Not a punchline, a scholarly explanation from the incomparable Thomas Sowell; Black Rednecks and White Liberals. In the first 50 pages the reader will learn that the colonial American South was mostly populated by immigrants from the highlands of the Celtic Fringe of what is today the United Kingdom. While Englishmen, and women, from the lowlands and Thames river area of southeast England mostly went to colonize New England. Immigrants who brought their very different cultures with them to the 'new world'.
From the Celtic Fringe, it was a culture, in large part, of impetuous, reckless, prideful, boastful, short-sighted, violent behavior. Insults, real and perceived, were likely to degenerate into a fight, which might include weapons such as clubs, knives, and guns. The death of a combatant was frequent in these fights, and rarely did the victor suffer any legal repercussions from killing his adversary.
Prideful boasting and self-dramatization were common in the South, much to the bafflement of visiting New Englanders of the day. Something also noted by Alexis de Tocqueville when he visited America in the 1830s. Frederick Law Olmstead wrote, of his travels in the South, that the people there were, 'greatly disinclined to exact and careful reasoning.' Such people began to be called 'crackers', short for 'wisecracker'.
This culture, originally Scottish and Irish, was passed on to negro slaves imported, against their will, from Africa to work the white's plantations. In addition to the penchant for violence, even the language passed to them. Words like, aks (for ask), acrosst, y'awl, dis, dat, I be, all originate from white 'crackers' or rednecks.
Therein lies the tale, told by an economist, that helps to explain why in February, 2012, a young black male--a descendant of Southern Redneck culture--found himself assaulting a stranger on a sidewalk in Sanford, Florida. Unfortunately for the young assailant, the person whose head he was smashing into the concrete was armed with a gun. When his cries for help went unheeded, that man somehow got his pistol from his concealed holster and defended himself by shooting the man who had him pinned to the ground. That ended the assault, and arguably saved the intended victim's life. We are, of course, referring to the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case. Just concluded in a courtroom in Florida with a verdict of not guilty due to self-defense. A conclusion reached by the Sanford police several months earlier.
Pace Sowell, George Zimmerman judged Trayvon Martin, on that dark, rainy night, by the content of his character; probably a redneck, prone to violence, who might have overheard Zimmerman's conversation with a police dispatcher and was insulted by it. Thus the vicious attack on Zimmerman that left him bruised, cut and bloodied. Zimmerman feared he could be killed, or seriously injured by what Martin was doing to him. As did Jenna Lauer who immediately upon hearing the fight break out ran to her phone, in the comparative safety of her home, and called 911 to summon police. The fear in her voice on the recording of that call is apparent.
Thomas Sowell, in one of many, astute comments on the history he documents in his book, notes that this violent, redneck culture had started to die out, not only in the South, but in the Northern cities to which it had been exported by descendants of slaves who moved to cities like Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York early in the 20th century. However, changes toward law enforcement that began in the 1960s reversed that improvement in the culture. With consequent devastation for, mainly, black Americans who found themselves living among violent predators who were now less likely to be caught and punished for crime. More likely to go free to continue their mayhem.
White liberal intellectuals aiding and abetting that all along the way. So obviously, that even Jerry Lewis noticed it and made it the theme of his 1957 film, The Delicate Delinquent. Lewis's character being treated with condescension by a white, middle class social worker who knows the proper way to minister to such wayward youth. The film is a comedy. The results, not only in the Trayvon Martin incident, but for millions of other Americans, not being anything to laugh about.