On Friday, President Obama held an unannounced press conference during which he spoke personally and sensitively about race in hopes of generating an adult conversation about racism in the US. Of course, his remarks were met with derision and anger by many conservatives and their media mouthpieces. (I’m looking at you, Rush Limbaugh and anyone who has ever worked at Fox News Channel!)
Keep in mind that our nation just watched a white adult who had stalked and murdered an unarmed black teenager be acquitted of all charges. Despite the verdict, Trayvon Martin’s parents have handled themselves with class…much more class than the conservative pundits who have pilloried the young man who was murdered.
Not content with accepting the verdict and hoisting George Zimmerman onto their proverbial shoulders, the right wing nitwits have attacked those who took to the streets to protest the verdict. They have also seemed to delight in attacking Martin’s character. “He shouldn’t have been walking through the neighborhood at night. He shouldn’t have been wearing a hoodie. He was smoking pot earlier in the day. He called Zimmerman a cracker during his phone conversation with a friend. He shouldn’t have defended himself against Zimmerman. Etc., etc., etc.”
These are the very same people who have glorified the Tea Party parasites who carry signs with racist depictions of our president. The same people who have questioned the president’s birthplace and eligibility to be president. The same people who applaud the Supreme Court’s decision to eviscerate the Voting Rights Act that protected minority votes. The same people who applaud legislative bills that would suppress African-American and Latino votes then accuse those who object of “playing the race card.”
Following the Zimmerman verdict, the president was not only justified in raising the subject of race. He was obligated to do so.
Anyone with dark skin, or anyone with a friend or relative who has dark skin, understands the problems. And they absolutely must be addressed! I have personally seen black people unlawfully beaten by police. I have seen a white cop set fire to an apartment building then blame it on his black neighbors. I have seen a cop chain his dog in a black neighborhood, so that it could attack any unsuspecting man, woman or child who walked down the sidewalk. Every one of my black friends has been repeatedly pulled over by police for driving while black. A young, black male co-worker and close friend was stopped by police, guns drawn, just for walking down the street.
I have seen the statistics showing the disproportionate number of black men and women in prison. I’ve seen how differently black people who become addicted to crack cocaine are treated compared to white people who are addicted to powder cocaine. I’ve seen how the War on Drugs is used to harass and imprison minorities. I’ve listened to conservative politicians call Latinos dirty, stupid and disrespectful of our culture. And I’ve seen young white men parade through the streets with Confederate flags following President Obama’s election.
There are thousands of George Zimmermans out there, some in uniforms, who are armed and assume everyone with dark skin is a criminal or a welfare moocher, living off the hard work of others. That image is perpetuated by loudmouths like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and others. And even though race wasn’t mentioned, it was most certainly implied by Mitt Romney in his off-the-record comments about the 47 percent.
Certainly, not every right winger is going to act on their misguided beliefs. But a few armed racists will undoubtedly be encouraged to act as vigilantes thanks to the insane Stand Your Ground law that the NRA and ALEC have pushed through legislatures throughout the country – especially in the South.
Yes, President Obama needed to talk about race. Race has been an issue in our country for 3 centuries. It’s long past time for us to learn how to live with each other, treating all of our neighbors with dignity and respect.
The issues facing our nation have never improved by refusing to discuss them.