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The ugly truth behind George Zimmerman's acquittal
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D. Barbara McWhite grew up in York County, S.C., and lives in Orange Park, Fla., with her husband and cat. Her column is published here each Tuesday. Opinions expressed are solely her own.

I awoke Sunday morning to the reality of the George Zimmerman verdict and sadness and anger enveloped me again. The night before, when the verdict came down, I struggled through tears to make sense of the jurors’ decision to free the man who stalked, confronted and gunned down young Trayvon Martin.

I struggling to work out my disappointment and anger, first with my husband and later with my young adult children, who called to voice their sorrow and fear that any children they some day may have will be subject to laws that would permit them to be profiled, stalked and murdered for no other reason than the color of their skin.

What others were saying

Obama: 'We are a nation of laws'

• NAACP: 'deeply troubled' by acquittal

• Teachers Union: 'The path to racial justice is still a long one'

• Rep. Meeks: wants a national conversation on racial profiling

• Bishop calls for unity and social activism

As a wife and mother, I said what I could to comfort my family. I reminded them that life isn’t always fair. I reminded them that God will be the final judge in this case. I reminded them that, a few years ago, many blacks celebrated the acquittal of O.J. Simpson, despite the belief by many that he had murdered his wife and Ron Goldman.

I also discussed with them my belief that Zimmerman’s acquittal happened in the environment of a perfect storm of white fear and reactionism.

Twice now and for the first time in history, white men have failed to win a presidential election against an African American candidate. And as the Hispanic population continues to grow, whites are, for the first time ever, nearing a day when they will no longer be the majority race in America.

Many whites, struggling to hold on to political power after witnessing blacks unite and vote in unprecedented numbers, have unleashed the anger of that defeat on our president and on blacks through racist online posts and political statements.

The Zimmerman verdict was not about Trayvon Martin.

This verdict was about Barrack Obama. This verdict was about preconceived and erroneous notions of food stamps, welfare and entitlements. The verdict was about politics and crime. This verdict was about O.J. Simpson and Paula Deen.

Too many whites see blacks as criminals and thugs. Too many whites have bought into the image of African Americans as portrayed by poorly written television scripts, neighborhood criminals, and vulgar rappers. Too many whites see black women as baby-makers and black fathers as irresponsible while too many blacks have allowed those portraits to stand.

Until whites stop feeding their anger on lies that blacks are unwilling to work and are content to use government systems to live off food stamps and welfare; until whites understand that the majority of black citizens want what most white citizens want -- an opportunity to live in freedom and to have opportunities to earn a decent living and raise our families in peace and safety -- there will always be the potential that black children and husbands will be viewed with suspicion and prejudice leading to situations such as these.

As long as whites tell themselves that blacks are thugs and criminals, the killing of black men can be justified without a loss of conscience.

With his life cut short, we will never know what Trayon Martin might have made of his life. His parents clearly valued education and hard work and, as their older son exemplified, they no doubt would have expected Trayvon to follow their examples. His death and this verdict now stand to further divide and polarize this country.

Black Americans won’t forget Trayvon Martin’s murder or his parent’s grief. In the face of the crushing injustice of this verdict, blacks struggle to know what to believe about our country or what to tell our children about our place in it.

Trayvon Martin’s black hoodie was no more a sign that he was a thug or a criminal than a white hoodie worn by a white man is a sign that he is a Klan member.

The death of Trayvon Martin and the failure of the law to hold his killer accountable is not just a loss for African Americans. When life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is unjustly denied to any one of us, liberty for all of us is threatened, and that is a loss for America.



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July 23, 2014
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