This post was begun on Saturday, after I heard the news. I couldn’t organize my thoughts well, and let it sit till today, Monday to complete.

I was literally devastated by the news that George Zimmerman was found not guilty. The news seemed unbelievable and impossible, and yet on another level, quite plausible. The jury had to find the evidence to be beyond a shadow of a doubt to convict him. If there was even the slightest possibility, then it would be enough not to convict him. That is a pretty high burden of proof.

Is this what happens when cultural changes don’t keep up with legal realities? We know that racism still exists. It isn’t the blatant visible outspoken bigotry of the past, but rather a low level enduring menu of sometimes subtle (and sometimes not) ways that bubble right under the surface. It isn’t that people are racist per se, although some are, but rather, a degree of racism is systemic and infused into our culture. It is a level of bias that some may identify as white privilege, but I think it is more than that. It is more than economic inequality. It is more than social stratification. It is more than lack of Educational opportunity. Yet, it isn’t- it is just the sum of all this and possibly more.

I asked a friend, if there was any possibility that I (and those who feel like I do= we) were so focused on this as a racially motivated crime, that we were unable to see it as anything but. I don’t think that is the case, but even this question is another example of this under-the-radar racism. We are so attuned to looking for and giving voice to racially motivated crime, because it exists and it is ignored to the detriment of black youth. Yet, on the other hand, consider this. I was at a community meeting where adults, and parents were crying over the number of youth in their neighborhood who had been lost to gun violence. These aren’t white youth being killed!  The news can fill our minds to see things the way we want to see them. George Zimmerman can easily create justifications in his mind about what is dangerous and what isn’t.

I live in a very diverse city neighborhood where there is a mixture of people- different cultures and backgrounds- races- ethnic- age- and socioeconomic levels. We don’t see these types of issues in our neighborhood. We experience crime, but those committing the crime are as diverse as the neighborhood inhabitants. Diversity isn’t a solution in and of itself, but it does inhibit the stereotyping and the blaming that perpetuates fear of black youth.

A younger friend said to me yesterday that “rap” is to blame because of the gangster images, and the way rap can be seen as celebrating violence. This thinking is as shallow and as poorly thought through as any could be. Blaming a music genre, is as useful as blaming skin color. This propensity to blame is another symptom of the under-the-radar racism systemic in our culture.

News like the Zimmerman verdict really saps my hope. I do not question, what we are fighting for (in our struggles for real equality for all) but I do wonder if we know what we are fighting against or how to resolve the real issues. We are fighting for the correct things, but are our tactics the right ones to accomplish our needed results? I suppose we have to keep fighting on working for a more perfect Union where everyone is safe, and treated with fairness and respect. And while we keep taking actions forward, we must also be continually evaluating and looking outside of our own experience for better solutions. We must continually build new bridges between minorities of any type that are disenfranchised  because of the status quo.

We must also not fall prey to the simple answers which are not connected to the real solutions. In one regard, guns and gun violence is the problem. But more importantly, can we come to understand why guns have proliferated and are used as weapons against humanity? Somewhere under the gun issue is a prejudice and a fear issue. Somewhere underneath is a belief that “I can shoot and kill you because your life isn’t as valuable as mine.” And when we are talking about black youth as the victims in these gun crimes, we can not ignore the fact that in slavery, black youth’s lives weren’t valuable. There were merely property. Slavery is done and gone, but in our culture a remnant remains. Under the radar. Not a culture of racists, but rather a culture of racism that impacts everyone.

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