Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tuesday April 3: Time To Address Coded Racism

By Sylvia Gurinsky

African-Americans spent 300 years trying to be freed from slavery. They spent the next 100 years trying to gain equal rights to white Americans.

There's no question that blacks have made significant progress - capped in 2009 with the inauguration of President Barack Obama. But the events leading to the shooting death of young Trayvon Martin and the aftermath are an indication of what still needs to be accomplished.

Did Martin's race play a role in George Zimmerman's ultimate decision to shoot him? That's one question being asked about this case.

Other questions are being asked about the coded racism that is still on display all over, not just against African-Americans.

It takes many forms: There's the "birther" movement against Obama and other politicians, such as U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. There's the "DWB," or "Driving (or shopping, or walking) While Black" syndrome. There are even anonymous comments such as those critical of today's naming of Lourdes Lopez, who is Hispanic, to succeed Edward Villella as artistic director of the Miami City Ballet.

In the background are the words of Martin Luther King from that August, 1963 day - his dream about his "children being judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." King meant that dream for everyone, of course.

Also in the background are Obama's words from March, 2008: "The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we've never really worked through - a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American."

The death of Trayvon Martin gives all Americans a chance to revisit the meaning of those words.