Race in America: Part 2 of ?

Want to understand some of the outrage about the Zimmerman verdict a little better? Read the linked articles below – and read them with an open-mind and open-heart. Do not underestimate the *fact* that a teenager was shot and killed and that his killer, who had the option to stay in his vehicle and avoid confrontation until authorities arrived, walks free.

I’ve already written on this topic and my view has not changed. We desperately need to openly engage in conversations about race in this country. White folks need to check our defenses and leave them outside of the halls of conversation. This is not an individualized issue, it is a systemic issue in which we all play a part. White people need to stop saying things like “slavery ended 200 years ago, get over it,” when in fact, it ended 150 years ago (two 75 year olds lives, back to back), and at the time, no one told many of the slaves and they were not allowed to go free. De jure segregation (Jim Crow) was in effect in Southern states from 1890 until 1965. Yes, 1965… that is not a misprint. Yes, much of the US population grew up in that era. And yes, the ending is a full 9 years after the Brown v Board of Education ruling of 1954, which overturned Plessy v Ferguson’s “separate but equal” 1896 ruling in the case of education.

Both of my parents were born in the late 1940s, with their parents being born in the 1920s. Though I was raised in the military and generally did not
hear outright racist notions, the deep-seated differences were clear and absorbed (also discussed in Part 1 of ?). I was born in the 70s and did not escape the learning of prejudice. None of us can swim in this water and not absorb the notions into our veins. We can, however, challenge them and learn different ways of being. It is hard work and it takes a lifetime to engage in, yet, it is worth it.

The fact of the matter is that most citizens of the US have been raised in an era where not only are the traces of segregation still visible, but so too are the emotional scars. When someone grows up in that environment, a law does not change white folks perception and opinion on the worth of another human being based upon their race. Only hard work and deep and meaningful conversations, and hopefully friendships with people of different races, can change that.

And now, with differential treatment and application of the law based upon race, it is no wonder that the connections are being drawn to racism. Many white folks avoid the topic – it’s a willful ignorance to do so, knowing about racism and how it applies in the present day does not have bearing on the livelihood of most white folks. However, those who are born into the socially constructed confines of “racial minority” have less leeway to practice willful ignorance when it comes to learning how to survive in the US as a “person of color.”

I never had to learn tactics growing up as a white girl, nor did my brother as a white boy, on how to not be shot by police. Apparently, not walking on (or near, just to be safe) a hard surface needs to be added to that list for boys and men of color, for if they are walking on a hard surface, according to the Zimmerman ruling, they’re already armed and dangerous.

Published June 12, 2013:
Florida Black Woman Gets 20 Years For Firing Warning Shot – White Man Kills And Goes Free

Published July 13, 2013:
GEORGE ZIMMERMAN, NOT GUILTY: BLOOD ON THE LEAVES

On Facebook, July 14, 2013, The Sociological Cinema writes:

Outrage about the Zimmerman verdict has echoed across our social media pages today, but amidst the outrage are people–mostly whites–who seem to be either confused or resentful about the outrage. The sentiment seems to be, “The criminal justice system worked! How can people be upset when George Zimmerman didn’t actually commit a crime?”

Here the thing, we don’t actually know whether a crime was committed. What we know is that in the eyes of an institution, a crime was not committed. What we know is that a jury looked at evidence and decided one time that they had a reasonable doubt as to whether a crime was committed.

There is suspicion as to whether the jury arrived at the right verdict. However, even if Zimmerman acted in perfect conformity with the law, a lot of people–especially people of color–think that law is unjust and is simply being applied protect Zimmerman, a white man who killed an unarmed black child.

So when J Smooth tweets, “The fundamental danger of an acquittal is not more riots, it is more George Zimmermans,” he’s really saying that we should worry about a country that allows one person to pursue and kill another person based on something so flimsy as subjective suspicion. In a country like the United States, with our history and white supremacist institutions, too many black people (children included) look suspicious to too many white people too often.

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One Response to Race in America: Part 2 of ?

  1. momshieb says:

    Well said, thank you!

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