's killer deploys the 'black friend' defense