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Scoot Blog: Obama, Trayvon and Black America - should we listen?

Today, President Obama talked about America’s reaction to the shooting of Trayvon Martin and the trial of George Zimmerman.  The President, again, made a personal reference by saying that “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.”     

President Obama said that “there are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me.”   He also spoke about African-American men who have experienced hearing the click of locking doors as they walked across a street or seen women clutching their purses tighter when they approach.   

“The African-American community is also knowledgeable that there is a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws,” Obama said at the White House today.  The President acknowledged that the African-American community is not “naïve about the fact the African-American young men are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system, that they are disproportionately both victims and perpetrators of violence.”

For the past few days on the air, I have focused on the idea of having an honest conversation about race relations in America and, specifically, where does that conversation begin.    

As a nation, we have yet to let our guards down and forget about the past and the present and make a true effort to understand each other’s perspective of life. That doesn’t mean we must truly understand each other – but we do need to understand each other’s view of life in America.

I have to admit that I can’t imagine what it’s like to be followed or looked at suspiciously because of my skin color.  Throughout my life I have been labeled and profiled to a degree in different ways, but I never felt that it was the result of something as natural and basic as skin color.  As white males and females, we should listen with an open mind when blacks say they feel persecuted because of their color.  There is too much evidence to support this reality.

Following the ‘not guilty’ verdict in the Zimmerman trial, I constantly heard black callers say that the verdict shows that their “life is worth nothing.”  It’s easy for me to dismiss that, but perception is reality and if that is a perception that I may not see because of my skin color, then recognizing the validity of such a perception becomes my responsibility.

On the other hand, as a white male, it is my perception that blacks initially judge me by the voices of white racists in America.  While the difficult roads I have traveled in my life differ from being judged by skin color, I have faced countless challenges where I had to fight for opportunities and then had to prove my worthiness.  I feel as if many blacks do not instinctively consider the challenges in life that go beyond skin color.

Rather than ‘stand your ground’ with preconceived feelings about whites or blacks, we all must open our ears and our hearts and do a better job of actually ‘listening’ to each other before we quickly dismiss the other side as lacking validity in what they are saying.

Here is an interesting assignment for white America: Watch the TV sitcom, “My Wife & Kids” starring Damon Wayans.  Wayans plays Michael Kyle, a trucking company executive who lives in a Connecticut suburb with his wife and three kids. “My Wife & Kids” is a sitcom featuring a black family – but it’s not about a black family.  The show is about a family!

Michael Kyle fits the mold of a typical suburban father who leans toward a conservative approach to raising his family and keeping his two teenagers on a straight and narrow path and all the challenges that go along with that.  It is one of the funniest sitcoms about family and I’m sure there are many white Americas who have dismissed this show simply because it features a black family.  “My Wife & Kids” demonstrates that, as Americans, we all share the same basic concerns about our jobs, our kids, our marriages and our society.  The show reaches across racial boundaries. (“My Wife & Kids” is on Nickelodeon at 2:00 am and 2:30 am and on BET at 9:00 am and 9:30 am.)

I am not suggesting that watching a TV sitcom is going to improve race relations in America, but it does give white America an opportunity to understand that the comedy is based on everyday challenges void of race.  I admit that I’m not sure what black America can do to feel a similar experience.

What I heard loud and clear from President Obama today was that there are things we don’t understand about how blacks feel they are perceived by the country and that black America has many of the same concerns as white America.  When are we going to try to honestly listen to each other?

Here’s a question to consider:  “If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it – does it make a sound?”

There are reasonable voices talking about race relations in America, but if no one is listening – will it ever make a difference?

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Topics : Human InterestSocial Issues
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Locations : Connecticut
People : Damon WayansGeorge ZimmermanMichael KyleObama

07/19/2013 4:31PM
Scoot Blog: Obama, Trayvon and Black America - should we listen?
Please Enter Your Comments Below
07/22/2013 9:18AM
You Have to Look Beyond a Person's Skin Color
Scoot, it won't ever make a difference until the 'white people are out to get me' mentality changes. You can't determine the color of your skin, but you CAN determine how you act. Some black people make me uncomfortable, but I don't treat them any different than I would a white person or anyone else. You just have to look beyond a person's skin and judge them by how they act. At the end of the day, we're all Americans, created by God in His image. We should all learn to get along, and respect the lives of others. That's the problem with the U.S. today, there's no respect for human life anymore.
07/23/2013 6:46AM
"white people are out to get me" mentality?
Really, white people who think this are fooling themselves. You are nowhere near that important to 99.9% of black people. You should either get a grip or take your medicine.
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