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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Kent Bush: Few issues are simply black and white

  • We are all affected by stereotypes and racial, cultural and other presumptive reasoning at some level.
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  • Apparently, blonde people know a lot about racism.
    Sometimes black people kill other black people and sometimes they kill white people too. So, according to the logic of shared posts on Facebook, that means that killing a black teen because he looks suspicious is a fine idea.
    One story is even circulating saying that the media doesn’t report on black on white crime so if George Zimmerman were black and Trayvon Martin would have been white, this would have been no big deal to the media. Another points out that Martin had two-thirds of the ingredients to create “lean” – a favorite codeine-laced concoction prevalently used by young black people. Martin was also often in trouble at school.
    All of these wishful defenses fall short of any logical standard.
    Zimmerman didn’t know what Martin had in his pockets and I doubt his position as “High Holy Commander of the Neighborhood Watch” gave him access to the confidential records at Martin’s high school.
    Despite the controversy, I am not convinced the jury in the Zimmerman trial could have ruled any differently than they did. The law is the law.
    But how was the case investigated at the start?
    The dead kid was a black teen and “you know how they are” so it stands to reason that the bloody white guy (even though Zimmerman is not the whitest white guy out there) had to shoot the suspicious teen.
    Who knows what that kid was up to?
    The problem in this country is not inherently racism or sexism or any other “ism” you can name.
    A lot of our problem comes from the blatant inability to discuss a topic where there may not be a “right” answer. No one can see both sides and understand where both parties are coming from.
    There is no more room for nuance. The literary world was rocked by a book called 50 Shades of Gray but in the political realm there is only black and white.
    You don’t think racism came into play in this case? Do you really believe that a white kid in a hoodie would have been tracked down and confronted by a guy in a neighborhood watch?
    I have two suburban sons. One is black and one is white. I know full well that in 10 years if Blake walks down a dark alley, the neighbors will worry for his safety. If Dawit walks down that same alley in that same hoodie, they will hope they locked their car doors.
    They are being raised in the same home, school and church but the reaction to them will be very different based solely on the color of their skin.
    Page 2 of 3 - It is getting better with each generation, but believe me when I tell you, no one complained about us bringing Blake into the community six years ago. The same can’t be said for when we adopted Dawit.
    When I mention a gang member, what picture comes to your mind. What about when I mentioned a high schooler teeing off at the local country club.
    Did your mental images look a lot alike?
    Does that mean you are a racist? No. We are all affected by stereotypes and racial, cultural and other presumptive reasoning at some level.
    There are so many facets to this issue.
    What about the race baiters who assume every thought held by Zimmerman, the white cops and the white judge and jurors was motivated by race?
    Is Al Sharpton right this time? I doubt it.
    But why do people feel the need to exonerate Zimmerman for actions that were at least part motivated by some level of racist presumption that Martin was suspicious? Why can’t we see that there were a number of contributing factors this tragedy?
    I bet the fact that he was “on watch” meant that Zimmerman was a little on edge. You know, kind of like how all of the shadows look a little spooky when you are in the woods late at night. For what I am sure are various reasons, Martin seemed suspicious to Zimmerman. Guess what, one of those reasons was probably that Martin was a young black man.
    Zimmerman might be innocent in the sense that Martin was attacking him and he shot the boy in order to protect himself. But would Martin have attacked Zimmerman if he hadn’t been confronted in the first place? I doubt it.
    The President is right. We need to have the discussion on race.
    But we need to realize that in the case of Trayvon Martin, there is validity on each side of the argument.
    Let’s have the conversation. Maybe then the next time an armed neighborhood watchman is watching his neighborhood, that black kid won’t look as suspicious. Maybe the next skirmish won’t happen and everyone can be a little safer.
    Racism isn’t born into people. It is learned. Let’s start teaching a better way.
    Last week, my black son got a fishing hook caught in his arm. When the doctor cut it out, you couldn’t help but notice that under his brown skin lay pink flesh and red blood. He is a different color on the outside but inside we’re all the same. We may be different colors but we are all still crayons in the same box.
    Page 3 of 3 - As a society, we are better than we were. But we have to realize there is still room to improve.
     
     

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