For a “post-racial” world where the color of one’s skin isn’t supposed to matter (at least to those who coined the term and played it up after Barack Obama’s election to president), there seems to be a disturbing number of terrible stories where race plays a central role.
Sadly, many of these stories fly under the radar of the mainstream media, which at best downplays the stories or gives them a passing nod of acknowledgement before moving on. In many cases, if it were not for our modern day Underground Railroad for people of color — better known as social media — many of these stories would never make it into the general public consciousness. In the Trayvon Martin case, for example, charges were only filed against George Zimmerman after black activists and writers online refused to let the story die.
And what news lately? How about loudmouth extraordinaire, right-wing pal and rock guitarist Ted Nugent referring to the president of the United States as a “subhuman mongrel,” a story that gained little attention until Nugent issued a limp apology for his choice of words and New York Times columnist Charles Blow wrote a column about them. Historically, blacks in the United States were seen as subhuman, and Nugent’s words remind us that this history isn’t as distant as we would like to believe. Oh, and as a hunter, Nugent knows full well what “mongrel” means (a dog of a mixed and often indefinable type or breed) showing that public distaste for multiracial people is still alive and well.
Or how about this recent story: the Michael Dunn trial, another Florida case (like Martin’s) involving the Stand your Ground law, in which a white man shot and killed a 17-year-old unarmed black teenager Jordan Davis. The national media dubbed it the “loud music trial,” since apparently it was Davis and his friends’ playing of music outside a store that incensed Dunn. During the trial, it was revealed that Dunn said that the teens did not “obey” him. Apparently this dismissal of his imagined authority over them made him fear for his life, and he shot into the car nine times, then went home to order a pizza. Dunn will most likely spend the rest of his life in prison but ironically not for killing Davis; instead, he will serve time for three counts of attempted murder and one count of firing a deadly missile. The jury couldn’t reach a decision on the charge of first-degree murder.
Down at the University of Mississippi, three of the school’s freshmen decided to put a noose around the neck of a statue on campus honoring the school’s first black student. Along with the noose, investigators on the campus found a version of the Georgia state flag that featured the Confederate battle emblem. While the case is still being investigated and a growing chorus is calling for criminal charges to be filed, to date the only punitive action against the still unnamed students has been expulsion from their fraternity.
For many non-white Americans, these news events involving race require us to acknowledge that our racial house is not nearly as tidy as some would have us to believe. Unfortunately, unlike the civil rights movement of the 1960s where whites and blacks worked together for racial justice, it seems in post-racial America that the people of color are expected to do the heavy lifting.