Newt Gingrich just doesn’t get it. The GOP Presidential hopeful recently stated in an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity that he thought it was “disgraceful” the comments President Obama said about the Trayvon Martin case in Sanford, Florida. President Obama recently said that if he had a son he would have looked like Trayvon and urged Florida authorities to properly investigate the matter calling it a “tragedy.” This at a time when Fox News’ Geraldo River wants to blame Trayvon’s hooded sweatshirt not the shooter, George Zimmerman, for the death.
Why is the right so afraid to acknowledge racism still exists in this country? While Gingrich is correct in saying it would have been none the less a tragedy had Trayvon been Hispanic, Asian, or White, both Gingrich and Rivera are missing the point. Trayvon was seen by an overzealous cop wannabe as suspicious because the wannabe, Zimmerman, saw a black man walking through his gated community as suspicious. Perhaps young Mr. Zimmerman was looking for anything he could find suspicious justify making one more call to the police in hopes they embrace him as one of their own. Perhaps it was the race issue that led Mr. Zimmerman to kill. I tend to think it could be a combination of the two.
By now it should be clear to anyone who has heard the 911 call that Zimmerman made to the police prior to confronting Trayvon. In that recording Zimmerman is heard reporting Trayvon’s actions to the dispatcher on the line. At one point Zimmerman seems to utter under his breath, seemingly in disgust, the words “f**king coons.” I believe these words, not the presence of a mysterious hooded man walking home, are the key that explains why Trayvon was accosted and shot by Zimmerman. That is, unless Zimmerman can demonstrate that Sanford has been overrun by the species Procyon Lotor (raccoon) and that he personally has some reason to feel such angst towards the masked critters that he would interrupt an important call to 911 to utter that angst. It is important to remember that Zimmerman was not a cop and had no authority to confront or detain Trayvon even if Trayvon had been up to no good.
No Newt, it does appear that race is a factor here and that is why people, including our president, are up in arms about this killing. While you are right that the killing of any youth is a tragedy, this killing in particular reveals old wounds that are obviously not healed. It is yet another sad chapter in the history of race relations in America. You see, I cannot count the number of times in my law enforcement career that I’ve been called to an affluent predominantly white neighborhood to check out a suspicious person. All too often the only factor the caller can give me that they believe makes the person suspicious is that they are black. Seldom do I see anything about the person that warrants a stop and I usually drive away uttering “stupid redneck” under my breath in much the same manner that Zimmerman uttered “f**king coons.” These calls make me so angry that I have vowed that one Christmas I will return to one of these neighborhoods with a bus full of African-Americans for some caroling…Any volunteers?
Race relations in this country will never improve until we stop teaching our kids to be afraid of other people. Seldom will you find anyone in those gated white communities that has actually been victimized by an African-American. In fact, most criminals, statistically speaking, victimize people within their own race. The fact that so many Americans feel threatened by the presence of a black man in their neighborhood therefore is not typically a result of personal experiences but instead a result of learned behavior. We can break this cycle of racism and fear by acknowledging what has happened in Sanford, Florida and shedding light on the role race played in this death. Together, we can learn from this tragedy and work towards a society where the color of a person’s skin is no more relevant than the color of their eyes or hair.
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