Responding to the recent acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of black, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, President Barack Obama spoke about racial prejudice in America, particularly as it affects black men. Concurring with the many people protesting the Zimmerman verdict, Obama contends that racial profiling led to Martin’s death, and that such profiling is epidemic in America.
Yes, racial profiling of black men, especially young black men, is common in America, but is it a manifestation of persistent, widespread racism? While racism certainly still exists in America, its pervasiveness is questionable. The vast majority of nonblack Americans are not racist, especially the younger generation, as Obama mentioned, for whom race is virtually a nonfactor. Tens of millions of white voters twice elected Obama, a black man, president. More important, racial integration throughout society is now more the norm than the exception. And mixed-race marriages only turn the disapproving heads of the nation’s most primitive cultural Neanderthals.
While blatant racism may explain some of the profiling and harassment of black males, especially by police, most of it stems from instinctual prejudice.
“The stark reality is that crime happens in communities of color,” New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said in a recent ABC Nightline broadcast. He went on to say, “About 70 percent to 75 percent of the people described as committing violent crimes — assault, robbery, shootings, grand larceny — are described as being African-American.”
Kelly’s observations are not unique to New York City. Credible statistics from around the nation report that violent crimes are committed by black males in far greater proportion to their percentage of the overall population.
Regardless of the social/economic explanations for such criminal behavior, it is difficult for folks — both black and white — to get around their reflexive cautious apprehension of young black men, and to not err on the side of personal safety. Such an atmosphere of mistrust can have terrible unintended consequences, especially when it is embraced by law enforcement.
The Trayvon Martin case is just such an example. Was Martin profiled by Zimmerman? Most probably. Did Zimmerman have reason to be cautiously suspicious of Martin? Given the realities of who commits crime in America, yes. That Zimmerman bears the greater culpability for Martin’s death by precipitating the unnecessary confrontation with Martin, is true, but that is a subject for another column.
Reasonable people may understand that most young black males are not dangerous criminals, but the perception is that most violent crime is committed by young black males — a perception validated by facts and reinforced by empirical observation. The vast majority of Americans does not judge people by skin pigmentation, but rather by behavior. And here is where black America has a problem. Profiling of young black men will not stop until their demographic group behavior becomes less criminally violent.
A final thought on this sorry case; maintaining the myth that white racism permeates American society is essential for those who benefit from the racism industry. The likes of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson owe their fame and fortune to it, while thousands of black Americans continue to benefit from special considerations, e.g. various affirmative-action policies, they claim are needed to offset continuing racial inequities.
Aiding and abetting the racism industry are the media vultures, always looking for something bleeding; they never hesitate to pick at the racism scab, and wasted no time in covering the Trayvon Martin incident as one of lingering racism in America.
Every year, hundreds of black kids are killed by other black kids, but can we recall any of these killings receiving the focus that the Martin case has? The killing of the black teenage girl who had attended Obama’s second inauguration and was shot dead a week later by black gangsters on the streets of her Chicago neighborhood occupied national headlines for about a week then faded away. If her killers were caught and tried, where was the extensive national coverage? Had her killers been white, however, you can bet there would have been national coverage.
Had Zimmerman not been armed and Martin had severely beaten him, maybe killing him or leaving him disabled, would this case have commanded such ongoing national attention?
The racism industry and the media vultures cannot bank on old white guilt forever. White America is not responsible for black behavior, black America is.
— Randy Alcorn is a Santa Barbara political observer. Contact him at email@example.com, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.