Last Saturday night I happened to look at my phone before going to bed and saw a news update from my NY Times app: “Zimmerman is Acquitted in Trayvon Martin Killing.”
I said a bad word and thought, This is going to be bad. I immediately thought of the Rodney King shooting and the ensuing LA riots. I knew deep down that there wouldn’t be a repeat of that level of violence because that were a lot of other factors that led to the riots, but the thought was still there. So while I knew I should go to sleep, I couldn’t help but wonder what was going on in the country while I was lying safely in my bed.
Don’t go on Twitter. Don’t go on Twitter. Don’t go on Twitter.
I went on Twitter.
Understandably, the verdict dominated the trending topics, with #NoJustice at the top. Curiously, though, another trending topic was #RacialDraft. “The Racial Draft” is a sketch on Chappelle’s Show that is undoubtedly one of its best. It involves an NFL-style draft that defines the identities of multi-racial celebrities and celebrities who embrace a culture that is associated with a different race or ethnicity. For example, Tiger Woods officially becomes black, Lenny Kravitz officially becomes Jewish and the Wu-Tang Clan officially becomes Asian. It’s a lot funnier when you actually watch the sketch, but it’s also a telling reminder of how Americans seem to demand that everyone fit neatly into racial or ethnic groups.
I’m not sure how #RacialDraft started, but I think it was an outlet to define the white/Hispanic George Zimmerman in light of the verdict. If he’s white, he’s further proof that all white people are racist, particularly towards black people. If he’s Hispanic, white people don’t have to feel guilty. However, it evolved into an update of the Chappelle’s Show sketch, a bizarre version of an online fantasy football-type draft. Judging from profile pictures, it was mostly between black and white people, although there were one or two Asian ones and one Native American delegate who was determined to get Johnny Depp and Channing Tatum on his team. The whole thing was far from politically correct and there were many tweets that made me cringe, but overall it was one of the funniest Twitter topics I had seen in a long time.
Even I started getting in on the action. Eminem was a hot property, and there was no way the White delegation could trade him to the Black team for Soulja Boy, so I offered Eminem for either Tupac or a Biggie/Nas package deal. The counteroffer was Nas and the ability to dance, which was tempting, but I didn’t feel qualified to confirm such a huge trade.
All kind of potentially offensive stereotypes were thrown around, and yet, no one complained. It was crazy that at the same time the rest of the country simmered with outrage over such a racially charged trial, there was this little space where people came together to joke about race without anyone getting hurt. I’m not saying that jokes about trading fried chicken for fried rice are going to save the world, but #RacialDraft did provide a nice distraction, if not a tiny bit of hope for the improvement of interracial relations in America. It was something only social media could generate and I’m glad I was there to see it.
Below is the closest thing to an official record of the results, although it’s by no means definitive as Clinton was drafted to the Black team pretty early on. For what it’s worth, Zimmerman was made an undrafted free agent.