OK, let’s get it out of the way. I wholeheartedly agree with the outcome in the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman fiasco. So to those who felt entitled to a "guilty" verdict, I am undoubtedly insensitive, heartless and uncaring. Oh, I almost forgot the most important, albeit vastly overused labels: Racist and bigoted.
Spitballs off a battleship.
The real tragedy that has been lost in all the white noise surrounding the verdict is the true victim: Race relations in America, as our goal of a color-blind society now stands at its lowest point in modern American history.
Never mind that the jury did the only rational thing — find Zimmerman not guilty — and that in doing so actually followed that ever-eroding thing called the law (read the manslaughter statute — Zimmerman may have used poor judgment, but he clearly did not intentionally commit an act that caused the death of Trayvon).
It’s an indisputable fact that had this been black-on-black or white-on-white, there never would have even been a trial. And equally true, a national media starved for ratings, and advocacy groups desperately trying to affirm a relevance they never had, created this entire debacle on the false premise that it was all about "race."
Because some Trayvon supporters thought they were entitled to a guilty verdict, regardless of facts or legal statute, anything less was a travesty of justice, racist, and a tacit endorsement for rioting and death threats against Zimmerman.
Welcome to an America that revels in its path of racial regression.
There is no better illustration of how badly we botch race relations than the differences in the Paula Deen and Trayvon Martin cases.
On the one hand, we demonize Paula Deen for words she was honest enough to admit using years ago, mainly in the context of jokes. It’s bad enough Americans have lost their sense of humor in favor of getting offended by absolutely everything, but honestly, who among us — of all colors — hasn’t used or laughed at "racial" words in jokes (including black comedians who openly use the "N" word). Does doing so make one a bigot? Of course not. Is Paula Deen by extension a racist? Based on everything we know about her, no. While some of what she said clearly isn’t defensible, the piling-on reaction of talking heads and gutless companies who know nothing of loyalty and forgiveness was disgraceful.
There is a very simple reason we took down Paula Deen in the name of "race relations." Because it was easy. That’s it. No hard work or effort was required to put her on a dartboard and destroy such an easy target. Those who did so chalked up a "win" in their personal agenda column, lying to themselves and the public that it was done in the name of improving race relations. In reality, such actions set the whole debate backwards. Continued…
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And yet, we barely mention that virtually every big- city mayor and police chief nationwide felt it necessary to urge calm, pleading with Trayvon supporters not to riot and incite bloodshed in the event of a "not guilty" verdict. All for a case, by the way, where most people, both white and black, didn’t have the foggiest idea of Florida law and how it, and nothing else, dictated the outcome.
The inconsistencies are mindboggling, but not surprising.
Race relations had a rocky road in this country, but as we look back, it was clearly a right-versus-wrong struggle, a fight where the oppressed eventually triumphed. Through their perseverance, and the support of millions of fair-minded whites, blacks ultimately achieved legal equality — a monumental feat realized more quickly than even the most optimistic could have hoped.
And yet now, by our own choosing, the pendulum has swung back. We are separate once more. And our nation is divided again — ironically, after it had come such a long way to heal the wounds of the past.
Unconscionably, too many on all sides accept that situation, and even embrace it.
In all the recent media coverage, was there any mention of the thousands of blacks killed each year in urban war zones, primarily by other blacks? Or of the staggeringly high percentage that die, or will go to prison, or be on parole or probation, while still so young? Was there a conversation about what could be done to reverse that trend?
Was there any serious debate about why our American cities are in such a tragic state, where murder, violence, drugs, homelessness, poverty, crushing taxes and horrendous education kill all hope and create a bitter divide between the haves and the have-nots? And about how, despite all the billions spent and feel-good reforms, things are only getting worse? Were the roots of these problems discussed? Any viable solutions offered?
Was there any leader willing to look at the big picture, unafraid to incur the wrath of the loudmouthed, name-calling brigades, to point out that Black Caucuses and Black Parents’ Weekends at colleges do not celebrate diversity and culture, but serve only to drive a sharp wedge between people — people who should, at this point in our history, view themselves as just "Americans" — with no hyphens?
None to all. But as long as we rally around "race cases" that serve no meaningful purpose in advancing race relations, that’s all that matters.
Too many of all colors look the other way when race is injected, fearful of being labeled if an opinion is expressed. And for good reason, as Bill Cosby knows all too well. After a speech several years ago in which he expressed blunt opinions, though with noble intent, about improving the state of young blacks, he was vilified by black leaders and called an "Uncle Tom." Blowhards got their airtime, and the status quo remained intact. Continued…
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That’s not a solution. That’s a tragedy.
Things won’t change until our leaders, the media, and most of all, ourselves, demand it. But since we keep being treated to pictures of Trayvon as a boy instead of a man, and racist phrases such as Zimmerman being a "white Hispanic" (what does that even mean?), don’t expect progress anytime soon.
So long as America chooses to look through the black and white prism while ignoring the one that eliminates color, race relations and tension among fellow countrymen will continue to erode, erasing so much of what courageous leaders of the past, both black and white, achieved.
The only colors Martin Luther King, Jr. saw were red, white and blue. It’s truly pathetic that nearly half a century later, we now have made race relations brown. And that doesn’t refer to skin color.
Chris Freind is an independent columnist and commentator. His column appears every Wednesday. He can be reached at [email protected]
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