Staff Editorial: Hunger Games, Trayvon Martin responses expose racist evaluations of human worth

An outpouring of tweets expressing indignation that several characters from The Hunger Games, especially 12-year-old tribute Rue, were cast as black actors in the film tarnished its record-breaking premiere.

In the book, Rue has “bright dark eyes and satiny brown skin.” Naturally, the filmmakers cast young black actress Amandla Stenberg.

An Internet firestorm followed. “Why did the producer make all the good characters black,” asked one Twitter user. Another said (spoiler alert) “Call me racist but when i found out rue was black her death wasn’t as sad #ihatemyself.” It would be easy to dismiss the Rue tweets as a bunch of idiots on the Internet. Placing them alongside the repeated attempts to disavow Trayvon Martin as a person worth caring about, however, reveals a dangerous undercurrent of rage and indignation that meant life or death for Martin. and have both done incredible write-ups on this disgusting reaction and deserve praise for their unflinching coverage. The author of the Tumblr wrote, “These people are MAD that the girl that they cried over while reading the book was ‘some black girl’ all along.”

Additionally, many tweets specifically targeted Stenberg with racial slurs, as if she ruined the character. Never mind that she’s a 13-year-old in her third film.

The media explosion around Martin’s shooting has sparked claims that liberals are skewing the facts so that Martin seems innocent. Several websites released a picture of Martin shirtless with slouched shorts flipping off the camera. This, they claimed, would set the record straight, since mainstream media was biasing America by running pictures of a younger, innocent Martin – as if in the past few years he had transformed into some terrible black monster.

Later, it was verified that the picture wasn’t even of Martin – but that doesn’t matter. The photo campaign illuminates a terrifying fact that ties into the hoodie fiasco and allegations that Martin skipped school and did drugs: Trayvon Martin’s death doesn’t matter if he was that kind of black person.

Miguel Meza, who identified himself as George Zimmerman’s cousin, said in a phone interview with the Associated Press, “The media has been quick to demonize George, but Trayvon Martin was no angelic boy walking.” No. He wasn’t an angel. He was a human being.

These cases are not isolated. They expose a very real, very dangerous undercurrent of rage that permeates discussions of race. People are indignant at the idea that black lives are being valued equally to white ones. Rue’s death can’t matter as much if she’s black. We can gloss over Martin’s death if he was a black thug. And then we can be comfortable about race in our culture again.

This cannot be ignored, because pretending that “good people” like Catholic neighborhood watchmen can’t be racist is what got us into this mess.