Posts Tagged ‘Trayvon Martin’

It’s expected in the coming weeks that the grand jury will hand down a decision on whether or not to indict Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown. Protesters have threatened to riot if Wilson isn’t indicted, the governor has declared a state of emergency, and police are getting ready for what many see as a second, bigger powder keg after the first one went off back in August. And around the country, in living rooms and coffee shops, in workplaces and on news talk shows, people are asking what caused this and what will happen next.

I’ll keep my own personal views on what should happen to Wilson to myself, lest everything else I try to say in this piece gets forgotten because of one opinion. I will state that I think it’s tragic that a young man who had his whole life ahead of him and was planning to go college and maybe own his own business someday was taken too soon, and that his legacy has to be another awful bullet point in the United States’ long, troubled history with race.

And make no mistake, there is a racial element to this. I know some will say that we shouldn’t be talking about race, that we’re living in a post-racial society, that race is a sociological construct of the mind rather than a biological certainty, and that therefore race should not be brought up. I’ve said it many times before, and I’ll keep saying it: social construct or not, many people treat race as a biological reality, and racism is still a pervasive problem in the United States. In fact, I’ve often compared racism to cancer, and the way you deal with cancer isn’t to avoid it or pretend it doesn’t exist. The way you deal with cancer is to take a multi-pronged approach to cure it, and one of those approaches is to talk about racism.

And for those who continue to insist that race shouldn’t be part of the discussion because we live in a so-called “post-racial” society, here are some facts:

  • In November 2012, students of the University of Mississippi rioted upon learning that Barack Obama was reelected. Several racial slurs were heard shouted out during the riot.
  • In February 2012, a young man in Florida was profiled by a self-appointed neighborhood watchman, who then followed the young man despite being told by police not to pursue, and engaged the young man in a scuffle that ultimately ended with the young man’s life being taken. The young man, Trayvon Martin, was black.
  • There are over 900 documented hate groups in the United States according to a report released by the Southern Poverty Law Center last year. Most of them are primarily focused on race and racial differences.

Still want to argue that racism doesn’t exist? Racism is still very prevalent in the United States, and the fact that so many want to deny its existence or say that discussing race and racism in America makes you racist really disturb me. (The latter claim actually is the most ridiculous, especially since it goes against the very definition of racism, and real racists wouldn’t benefit from discussions on race as a societal problem unless it involved doing horrible things to other races. In fact, when economist Ben Stein went on Fox News the other day and called Obama the “most racist president” ever, I wanted to throw a dictionary and a history book at the guy. If you’re going to call a President racist, it’d be better to refer to possibly Andrew Johnson, Woodrow Wilson, or Franklin Roosevelt for starters.)

I think we owe today’s racism to some of the things that happened during Reconstruction, in part. Slavery itself definitely plays a role, but I want to focus on Reconstruction because during this time, President Andrew Johnson encouraged the return of defeated Confederate states to self-rule and to take part in federal government. The people who ended up seizing control were mostly plantation owners and businessmen, some of whom had been involved in the Confederate government, and had benefited from slavery. They used their power to pass sweeping legislation depriving freed slaves of rights, and used terror in the form of the KKK to prevent push back. There was also some propaganda directed to poorer whites who were told that giving freed slaves power was bad for them. The federal government, including Johnson, didn’t do much to prevent this (Johnson also didn’t support the Civil Rights Bill or the 13th Amendment, which is why I mentioned him above in my examples of racist presidents).

This set a painful pattern in motion that would last for nearly 100 years. The legislatures continued to have people in it who would keep up the status quo, African Americans and whites who sympathized with them were kept in place through lynching, the KKK, and other forms of terror, and efforts on state and federal levels to stop it faced uphill battles. It wasn’t until WWII, when African-Americans were determined to achieve victory at home and abroad after their rough treatment during WWI, that things began to change for the better.

Why do I go into all this, and at the risk of getting a bunch of people shouting at me in the comments about how I know nothing or I’m oversimplifying it or something along those lines? Because there are a lot of painful episodes, going back further than I have covered, that have happened and continue to happen long after MLK and the Civil Rights Acts, and we need to examine the whole picture in order to understand what is happening now. Racism existed then, and although they’re in new forms, racism exists today. So we need to confront the past and examine the present if we’re to better the future.

And now that I’ve led you through this long, somewhat rambling post, I have to ask: how do you think racism can be combated? What approaches should we take to stop racism and make it less prevalent in future generations?

*By the way, I know that some of the arguments here can also be applied to other forms of prejudice and discrimination towards other minorities, women, religions, ethnic groups, socioeconomic levels, and sexual orientations. For simplicity’s sake, I’ve only focused on race here, but I do cover other problems in other posts and in some of my fiction as well.

It’s sometimes difficult for me to find a subject that gets me incensed enough that I write a post about it. Usually it’s related to women’s rights or gun control. Today, it’s a combination of gun control and wondering how stupid our leaders can get!

He got away with murder, and I don’t know why.

If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately, George Zimmerman was found not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin. I find that hard to believe, seeing as Zimmerman, a self-appointed neighborhood watchman, saw Martin walking home at night in a neighborhood he lived in, thought that because he was black and in a hoodie he was suspicious, called the police who told him not to follow Martin, followed him anyway, got into an altercation with Martin, and then shot him. In addition, Zimmerman has had prior brushes with the law, including assaulting an ex-girlfriend and a police officer!

And yet because of Stand Your Ground laws and doubts on Martin’s role in the tragedy, Zimmerman gets off scot-free and gets his gun back, despite everything that’s happened! If you ask me, George Zimmerman not only got away with murder, he showed how dangerous Stand Your Ground laws are. These laws say that I’m allowed to use a firearm within the state, and if I claim self-defense, I can’t be punished for it. And that’s even if I go into a bar with a loaded gun and deliberately pick a fight. It’s a law that allows you to get away with murder.

I’m sorry, but aren’t we supposed to stop murderers, not help them?

And not only is the law nonsensical, it’s not applied equally. Right around the same time of the Zimmerman verdict, a woman of African American heritage was convicted. Why? She had fired a shotgun at the ceiling of her home in order to defend herself against her violent boyfriend. Under Florida’s laws, you think she would be protected and her boyfriend prosecuted for assault. You’d be wrong. Despite the defense’s use of Stand Your Ground, she got convicted and sent away for 20 years.

So a murderer get’s away with murder and get’s his gun back after killing a black teenager, but a black woman who didn’t kill anybody and was actually defending herself gets 20 years? What the heck is going on down there?

Looks about right, doesn’t it?

And despite how ineffective, unequally applied, and dangerous these laws are, Governor Rick Scott says he won’t call in a special session of the Florida legislature to review Stand Your Ground laws. Instead, he asks protestors to “talk to your legislators” and is calling for a day of prayer on Sunday.

Prayer? That’s your solution? You’re going to pray for a solution to just magically pop into your lap, Governor Scott? Why not take some action and act like a leader? Or would your NRA backers be cranky if you did that?

Honestly, I don’t blame Stevie Wonder for wanting to boycott the state. I’ll boycott it too while these crazy laws are in effect. And I hope the protestors down in Florida who want Stand Your Ground laws repealed and are the ones who are really taking action are able to enact some sort of change. Because honestly, how many more people are we going to let die for the sake of people who fear their profits will be slashed or that an all-powerful dictatorship will emerge by putting a few comon-sense restrictions on the Second Amendment?

I’ll try and write some more later. I’ve got some anger to vent over the situation in Texas, and boy, will I enjoy writing that!