A response to Chris Krok on the topic of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin

Every radio commentator has been doing their own post-mortem on the Zimmerman trial today. I want to respond specifically to the discussion by Chris Krok, local Dallas radio host on WBAP.

Why focus on Chris Krok? Because in some ways I think his reaction represents the real, typical, “reaction of the people”. The reaction of conservative people, that is. (I think he would take that observation as a compliment.) I also listened to Sean Hannity and Mark Levin all day, but their reactions get so abstract they get detached from what I think really matters to most people.  They talk about the great currents of political posturing and power in our society, and why this trial represents a failure of Obama, and how it reveals demonic and insidious things about liberals, and all of the rest of that predictable political noise. Yawn.

But Chris Krok made it personal and real, and his argument was basically as follows.  (I’m paraphrasing, and I hope I do his position true and honest justice.)

There are many people in the African American community who identify with the Martin family and who feel scared as a result of the “not guilty” verdict. They think, “What if that were my son”? But, Chris Krok points out, Trayvon Martin was a thug. He smoked pot, he used the “N” word, there was plenty of evidence that he was an aggressive kid. If you are an African American parent, you have to stop identifying with the parents of this kid, because your son is not like Trayvon. Trayvon was a punk.  If your son really was like Trayvon, then you have other problems that you need to worry about.

From there, Chris Krok extends this to an observation about the African American community more broadly. There is a problem with young black boys being aggressive and being thuggish, and committing crimes, even crimes of violence. As long as we pretend that that isn’t a problem, we are doing a disservice to the African American community. What the media is going is laying all of this anger and blame on Zimmerman, when really what we should be looking at is the problem of aggression and thuggish behavior among young African American boys.

This was the core of Chris Krok’s argument.

Of course, there are some elements of this argument that are true. For example, it is true that there is a problem with violence and “thuggish” behavior among young black men in some areas. As a general sociological observation, it is also true that this problem needs to be addressed head on or it will not be solved. As a general sociological observation, it is also true that simply placing the blame on circumstance or prejudice will never fully solve that problem.

All of those things are true… in general.




(I’m a liberal, so you knew there was going to be a “however”, right?)



Do we really know that Trayvon Martin was this kind of boy? Do we really know that he was thuggish or “gangsta” or whatever other term you might want to use?

Chris Krok certainly thinks so. Never once did he suggest that there was any question in his mind that Trayvon was an aggressive, degenerate, Hip-Hop Gangsta-lovin’ what-ever-you-want-to-call-it.

And it’s possible that he was.

….but I think many people have doubts.

More specifically: I think that many of those African American families that he mentioned–the ones who identify with the Martin family–may have doubts.

I believe that they are very used to seeing black boys called “thuggish” without any more evidence than the fact that they were black. I think these families understand what it’s like for people to assume that they are “aggressive” simply because the other person sees “black” and gets scared, and figures that black = trouble.

I think these families understand that when a boy turns around and yells, “Hey, why are you following me?” many white dudes will think the boy seems “scared” if the boy is white… but if that boy is black, then he will seem “attacking” or “aggressive” or “confrontational”.

These types of biases in perception are well-known and well-documented.  And almost every African American person in the country has experienced it first hand.


So: Was Trayvon a thug?

Maybe. But maybe not. Chris Krok has no doubts in his mind.

But when the only eye-witness testimony comes from George Zimmerman, who is obviously not “objective” in this matter, I think some people have doubts. I also think there is plenty of reason for there to be doubts, as well.

ZimmermanRemember, Zimmerman didn’t have to be a malicious hate-monger to mistakenly think that Trayvon was being “aggressive” when he wasn’t. He didn’t have to be some kind of evil man who consciously believes that all black people are criminals.  He didn’t need to be any of that.

All he had to be was a guy who tends to be scared of black kids. Which, to be honest, isn’t, like, out of the realm of possibility.


Maybe the right thing to do, in the aftermath of this trial, isn’t to stand on a podium and declare with 100% certainty that Trayvon Martin was a thug–any more than the right thing to do is to stand on a podium and declare him to be an angel (as some on the left have done).

Maybe the right thing to do is to admit that we simply don’t know… and never will.


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  1. Niles Chandler says:

    Yes, of course, the right thing to do is to admit we don’t know whether Trayvon Martin was a “thug”.

    But if this guy Krok did indeed say he was certain of that, then he’s not interested in doing the right thing. What he’s interested in is pandering to his audience, or at least the sizable part of his audience that wants to believe Martin WAS a thug so they don’t have to feel any ambivalence about what happened. “He turned around and attacked George Zimmerman! He MUST have, right? Because– because that’s what those black kids do, y’know!– Okay, good, we can feel secure about that. It’s all simple, because we want it to be simple. Now let’s move on to the next ‘liberal outrage’.”

    It’s too easy to fall into the trap of believing that radio talk show hosts sincerely believe everything they say on the air. Most of them do not. What they’re doing is playing the game.

    The game is: Get our audience worked up and calling in. We can be the radio equivalent of Internet trolls, making outrageous (and outrageously simple-minded) claims about political issues, and it’ll get us lots of attention which gets us more listeners. Our ratings will go up, our advertising dollars will skyrocket, and we’ll get very, very rich. We just have to make sure not to overreach, not to make our claims SO outrageous– cf. Limbaugh, Glenn Beck– that they alienate even our core base of listeners and corporate sponsors. But, short of that, let’s take it as close to the edge as we can. Controversy can make us millions and millions of dollars!

    That’s the game. I first grasped it in early 2008 when I called up an otherwise thoughtful and intelligent “liberal” (!) radio host to ask why in the world he was making a demagogic rant against that Chicago preacher– I can’t even remember his name now– the one who’d had Obama in his congregation, the one who talked about how 9/11 was blowback from the American government’s misdeeds in the Middle East.

    What was this radio guy doing? Trying to cover his right flank so nobody could accuse him of being ‘unpatriotic’? “That pastor didn’t say we DESERVED the attacks,” I said to the host. “Why are you claiming he did? You’re well-informed on the issues. You know better than that!” I kept trying to pin him down and admit that he was acting irrational.

    Then, as he was finally acknowledging my point, I heard the chuckle in his voice. Suddenly it dawned on me: Oh shit, I’ve just been had. This guy’s been playing me!

    And that’s what these radio hosts do. When we forget that, when we assume they actually believe everything they’re saying, we end up playing right into their hands.

  2. Bobby says:

    You could not have put this any more perfectly!

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