President Obama Talks About Zimmerman Trial
When checking the news feeds today and seeing a comment on the George Zimmerman trial by President Barak Obama, I was a little anxious. After reading his comments that seemed less focused, less rehearsed than usual, I realized he was speaking from the heart. He didn't say anything about the verdict, other than he supported the trial as it was conducted because it was conducted by law. Instead, he tried to help the nation in general try to see this situation through his eyes.
The President spoke about being an African American in this country, and seeing the little signs of fear. Locking car doors, clutched purses, nervous breathing. He spoke of a history of racism that colors the perceptions of African Americans in today's society, and how that relates. He tried to help the nation understand what African Americans experience every day as they interact with us all.
I'm not going to say I understand that feeling, because it would be insulting to suggest that I can. I'm not African American. I grew up in a predominantly Caucasian suburb which slowly saw increases of Hispanic families move in. Growing up in Utah, I didn't even experience any nervous discussions of my religion until moving to California. I don't know what President Barak Obama experienced, and therefore I can't say that I understand how he felt. But now, at least, I can get a glimpse of it.
To put it in perspective of those who are, well, Red (as in Red States, not Red commies), imagine if HUD (Housing and Urban Development) came out with a statistic that showed they provided more housing to Democrats than Republicans. The statistics alone mean nothing without context, like how many Democrats vs. Republicans applied for housing, for instance, but still there would be outrage. Pundits would be crying political motives, pitchforks would be sharpened, torches prepared. Political leaders would be posturing.
Why? Not because the statistics showed political favoritism, but rather because the perception of past abuses has colored this particular instance. In this case President Obama is trying to tell us in a very personal way that the African American community has seen similar perceived injustices, whether real or implied, and that has colored their reaction to the Zimmerman trial.
My political position is generally one of distanced amusement: I like to think politics is there purely for entertainment. My political views are like my religious views: very personal and dear to me. But this isn't politics. President Obama isn't trying to make political points here, at least not that I could see. Instead, he's trying to talk to us about these preconceived notions and biases that are part of the conversation by explaining his own personal experiences. I think it's important to focus on that point instead of any one sound byte.
Race is a scary thing, just as racism is a scary thing. We all want to avoid it, for fear of offending, and yet even that could be an offense. Often, we try not to address it, and think we are over it. Perhaps we are, perhaps we are not. Perhaps one day, we as a nation, as a community, can finally have the conversation without feeling uncomfortable.