July 30, 2013

Keeping your thoughts ‘closeted’

The views on the Trayvon Martin shooting — at least for most blacks in America — is going to be raw and emotional for some time to come.

I’ve toyed with whether I wanted to address the George Zimmerman verdict in this column. But I almost have to because it serves as example of how we are not a post-racial America in any way, shape or form.

It’s a personal mantra of mine that diversity is more than about race, certainly more than black and white. But there are days when it’s hard for even me to 100 percent believe that.

So I’m going to share with you an excerpt of what I posted on my personal Facebook page a couple of days after the verdict, because I think it speaks to something deeper than one legal outcome, and many agreed with me. Also, I hope it will provide a way of thinking about a Washington Post poll that says that 87 percent of black Americans disapproved of the Zimmerman verdict vs. only 31 percent of white Americans who disapproved. That’s not a gap — that’s a canyon.

“While I’m a unique blend of many things, I’m black. All day, every day.

“I don’t have just one or two or five black friends or social acquaintances; I have had and currently have hundreds. I don’t have limited, sporadic or anecdotal involvement with the black community; I live in it, and it lives in me.

“So I don’t have the choice (even if I wanted to, and I don’t) of putting these issues on a mental and/or emotional shelf where I only have to pull it off when I feel like it. So if you are a friend who is wondering why I just can’t ‘get over it,’ it’s because I don’t get breaks from being black.

“If I just stick to FB (Facebook) alone, every conceivable aspect of the Zimmerman verdict dominates my news feed.

“The flip of that is that I have had and do have hundreds of friends who aren’t black, most of whom are white. My average day involves as much — if not more — interaction with people who aren’t black but who frequently and unabashedly comment on racial issues.

“Sometimes, even with the wonderful, well-meaning folks (who most of my friends are), the commentary can just reflect how different our life experiences are. And in times like this, that makes me impatient, a little over-sensitive, sad and mad.”

My point was that as many similarities as we may have as co-workers and friends, when it comes to some issues, some of us have to be “closeted” in what we really think because the alternative is to risk a divide that causes more harm than good.

The views on the Trayvon Martin shooting — at least for most blacks in America — is going to be raw and emotional for some time to come. Not just because it had an unfortunate outcome in terms of perceived justice a la the O.J. Simpson murder trial. But because it touches on issues that affect the life of every American of color who tries to work hard, play by the rules and not feel beat down by the bigots of the world.

And for those of you who think that racial bigotry is a relic of the past, or that it only beats in the hearts of people who are elderly, news events like the Zimmerman verdict are their catnip.

Acknowledging that reality is the first step.

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