From suspect to victim to cultural symbol, Trayvon Martin has metamorphosed
into a political point of departure over race.
When President Barack Obama spoke about how his son could have looked like the 17-year-old, his white Republican rivals quickly accused him of being racially divisive.
When Gov. Rick Scott established a task force to investigate the Stand Your Ground gun law connected to Trayvon's shooting, a state Democratic leader rebuked him for wanting to wait until the case is adjudicated.
Liberal and left-leaning media have taken up Trayvon's case, with calls to arrest his shooter, George Zimmerman. Conservative and right-leaning media have called for a get-the-facts first approach, while some have published images of Trayvon portraying him as a thug.
Groups from the NAACP to the National Council of La Raza, to white and black supremacist groups, have entered -- or been drawn into -- the political fray as well.
"It's campaign time, and unfortunately, it has come to that. But that's what we get these days, unfortunately," said Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, the only elected black Republican in Florida's Capitol.
Carroll, who's chairing Gov. Scott's task force on Stand Your Ground, said the group needs to take its time and not interfere with the investigation. She also wants to avoid partisan and racial politics.
But Carroll noted that race infuses the case and our justice system, especially with the high-incarceration rates of African Americans. But she still wanted to focus on whether or not the state's Stand Your Ground law, authorizing the use of deadly force, needs to be tweaked. The NRA is sure to fight that, while gun-control advocates are trying to get the law stripped from the books.
The Florida Senate's incoming Democratic leader, Chris Smith, criticized the Scott and Carroll's decision to hold off on investigating the law. But Carroll said the task force needs time to gather facts for the "emotional" and increasingly partisan case.
The politics won't go away.
"Once the story went national, we first dealt with the tragedy but very quickly you saw political questions starting to be asked," said James B. Peterson, a professor of Africana Studies and associate professor at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. "Race is a powerful political tool."
"Immediately, you have the right and left at the table. It's unfortunate that this case has become such a hotbed. Both sides can easily go back to their stock characters," he said. "On the left, its marching and protesting and talk about institutional racism. On the right, its talk about rushing to judgment and accusations of race-baiting. The irony is both sides are demanding justice."
And both sides have 24-hour cable channels, websites and Twitter armies that push their narrative about what happened.
State Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, has changed his Twitter avatar to depict him wearing the type of "hoodie" sweatshirt the unarmed Trayvon wore on his last night. Chicago Democratic Congressman Bobby Rush wore a hoodie on the U.S. House floor, prompting Florida's highest-profile black Republican, Congressman Allen West, to criticize the action as "gimmickry."
Meantime, the Internet's atwitter over the decision of The Daily Caller,
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