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August 1, 2013

“Can’t we all just get along?”

Patricia A. Kelly

The dust appears to be settling on the George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin case. Some black American leaders chose it to help foster the cause of racial justice in this country.


It was an unfortunate choice. The defendant doesn’t fit into the generally accepted category of “white.” There was no evidence of racism in Mr. Zimmerman that night. He was acting as a paid Neighborhood Watch guard, and reported that Martin was weaving when he walked. He did not identify Martin as black until pressed by a 911 operator and had no history of prejudicial behavior. Third, the State of Florida has some unique laws, such as “Stand Your Ground” that complicated the case and strongly impacted the verdict.


Neither Mr. Martin nor Mr. Zimmerman was portrayed fairly by the news media, or by the black American leaders fighting for a guilty verdict. Mr. Martin was portrayed as a 10-or-12-year-old boy going home with Pepsi and Skittles, completely innocent. That he was over six feet tall, tattooed, maturing quickly and weaving a little that night was ignored. Mr. Zimmerman was portrayed as a self-appointed, vigilante stalker; a big man compared to Mr. Martin, with anger management issues and racism his inspiration. He is five-foot-eight, with some anger management history. Neither was fair.


It is sad and wrong that Trayvon Martin died that night, and sad that George Zimmerman must pay huge consequences for his actions for the rest of his life. They both made poor choices.


Black American leaders, a grief stricken mom and the national press worked together to create a huge uproar over events which, tragically, occur in one form or another many times each day. So this death, inappropriately, became a symbol of racism. Even our president and our attorney general, both Black Americans, if you’ve been out of town for the past six years, weighed in. I wonder if Gloria Fitzpatrick of Frederick looks at all like any of President Barack Obama’s Caucasian cousins.


Just this week, I read the 2005 book, “Son of the Rough South,” by reporter Karl Fleming, who witnessed most of the major news events of the civil rights movement. His description of those days reminded me of my own experience back then as a young girl driving through the south every summer to visit my grandparents. “Welcome to Greenville, Mississippi, Home of the Blackest Land and the Whitest People” read the banner across Main Street, to my naïve shock and horror.


It’s no wonder Black Americans default to the “We’re being discriminated against” position. Their treatment by Caucasian Americans was unbelievably brutal, for centuries. These people, and others in many societies, gave the Holocaust a run for its money.


In America now, it’s not acceptable to publicly admit to racism. The most virulent racists I know proclaim adamantly that they are not racist, but that blacks are lazy and living off the government, and express the classic, carefully researched views of Caucasian people of the past: "lazy, impulsive, oversexed.”


The political incorrectness of open racism in our society is well demonstrated by the crumbling of Paula Deen’s business empire after her admission that she used the “N” word many years ago. For honesty, she pays.


Most Caucasians now say, “It wasn’t me. It was people who are dead. I am not prejudiced and I never was.” How many, though, would choose a similarly qualified Black employee over white? How many lock their car doors when they see a group of Black men on the street, without doing the same for Caucasians? How many look uncomfortable when they see interracial couples, especially Black men with Caucasian women? How many want to live in a neighborhood largely occupied by people of color? And how many have used or laughed at the “N” word, told jokes involving Black people and watermelons, or secretly looked down on people of color, without admitting that color was the cause?


This form of prejudice, often actually unconscious and a result of life-long socialization, must disappear for our society to unite as one. People of color share this condition, called aversive or modern prejudice. They must give it up, too.


The other day I was filling out a form for a medical appointment that asked my nationality. As I wrote “American” instead of Irish, Bohemian, Native American and a smidgen of everything else, I was more conscious than ever of the importance of our uniting as a people, all of whom bring unique contributions to our table.


I don’t expect to see the Rev. Al Sharpton in Frederick in response to the accusation that Antwine Dwayne Snowden, Black American, recently killed his neighbor, Gloria Fitzpatrick, Caucasian American, here in our community. I hope I live to see the day when I don’t see him at any other killing.


Let’s all start filling in the blanks “American.”


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