Right now, there isn’t enough known about the circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, a black, by George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old part-Hispanic, during his neighborhood watch tour in an Orlando, Fla., suburb. If evidence emerges that Zimmerman’s actions were not justified, he should be prosecuted and punished; however, there’s a larger issue that few people understand or have the courage to acknowledge, namely that black and young has become synonymous with crime and, hence, suspicion. To make that connection does not make one a racist. Let’s look at it.
Twelve years ago, a black Washington, D.C., commissioner warned cabbies, most of whom were black, against picking up dangerous-looking passengers. She described “dangerous-looking” as a “young black guy … with shirttail hanging down longer than his coat, baggy pants, unlaced tennis shoes.” She also warned cabbies to stay away from low-income black neighborhoods. Did that make the D.C. commissioner a racist?
In some cities, such as St. Louis, black pizza deliverers have complained about having to deliver pizzas to certain black neighborhoods, including neighborhoods in which they live. Are they racists? The Rev. Jesse Jackson once remarked, “There is nothing more painful for me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery — (and) then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.” Does that make the reverend a racist?
The former Charleston, S.C., black chief of police, Reuben Greenberg, said the problem facing black America is not racial profiling. He said, “The greatest problem in the black community is the tolerance for high levels of criminality.” Former Los Angeles black police Chief Bernard Parks, defending racial profiling, said: “It’s not the fault of the police when they stop minority males or put them in jail. It’s the fault of the minority males for committing the crime.
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