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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Blacks Are The ‘Other’ Americans

Bill Fletcher, Jr.
Bill Fletcher, Jr.

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.

NNPA Columnist

I was told a story the other night.  Apparently on the evening of the  Zimmerman acquittal, in a bar in South Carolina, a group of White patrons were  talking.  Some of them, upon hearing the news, shouted “Free at Last!” in  celebration of the decision.  One person, however, a White labor union  activist, decided that this was not his gathering, and left in disgust.

The responses to the acquittal have told us a great deal about the USA.   The bottom line is that many people who knew or know nothing about who  Trayvon Martin was have concluded that he was a demon and deserved death.   I realize that this is a very blunt comment but I believe that it is  important to cut to the chase.  These individuals have decided that  aggression against a Black youth who looks “suspicious” (whatever that means)  can be raised to the level of death and actually justified.

But here is the other piece.  There have been Whites and some Blacks who  have argued that we should not be so upset about the Zimmerman verdict when  there are so many examples of Blacks killing Blacks that go without comment.   In other words, we are hypocritical for protesting the Zimmerman  acquittal.  This notion actually misses a larger point.

The acquittal of Zimmerman is linked to a steady shift in the racial  relations that we have experienced since the late 1970s.  The erosion of  affirmative action, voting rights, and unstoppable police profiling and  brutality, are all reflections of this change.  The Zimmerman acquittal is  a reminder that we have rights that are not worthy of respect, even though those  same rights are on the books.

None of this means that Black-on-Black crime is of no or little importance.   Black-on-black crime destabilizes our communities and is a reflection of  the continued economic and social ravaging we have experienced over the years.   The fact that this crime is frequently ignored or treated as inevitable  leads to despair.  As a result our ability or capacity to respond to larger  issues is undermined.

Thus, we should not be posing the Trayvon Martin case against Black-on-Black  crime.  They both need to be addressed, but the Zimmerman acquittal speaks  to a very dangerous trend in the larger U.S. society that we can ignore only at  our peril.  This trend suggests, once again, that we have remained the  “other”, that is, a segment of the population that is considered by too many  Whites to be unknowable and dangerous; a segment whose lives and experiences are  not worthy of any particular investigation and concern.  A segment that  must be marginalized or, if we appear out of the dark, swatted away, as one  would do with an annoying pest.

This is a time for reflection, as President Obama suggested, but a different  sort of reflection.  One that really takes us into an in depth  understanding of the continued operation of race in all features of US society.   Yes, that discussion again…

 Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy  Studies, a columnist with The Progressive, the immediate past president of  TransAfrica Forum.

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