“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
This was said by Dr. Martin Luther King at a speech in St. Louis, Missouri, March 22, 1964. During the height of the Civil Rights movement, it was clearer than ever that the black population in America (and their supporters) had had enough with Jim Crow laws, “separate but equal” etc. With the peaceful protests led for years by leaders such as Dr. King, the majority of the public and lawmakers realized that it was time to end the age of discrimination, and make no distinction between white, black, Hispanic or any other race.
Recent weeks have brought a side of people that has probably not been seen since the Civil Rights movement. The trial of George Zimmerman has ripped open a wound in the history of America, one from slavery and racial discrimination. Has anyone asked why this case specifically has been a rallying point for pushes for more civil rights movements? Is there really a sickness in American society that has a deep-rooted contempt for the black community that was exposed by this case? The given facts of this specific case demonstrate that race was not a factor; why has this become a battle cry?
There is no doubt that George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin. The question was whether this event was simply self-defense, or if there was a more heinous nature to it. For over a year, the story gained national attention, as major television networks picked up the story. The problem was that people like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson also took hold of it as well. These people who call themselves civil rights activists try to plant seeds of racism into almost any case that they possibly can.
There may be some cases where they have a legitimate reason for doing so, but in the case of George Zimmerman, there was absolutely no evidence that there were racial undertones to the case. The FBI conducted an investigation into Zimmerman and found absolutely no evidence of that; however, mainstream sources could not accept that. NBC News even went as far as to selectively edit the 911 call from Zimmerman to create the illusion of racism on Zimmerman’s part.
Constant attempts to plant seeds of racism in this case and many others show that there indeed is something wrong with America. The problem, however, comes from the side that injects these false allegations to inflame a case to draw more attention. Is there still racism in America? Yes, and there always will be due to human nature; some group will at some time in history have endured prejudice from another. Human nature cannot be controlled by legislation, and neither can social attitudes (think Prohibition). Am I saying that the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act were bad things? Absolutely not. These pieces of legislation simply overturned years of legal discrimination against blacks, and guaranteed them the rights given to all American citizens. Social attitudes changed over years by social vehicles.
After it was all said and done in a court of law, the case against George Zimmerman is over; it was decided by a jury that he was not guilty, and by the way our system works, justice was served. However, millions of people simply cannot let the case go, and insist that Zimmerman is a racist murderer. There is the other side, though, that has accepted the verdict, acknowledged that the evidence to convict him was not there, and has since moved on to other stories of the day.
No matter how you look at this case, a deep divide can be seen between the two groups on either side. What I personally have seen come out of this case, and over the past few years, is that people have come to take more pride in their race rather than their American citizenship. We have come to classify people according to their race. We have become a hyphenated America. You are classified as an “African-American,” “Hispanic American,” “Muslim-American,” “White-American” etc. Why can we not simply call ourselves Americans? Why constantly bring up our differences rather than focus on common ground?
America is not Alabama during the Jim Crow period. People of all races all have equal opportunity in the market, in public places and in office. If there are undertones of racism still existent in America, they are ones of a social attitude, not of legal ruling. As previously stated, social attitudes cannot be legislated away. If institutions like the NAACP are asking for change, what are they really asking for? Constantly ripping open the historical wound of racism will not help the healing process; it will only make it more drawn out and difficult.
One thing is for sure besides the jury’s verdict. America has once again become a nation divided; a nation divided along ideological lines. How will it stand to this new wave of division growing across the land?
Follow Seth Connell on Twitter @theRealConnells.