The trial of George Zimmerman for the tragic murder of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin has yielded some excellent journalism and critical commentary, and it’s also been an opportunity for some to profit from selling images of Trayvon that trade in racism.
Anjali Mullany, a reporter at Fast Company, pointed out the “Angry Trayvon” game for sale at the Google App store (h/t Christina Sharpe). The game, as David J. Leonard notes, is another form of profiling that reflects the core of racism. In the game, the “Trayvon” character is described this way:
“Trayvon is angry and nobody can stop him from completing his world tour of revenge on the bad guy who terrorize cities everyday.”
The notion that “Trayvon” here is “angry” and “on a world tour of revenge” speaks to the pervasive representation of black men as inherently, ontologically violent, aggressive and intent on attacking putatively innocent white people.
(Screen shot just before 3pmET on 7/9/13)
There was some pretty vigorous pushback against the game, much of it on Twitter and Facebook and a Change.org petition, as people let the game developers, Trade Digital. While it was first reported that the game app was removed, it then re-appeared and was still for sale as late as 3pmET yesterday, but appears to be down now. It bears paying attention to see if it comes back again. Well done, Interwebs, I say. From my perspective, this is precisely how racism online should be handled.
(Screen shot after 3pmET on 7/9/13)
For its’ part, Trade Digital, said it planned to purge “Angry Trayvon” entirely from the web, according to CNET. I’m not sure why they feel the need to do this bit of web washing, given that in a statement they claim the game wasn’t racist. According to a statement on the company’s Facebook page (since removed but quoted in Fast Company):
The people spoke out therefore this game was removed from the app stores. Sorry for the inconvenience as this was just an action game for entertainment. This was by no means a racist game. Nonetheless, it was removed as will this page and anything associated with the game will be removed.
This denial of the obvious racism in the “Angry Trayvon” game is rather stunning, really, and I suspect a bit disingenuous. It’s not that the game developers didn’t realize they were trading on racism in creating this, they were just surprised that it was unpopular. It’s the only thing that makes this nonsensical statement make any sense. It’s one of those “I’m sorry if I’ve offended anybody,” non-apologies for racism that is so popular among white people when they (/we) get called out for racism. What the game developers at Trade Digital expected, and perhaps well within reason, is that their game would be as popular as any of the other racist games on the market. The way neoliberal, colorblind racism works you can develop and sell, buy and play racist games, you just can’t call it that. The Trade Digital game developers actually had good reason to anticipate brisk sales for their app, based on previous efforts to profit from racism that focused on Trayvon.
Back in May, 2012 an anonymous online seller offered these images as gun range targets and did a brisk business in them.
(Image from here)
The accompanying text in the ad (since removed) for the gun range targets read:
Everyone knows the story of Zimmerman and Martin. Obviously we support Zimmerman and believe he is innocent and that he shot a thug. Each target is printed on thick, high quality poster paper with a matte finish! The dimensions are 12″x18″ ( The same as Darkotic Zombie Targets) This is a Ten Pack of Targets.
The unidentified seller based in Florida told a WKMG news team over e-mail: “The response is overwhelming. I sold out in two days.” WKMG did not identify the seller, and said it found the ad on a popular firearms auctioning website.
The reality is that there is profit in selling racism, as there has been for centuries, the forms have changed so that some are selling Trayvon.