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In the age of the first black president, racism persists

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Reel Mama: In the age of the first black president, racism persists

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

In the age of the first black president, racism persists

It’s difficult to imagine, in an era when an African American is the leader of the free world, that racism would rear its ugly head in two very different incidents during the past two weeks.  First, the heartbreaking story of Trayvon Martin, a young African American who took a shortcut through a gated community on his way home from the convenience store in Florida.  Tragically, George Zimmerman, an armed vigilante on a “neighborhood watch” who reportedly felt “threatened” by Trayvon’s presence, particularly because he was wearing an offending hoodie, hunted him, then shot him down in cold blood.  

Carrying an iced tea and a package of Skittles and talking on his cell phone with a friend, Trayvon was absolutely defenseless.  He had no means of escape from a man intent on killing him because his skin color and wardrobe sent up a “red flag.”  Being on a neighborhood watch is not a license to kill; the idea is merely to pick up the phone and alert the police if one sees something suspicious, yet Zimmerman insisted on taking the law into his own hands, pursuing Trayvon even when police authorities directed him not to.  If there is any justice, Trayvon’s murderer will not go free but will receive a minimum sentence of life in prison.  This was a lynching, plain and simple, and far outside of the protections that Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law affords Zimmerman.
The second incident of racism, while not nearly as grievous as Trayvon’s murder, could more accurately be described as incidents, or numerous comments on social media networks by some teen fans of the hit film The Hunger Games, who are protesting the casting of two black actors as characters whom they had imagined to be white when they read the books: Lenny Kravitz as the main character Katniss’ mentor Cinna, and Amandla Stenberg as Katniss’ young ally Rue. Though these characters are described as having dark skin in the books, said fans would apparently prefer that Caucasian actors with really deep tans have been cast instead. It’s a sad statement that some of our nation’s young people, in the age of the first black president, have so little imagination and so little tolerance.  

African American young people like Trayvon, had he lived, and Amandla deserve to grow up in a nation where they can be respected and admired for their beauty, both inside and out, and for what they can contribute to the world.  Sadly, the world will never know again the joy and light that Trayvon brought his friends and family, but some day when Amandla is a veteran performer standing on the podium with an Oscar for Best Actress in her hands, like Halle Berry before her, she will have shown them all.  The small-minded idiots who expressed their dismay at the color of her skin will thankfully be but a distant memory.  

Amandla Stenberg, who portrays Rue in The Hunger Games,
on the film's opening night

These events are unfortunate proof that racism continues to thrive in our nation, whether behind closed doors, in social media networks, on the playground, in gated communities, or in the hearts of those with narrow minds and narrower hearts.  
As parents, we have the power to raise children with loving hearts and open minds.  These incidents should set off an alarm, and a raise a gigantic red flag, that we are not out of the woods when it comes to racism.  We must be ever vigilant against the worst enemy the United States could ever face: the hatred and cruelty within some human hearts that awakens, attacks, and even kills without warning.

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