George Zimmerman’s acquittal has put the exclamation point on America’s new and much more subtle racism, which is defined by the claims of conservatives that racism is dead.
Even as the jury was deliberating, Zimmerman attorney Mark O’Mara kept selling his client as the victim, “I believe his life is at risk, and I don’t say that for dramatic effect. There are a lot of people who think George killed Trayvon Martin for racial reasons, even though nothing supports that. And if they feel that anger enough, they could react violently.”
O’Mara was wrong. There has been no violence from African Americans. In fact, the delusion that African Americans would immediately turn to violence is a symptom the racism that conservatives like to claim does not exist.
Much like how the Supreme Court used the success of the Voting Rights Act to argue that racism was on the decline, Zimmerman’s attorney used the fact that his client said that he would have done the same thing if Trayvon Martin was white to simplistically argue that there was no racism motivating his client’s deadly act.
America’s new racism is always hidden by claims that it is not racism. Racists are much more savvy today. The defense of Zimmerman was entirely based on criminalizing Trayvon Martin. An unarmed young African-American man was painted as a threat, because he was not white. No one will come out and say it, but that’s the truth.
Some people have asked what would have happened if Zimmerman was black, but I don’t think that is the correct question. The appropriate question is what would have happened to Zimmerman if he would have shot a blue eyed, blond haired, captain of the football team, suburban white kid? My guess is that the entire perception of the case would have been different.
African Americans are being told that they don’t have the same right to safely walk down the street. The message here is that an African American who is doing nothing wrong is still a threat, and most dangerously, that white people have a right to shoot a minority if they feel threatened.
The race based attacks that Republicans have been using for years against President Obama have seeped into the national consciousness. America’s new unspoken racism has been empowered by the country’s refusal to openly talk about race. Republicans have mainstreamed unspoken racial attitudes, and the defense used these attitudes to get George Zimmerman acquitted.
This sort of racism calls for a new civil rights movement. Barriers to minority voting are being erected on a daily basis, a young African American man was killed for walking down the street. Even if nobody will come out and say it, conservatives are turning the clock back to an ugly time in our national history.
People don’t want to talk about it, but racism is alive and growing stronger by the day.