NBC Panel: 'Black Life Means A Little Bit Less Than White Life in America'

During a panel discussion on Monday's NBC Today about the acquittal of George Zimmerman, left-wing MSNBC host Toure proclaimed the court case to be evidence of inherent racism in American society: "We have an almost all-white jury. We almost never get justice in that situation, especially in the south....I'm taken back to Emmett Till and Amadou Diallo and Iona Jones and all these other situations where we understand that black life means a little bit less than white life in America." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

MSNBC analyst and liberal bomb-thrower Michael Eric Dyson was also on the morning show panel, and eagerly agreed with Toure's assertion: "No doubt. And you know, I have two sons, and my son texted me and said, 'How do I protect my two black boys who are very young?' So for us it's a reminder, it's a kind of deja vu all over again and it's a negative appraisal of the American soul..."

Later in the discussion, Dyson launched into a rant comparing the shooting of Trayvon Martin to 9/11:

And look, you have to have – throughout this crazy term, distance analogy, proximate truth. What the heck does that mean? That means that sometimes people can't understand your experience. So you give them [white people] an analogy distance from them, because if you make it about white-black, they get defensive. So you do something else. How about terror? What does it mean for you on 9/11 to be subjected to terror when nothing you did, no logic, no rational system, no institution could protect you. That's what we feel. Proximate truth, our reality as black people is akin to your experience of terror. And then you begin to recalibrate what the arguments are and to ask people, if white kids were dying at the rate that black kids were dying would we have the same response, the same jury make up, the same legal system to defend them? That's the kind of thing that we've got to get at here and we've got to have it from the top down and from the bottom up.

Following the Supreme Court decision striking down a portion on the Voting Rights Act on June 25, Dyson stoked racial tensions when he viciously attacked Justice Clarence Thomas: "A symbolic Jew has invited a metaphoric Hitler to commit holocaust and genocide upon his own people."

Despite Toure's over-the-top declarations at the beginning of Monday's exchange, co-host Willie Geist turned to the pundit for further guidance on the topic: "Toure, it seems to me we're very good in this country about talking about how we should have a national conversation, but not as good at actually having the conversation. What would you like that conversation, in this case now, to sound like? What should we be talking about as a country?"

That gave Toure another opportunity to bash the country as racist: "I mean, when we have these stand-your-ground laws and this gun culture that allow us to be vigilantes and these court systems where we are over-arrested, over-prosecuted, over-convicted and over-sentenced as black people, there's no chance to have just a – it's not just about a conversation. There are systems there's an institutional system that is representing the racism that we're talking about."

On the July 27 Today, Toure again participated in a panel discussion on race, and like Dyson, denounced the Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights Act:

Well, I mean, I think we see the importance of race still in America. The Affirmative Action ruling didn't knock down Affirmative Action, but it raised the bar on it. But the Voting Rights Act is the thing that really hurt my heart, because now it's going to be much harder for black and brown people to vote, especially in the South. And when you see people being taken for granted in the Trayvon Martin situation and the mindset that still exists when we talk about Paula Deen, and not just using the N-word in 1986 or whatever, but in 2007, wanting to plan this southern wedding, dreaming of that. That is the thing that says this discrimination still exists and the Voting Rights Act allows it to continue.

At the top of Monday's Today, co-host Savannah Guthrie brought on yet another left-wing MSNBC personality, Al Sharpton, to condemn the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case, lamenting: "Do you think the prosecutors missed an opportunity there, that they didn't explicitly make this case about racial profiling?"

No guests were featured on the network morning show that agreed with the jury's acquittal of Zimmerman.


Here is a full transcript of the July 15 panel discussion:

9:13AM ET

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: In the circuit court of the 18th judicial circuit in and for Seminole County, Florida, State of Florida versus George Zimmerman, verdict, we the jury find George Zimmerman, not guilty.

AL ROKER: George Zimmerman's acquittal in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin reignited the debate about what it means to be black in the United States. Today legal analyst Lisa Bloom, Toure, the co-host of MSNBC's The Cycle, and MSNBC political analyst Michael Eric Dyson are here with a look at the verdict's impact on race relations in our society. Good to see you guys.

LISA BLOOM: Good morning.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Good morning.

TOURE: Good to see you.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Race in America; How the Zimmerman Verdict is Impacting Society]

ROKER: So Lisa, let's start with you. You say with the prosecution's case, the jurors never really got a chance to hear what happened.

BLOOM: Well, they did hear the facts of the case and all of the witnesses who heard something or saw something were put on. But as I said before the verdict, when both sides appeared to be arguing reasonable doubt, a defense verdict was fairly predictable and I think that's what happened here.

WILLIE GEIST: Toure and Michael, ask both of you, just your gut reactions when you heard this verdict? Were you expecting it, first of all? And then how did you feel after you did?

TOURE: I'm not shocked. I knew that an acquittal was possible, partly because Lisa kept telling me that the prosecution had not made a theory of the case, but also because you had a situation where we waited 45 days for an arrest. We have an almost all-white jury. We almost never get justice in that situation, especially in the south. So – but even though I was expecting it, I was still numbed because I'm taken back to Emmett Till and Amadou Diallo and Iona Jones and all these other situations where we understand that black life means a little bit less than white life in America.

DYSON: No doubt. And you know, I have two sons, and my son texted me and said, "How do I protect my two black boys who are very young?" So for us it's a reminder, it's a kind of deja vu all over again and it's a negative appraisal of the American soul so to speak because when we have such overwhelming evidence that black men are routinely subject to racial profiling – and not in this case with a policeman but an ordinary average citizen – that means we're subject to the arbitrary caprice of somebody who gets mad, gets a gun, murders us. We can't even stand our ground to defend ourselves, and as a result of that, all black men feel vulnerable. Women feel vulnerable for their husbands. Mothers and fathers feel vulnerable for their children and we feel vulnerable for each other. It's a horrible predicament in which we're thrust.

ROKER: Lisa, did the prosecution make a major mistake in the way they went and maybe not focusing on what this could have meant?

BLOOM: I think they had a lot of missteps in the case. They didn't put forward a theory of what happened. Both sides seemed to be focusing on the defense theory that in the final moments George Zimmerman was down on his back, Trayvon Martin was on top assaulting him. You know, as I said throughout this trial, if that's the only image the jury has going into deliberations, of course they're going to say that George Zimmerman had a right to defend himself.

And yet, there were multiple witnesses who had a different scenario. Who said that George Zimmerman was on top, or that both men were upright and running. The prosecution, in closing argument, essentially asked a lot of questions and told the jury, "You look at the evidence. You decide it." That is completely unusual in a murder case where the prosecution generally connects the dots, they can comment and draw inferences from the evidence, and connects the facts to the charges. That didn't happen here.

GEIST: Toure, it seems to me we're very good in this country about talking about how we should have a national conversation, but not as good at actually having the conversation. What would you like that conversation, in this case now, to sound like? What should we be talking about as a country?

TOURE: I mean, it's hard to even assess that because we're having two entirely different conversations. From the beginning, this broke down as this sort of left-right dichotomy, the left looking at it one way and the right – even though there's a dead person involved in this who's not politically involved anyway, but he became this political football.

But I mean, when we have these stand-your-ground laws and this gun culture that allow us to be vigilantes and these court systems where we are over-arrested, over-prosecuted, over-convicted and over-sentenced as black people, there's no chance to have just a – it's not just about a conversation. There are systems...

DYSON: Right. Conversion.

TOURE: ...there's an institutional system that is representing the racism that we're talking about.

DYSON: That's a great point. And look, you have to have – throughout this crazy term, distance analogy, proximate truth. What the heck does that mean? That means that sometimes people can't understand your experience. So you give them an analogy distance from them, because if you make it about white-black, they get defensive. So you do something else. How about terror? What does it mean for you on 9/11 to be subjected to terror when nothing you did, no logic, no rational system, no institution could protect you. That's what we feel. Proximate truth, our reality as black people is akin to your experience of terror. And then you begin to recalibrate what the arguments are and to ask people, if white kids were dying at the rate that black kids were dying would we have the same response, the same jury make up, the same legal system to defend them? That's the kind of thing that we've got to get at here and we've got to have it from the top down and from the bottom up. We have to have courage among our politicians to tell the truth about race in America as well.

ROKER: You know, we had these tweets right after the verdict. George Zimmerman's brother tweeting,"A message from Dad: Our whole family is relieved. Today I'm proud to be an american. God bless America. Thank you for your prayers." Trayvon Martin's dad tweeting, "Even though I'm broken hearted, my faith is unshattered. I'll always love my baby." And then NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous, their statement, "We are outraged and heart broken over today's verdict." We will pursue civil rights charges with the Department of Justice. We will continue to fight for the removal of Stand Your Ground laws in every state and will not rest until racial profiling in all it's forms is outlawed."

GEIST: Lisa, in the press conference afterward, the defense said this was not a case about race. This was a case about self-defense. They say they have evidence that proves George Zimmerman is objectively not a racist based on the way he's lived his life.

[TOURE AND DYSON SMIRK]

TOURE: How do you prove that?

GEIST: What do you make of that?

BLOOM: You know, I think in the courtroom the prosecution had the same argument that many in our culture have, and that is squeamishness in talking about race. This is clearly a case about race. That's why it got this ground swell of public support before, and now afterwards. And the prosecution fought hard to get evidence in that George Zimmerman had called on five previous occasions about suspicious people in the neighborhood. 100% of whom were African American. Once that evidence came in, they failed to use it. They didn't use it on cross examination of witnesses or in closing arguments. And in fact, in closing argument they said explicitly, "This is not about race." Then the prosecutor told a story about race, "Imagine the two people are reversed." And then he said again, "This is not about race." What? I mean it was a very confusing presentation.

ROKER: Guys, we're going to have to leave it here because we're going to be talking about this for a long time to come. Lisa Bloom, Toure, and Michael Eric Dyson, thank you so much.

GEIST: Thanks guys.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC