The Stains of Racism in America
© Max Zamor
Conservative America is up in arms over Barack Obama’s speech about George Zimmerman’s verdict. That kind of uproar is nothing more than a normal reaction reminding us once again that there are deep stains of racism on America’s character. The conversations going on now are akin to being forced to look at a face into a mirror and see its imperfections. This mirror of racism is still smeared, even almost fifty years after the signing of the Civil Rights Act. Barack Obama only wiped some of that smear off, validating, yet again, the existence of those stains.
It is never easy to admit to having flaws; not when there is money to be made and power to be had. Let’s be clear: With prisons being privatized at an alarming rate, blacks, still economically disadvantaged, are the ready products to fill these prisons’ inventory. It is arguable that this upheaval about the Zimmerman’s verdict is rooted in morality, objectivity and a deep sense of history. Black America is not oblivious to the numerous judicial inequities against its communities. There is no need to look far. According to the Center for American Progress, “While people of color make up about 30 percent of the United States’ population, they account for 60 percent of those imprisoned.” And when facing trial, blacks in the United States know and understand that they have little chance at fairness, much less exoneration, by a white dominated (in)justice system.
History doesn’t lie. The Trayvon Martin’s tragedy is a scenario that has been repeated many times before. The Arthur McDuffies, the Amadou Diallos and the Rodney Kings in the black communities can attest to these tragedies. Therefore, whenever this kind of killing happens, America can hear a collective “no, not again” and braces itself for the possibility of more violence. Sadly, the conditions for more senseless killing of blacks are still there. The Zimmermans of America bet that they will get away with murdering an innocent black because the system is skewed in their favor. So, they’re not afraid to pull their guns and shoot away because a white jury and money are all they need to stay out of jail.
President Obama did nothing but put in perspective what the majority of blacks have known and experienced in their everyday lives. Although racism in America may not be flourishing, the voices are louder and more venomous than ever. Indeed, not since the days of Ronald Reagan has so much blatant and open hatred against blacks have been expressed. It is an open wound that stings every time there is an injustice committed by the system.
In 1964, at the height of the Civil Rights debate, politicians still had a sliver of morality and carried with them a sense of duty. They understood what it meant to work for the greater good. They were true leaders who moved the country along the tracks of progress despite their political differences. They made America a respected nation around the world. However now, the days when politicians from all sides can sit down and negotiate policy outcomes over a cup of coffee are long gone. When a conservative republican icon like Robert Dole decries what goes on in Washington, and declares that “the current party wouldn’t welcome himself, Reagan, or Nixon and should go over their party policy.” it is a sign that more stain covering smears need to be removed before a serious conversation can be undertaken to address racism and other serious social matters.
Barack Obama has taken the leadership. Those in uproar over his speech are doing nothing but asking him to deny his heritage. They have not lived the anecdotes he cited: the locking of car doors when a black man walks by. The clutching of a purse when a black man enters an elevator. Let us not mention the rigging of elections in an attempt to exclude blacks from voting. A more sophisticated tactic is the redistricting of communities designed to keep the majority of a particular party in power with the goal to exclude blacks and other minorities from enjoying the American dream. The implications of these changes are enormous in appropriating money for jobs, community development projects, adequate education and social services. All of those affect blacks and other minorities. Therefore, the loud voices, who, historically benefit from the oppression of blacks, would never understand how much smear wiping that needs to be done because they are in denial.
Everyone desires an equitable society. Violence will not do it. Putting more blacks in jail will not do it. Denials will not do it. Recognizing that racism exists in the mind and heart of America is a good start. When we bare those stains and heal them, only then can an honest conversation be had about what it means to be Americans. That’s what will do it.