When Senator John McCain gave his 2008 presidential concession speech, officially making Senator Barack Obama our first black president, some of the first responses I heard were those of my roommates, since we were all in the dorm at the time. Two of those roommates I went to high school with and we were all cool with one another. One voted for McCain, and had no real negative response, while the other voted for Obama, like myself. The third roommate was randomly put into our suite. He was from the woodsy, redneck part of New York (a.k.a. anything not New York City, apparently), and kind of resembled WWE wrestler and “The Real World” cast member Mike Mizanin.
His response was to curse and say he was going to grab his shotgun and go out in the streets to calm any uppity… well, I’m sure you can guess the word, but it’s a rather derogatory term for blacks that resembles an African country a bit too closely.
That was one of many reasons I really disliked that guy.
During President Obama’s time in office, there has been quite a bit of racism floating around the country. Some of the racism has been simply personal, like the allegations that Paula Deen and her brother behaved in racist ways at their restaurant. Other examples have been politically charged, often specifically targeting Obama, like a federal judge insinuating that Obama’s mother had multiracial and multispecies orgies, or the more recent bumper sticker that manages to be both racist and completely opposite of what it’s trying to say (to not renege would be to keep Obama as president).
But racism isn’t always about whites being racist toward blacks. There’s always whites putting down Latinos, too. Some of these cases have been mentioned before, like Arizona residents calling to whiten a school’s multi-ethnic mural and the school almost doing so, or Arizona and Alabama passing severe and quite possibly racially charged immigration laws. Of course, there’s more obvious racism, like Southern Mississippi band members shouting “Where’s your green card?” to Puerto Rican Kansas State basketball player Angel Rodriguez, and the more subtle racism, like GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum rather foolishly suggesting Puerto Rico needs to put more emphasis on English.
Heck, you could probably even rightfully make the claim of racially charged ideas behind attempts to pin Obama and former Harvard professor Derrick Bell as anti-American black radicals by lying about, misrepresenting or blowing out of proportion their stances and the things they’ve said.
And, truth be told, each of these stories has their own awful, disturbing flavor of disgust. The fact that racism is still so prevalent in America today is revolting and is something that should be confronted head on and destroyed the way a plague should be.
Which, of course, makes it all the more disturbing when blatant, violent racism that shows a gaping hole in the application of our judicial system goes almost silently by. I’m talking about the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
It’s very possible you’ve not heard the story, especially if you’re white. Somehow, the story has been talked about by black media personalities en masse, but the majority of the media has decided to stay mum on the issue.
The story, for those unaware, is shocking and disturbing, more so than probably any of the other aforementioned tales, which is saying something. On February 26, Martin was visiting a relative’s house in a gated community in Sanford, Fla., outside of Orlando. George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old neighborhood watch captain, called police to say there was someone that looked “real suspicious.” The police informed Zimmerman they would be sending some people out and told him not to pursue the boy.
Zimmerman did anyway. Martin, returning from a store with a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea, was confronted by Zimmerman, who had a 9 millimeter handgun. After allegedly engaging in a physical altercation, there was shouting. Then a gun shot. When police arrived, Zimmerman was covered in blood, and Martin was on the ground with a bullet wound in his chest.
Here’s the fun part. Zimmerman, who has confessed to killing Martin, has not been charged as he claims he acted in self defense. Zimmerman’s parents are claiming their son can’t be racist because… he’s Latino.
Even worse than the “I have a black friend” defense, it’s the “I’m not white” defense.
What’s hugely disturbing about all of this is the lack of public outcry. Imagine, if you would, the victim was a young white girl. The same way Natalee Holloway, Caylee Anthony or Amanda Knox were. How much national outrage would there be? How much attention would this story get? Probably even more than some of these other stories since Zimmerman is apparently Latino and it could be labelled as a “race crime.” Just against a white person.
But when the victim is a black teenager with a bag of Skittles, the culprit doesn’t even get arrested.
Am I suggesting that injustices like the Amanda Knox story shouldn’t be discussed? No. I’m saying justice should be blind. It shouldn’t favor the young, pretty white girls. It should favor all wronged people, no matter what race or creed.
If justice is not blind, it is not justice. The scales lose their balance when weighed with color and race and sexuality and all other defining characteristics used to separate people. If the scales are tipped, how can we trust our legal system to do what’s right?
And all this is without me even talking about how heavily stacked against non-whites our justice system is via the death penalty and other prosecution, such as the severely unjust execution of Troy Davis.
The first step to fixing these problems is awareness. If people are unaware of these events, the system will stay broken. You can help spread awareness by telling people about the story, or signing and sharing petitions like the one on Change.org.
But awareness isn’t enough. We need to raise hell. We need to let those in charge know we aren’t going to simply accept this kind of behavior. That we want liberty and justice for all. That we want awareness and fairness for all.
Otherwise, America will never be able to grow and become a great nation. We will fall into disrepair as a nation wholly unable to accept all its inhabitants and treat them all as equals. And history will mock us as we truly deserve.