Racism’s not new

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Just when I thought the media attention was waning, Oprah Winfrey says something to reignite the debate over the Trayvon Martin case.

First, let me say I like Oprah and I don’t think her intention was to stir up controversy with her recent statement comparing this case to the murder of a 14-year-old black boy in the 1950s. Second, I think enough is enough, and it’s time for us to learn some lessons from this tragedy and move on — perhaps, Oprah did not help that happen.

I sat here silently for weeks as the media went on and on and on about this case, dissecting it from every angle. Almost every famous person, and political leader, including the President, had something to say.

Some people even asked me if I was going to write about it. “What can I possibly add?” I thought.

Well, what I can add is, I’m sick of all of it and I wonder if we are learning anything or just wasting energy finger pointing and calling each other racists.

When I finally decided I’d write this column, (and I thought long and hard about it) I did some research into the case since I didn’t follow the trial when it was all that was in the news. Now, I know I’m speaking from the white side of this and that makes my thoughts different from those of a person of color because my life experience is different.

That said, from what I read, this case was mostly about two people who made very bad choices. If either one of them was a different skin color, I doubt it would change a thing that happened that night. I also wonder if we would even know anything about this if George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin were the same race.

What this case did do was open a vigorous discussion about racism. It is a discussion that quickly deteriorates into an argument. Then each side defends its position with passion and an unwillingness to listen to anything else.

Now, I could jump in and do the same thing because I have my thoughts on this issue. I’m not going to do that because I don’t think it serves any good purpose, arguing rarely does.

What I do think is that if we allow it to happen something good can come out of this tragedy. We can choose to stop arguing our position so loudly that we don’t listen to each other, don’t open our minds to growing together.

And, it doesn’t matter the skin color we all have room to grow. If we really want an honest conversation about what separates us, there must be a willingness on the part of everyone to look at the role they play in either fostering or ending racism.

This is not just a white issue or a black issue. This is a human issue. Racism is not new. For as long as we’ve been walking upright, we’ve had racism.

Hopefully, if we are willing to see this, it offers us the hope of changing it. Maybe that is what Oprah was trying to say with the second part of her statement. She said we don’t need to be so stuck that we don’t allow ourselves to move forward and to see how far we’ve come.

Perhaps, if we focus on that, we will the stop arguing, stop pointing fingers and move toward a world where there is the possibility of ending racism.