EDITORIAL: Still divided by race issues - Beloit Daily News: Opinion

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EDITORIAL: Still divided by race issues

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Posted: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 4:00 pm

Who’s to blame? Who cares? The question is: How does America get beyond it?

WHY DID THE George Zimmerman trial in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin so capture the attention of the nation?

Certainly one reason is the wall-to-wall coverage by the cable television “news” channels. Most of the thousands of hours those channels devoted to the case had very little to do with factual reporting. Rather, it was almost exclusively a succession of babbling talking heads spouting opinions based on little more knowledge than the common person on the street.

In doing so the cable channels roiled emotions and thus must bear some of the responsibility for the divisiveness surrounding the eventual verdict. When criminal justice becomes a pawn in ratings wars, something has gone deeply wrong among those who pretend to present the news. There’s a big difference between news and opinion — or, at least, there should be within news organizations. The cable channels have blurred the line beyond recognition, motivated by profit — a serious disservice to the people.

BUT THE MEDIA CIRCUS is not the only reason this case sparks controversy. Now and then a case comes along that shines a bright light on the continuing racial divide which exists in America. The Rodney King incident comes to mind. So does the O.J. Simpson murder trial.

These cases, like the Trayvon Martin incident, lay bare the fact that many Americans see the world around them from vastly different perspectives, largely separated by race. Readers will remember that while whites took scant notice of the Rodney King beating, blacks staged demonstrations and in some places, including Beloit, resorted to violence in the neighborhoods. Likewise, in the Simpson murder trial, when the not guilty verdict was delivered, polls showed whites thought the former football star committed the crime while blacks believed he was innocent.

The Trayvon Martin shooting signaled similar responses. The minority community, in Florida and elsewhere, expresses a level of outrage at the trial’s outcome which clearly is not mirrored by the majority.

THIS IS A fair question to ask: Nearly a hundred fifty years after the Civil War ended the original stain on America’s spirit — slavery — why do racial distinctions still separate Americans? That’s the real issue which stands out in the wake of the Zimmerman acquittal.

The question, also, is not just skin-deep. Statistically, race still makes a pronounced difference in the social condition.

A century and a half after the Civil War blacks and whites are separated in significant ways. Unemployment is higher for minorities, aggravated during the ongoing economic turndown. A racial gap continues to plague the public schools, with white students achieving at a higher rate than black students. Unwed motherhood is much higher for African American girls. Rates of incarceration are much higher for African American males. The possibility of becoming a victim of gun violence is higher for inner-city black men.

And in most racially diverse communities there are clearly defined and separate geographic areas occupied by whites and blacks. No, it’s not backed by force of law anymore, and more mixed blocks evolve every year. But the old lines still exist. That’s not an accident or a coincidence.

LOOK, WE ARE NOT pointing out anything new, nor are we denying that great strides toward racial equality have occurred in America. And we certainly do not presume to suggest we have the answers to bridging the remaining divide.

We do, however, see the potential for value in the emotions stirred by cases like the Trayvon Martin shooting. Most of the time people go about their business and give little thought to the damage done to America’s spirit and its human capital by the ongoing racial gaps. If anything, people tend to shrug it off as some unknown and simplistic cultural difference. There’s a yearning to believe racial issues that brought America to bloody war 150 years ago have all been put behind the country, though clearly that is not the case.

Some day America may resolve its issues and cross the racial divide, but that day still seems a long way off. In many ways, the races still live in separate and unequal worlds. There are many complex reasons for that, but the truth is there for all who are willing to see it in stark statistical numbers.

ONE POSITIVE OUTCOME from the Martin shooting could occur through renewed national and community dialogue. The conversation would be uncomfortable because it would pick at open sores for all Americans, black and white. There are no simple solutions, no easy explanations. Institutional racism has been prohibited by law. Yet plenty of cultural and human failures remain. The institutional fix was the easy one. The human fix is infinitely more challenging.

In our view, here’s the ultimate baseline: If America ever is to fully live up to its creed, it must be (1) color-blind, and (2) equal.

Today it is neither.

Tomorrow is up to all of us.

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  • Mr Data posted at 9:27 pm on Sun, Jul 28, 2013.

    Mr Data Posts: 4055

    lucky, the death off Trayvon Martin is a tragedy. As you do, I believe too it resulted as you say. With maybe one more thought -- had Zimmerman not been allowed to conceal his weapon; ie, had it been visible to Martin -- my bet is Trayvon would have run like the wind away from Zimmerman as fast as he could have. Or maybe he would have been extremely polite to Zimmerman like he should have been. I have no problems with owning guns, I just question the value of allowing them to be concealed rather than being displayed.

    I truly don't know if the Sanford police - or the Sanford DA - were all insensitive towards minorities, or not, in their past. But it sure does seem like they were the ones who were correct for not jumping to convenient conclusions, or inaccurate charges in this shooting by Zimmerman.

    But it was very clear from the get-go that our nation's major news networks - especially NBC with its intentionally racially inciteful inaccurately edited sound bite, and CNN with its inaccurate description of Zimmerman being a white man (and then its creation of the new White / Hispanic description of Zimmerman) - and the black leaders / politicians were all very quick to call the shooting a hate crime and label Zimmerman a racist killer. They all regularly promoted that image of Zimmerman to the nation for over a year until his recent trial proved otherwise. Personally I hope that Zimmerman sues the heck out of those two news media incompetents so that they never do that to any White / Hispanic again.

  • luckydog posted at 8:51 pm on Sun, Jul 28, 2013.

    luckydog Posts: 3634

    Unfortunately such teen age killings are far too numerous to be considered especially newsworthy. It's a terrible problem and so far no one seems to have a solution for it. So I don't think their lives are considered less important, it's just that such killings are far too common.

    The more I think about the Trayvon Martin case the more I feel that both Martin and Zimmerman did about everything wrong they could possibly have done. First you have Zimmerman, an over eager wannabe cop unfortunately with a gun. He is told to stay in his car by the police dispatcher. He ignores this and instead stalks Trayvon on foot. Then Martin confronts Zimmerman and physically assaults him, pounding his head on the sidewalk. Zimmerman, fearing for his life shoots Martin. So if Zimmerman is not armed, no tragedy. If he just stays in his car, again no problem. If Martin had confronted Zimmerman in a less aggressive manner or just continued on to his destination, again no problem. So both bear some of the burden.

    I think a big part of the problem was that the Sanford Police Dept, who have a record of insensitivity toward minorities, immediately blew off the case as justifiable homicide without much of any investigation. That prejudice was pretty obvious in the Sanford detective's testimony at the trial. Had the Sanford Police done an adequate job of investigation and Zimmerman been charged, and then found not guilty at a trial, I don't think there would have been the national firestorm in the national media with all the attendant publicity seekers on both sides of the spectrum.

  • Mr Data posted at 9:06 am on Sun, Jul 28, 2013.

    Mr Data Posts: 4055

    I agree bill .. And don't forget to include ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, and CNN. If not about Rockford teenage killings, then at least about all those in Chicago!

  • billtinder posted at 10:53 am on Sat, Jul 27, 2013.

    billtinder Posts: 4850

    I wonder when fox and msnbc will get around to reporting all the murders that taken place in Rockford this month?

    Maybe their lives are less important.[huh]

  • billtinder posted at 4:47 pm on Tue, Jul 23, 2013.

    billtinder Posts: 4850

    Holy Mackerel beloiter!

    I would never have thought that you and I could find so much common ground, but your last posting is dead on and I totally agree with virtually every word of it.

    Truth is, if you want to know what's really newsworthy you have to observe local medias and even that accuracy is suspect in many cases, due to the political influence affecting what gets reported.

  • Mr Data posted at 3:54 pm on Mon, Jul 22, 2013.

    Mr Data Posts: 4055

    Yup, CHANGE is very painful - not for just conservatives - but for all Americans.

    For example, just as you say, lucky, the conservatives see many of their tried and true traditions being replaced by new things; ie, same sex marriage definition replacing the traditional one man - one woman definition of marriage, freedom of healthcare provider choice in the marketplace being replaced by the federal mandate (Obamacare), traditional immigration processes being replaced by new amnesty-like, but not quite, processes, the expansion of liberal supported social ideologies - such as anti-religion, pro-choice, etc. - etc.

    But liberals are also facing change that they are resisting; ie, Act 10 in WI reducing the public unions negotiating powers, the reformation of spending habits by government that might affect social program spending for medicare, SS, food stamps, etc., etc.

    And us independents are also resisting change that is occurring in the form of radical extremism by both Dem and Repub political party zealots, whose failure to work collaboratively with each other is totally destroying us from within, the infusion of race-baiting in this nation as a sport today, and the incessant wasting of taxpayer dollars in favor of pure political ideology .. not for the best need for all in the state or in the nation.

    So lucky, while you are always squarely focused on diminishing the credibility of your mortal enemy - the vaunted conservative - there are many other examples to good point, Change is happening in the is state and this nation --- and NO ONE likes it.

  • luckydog posted at 9:01 pm on Sun, Jul 21, 2013.

    luckydog Posts: 3634

    You know MrData, we have had political bickering and rancor from the start of our country. And some of the stuff that was said about candidates then was worse than it is now. People have been glooming and dooming our country for generations but the strength of our nation is that we have always persevered. I think the main problem the conservatives and Republicans have today, most of them being elderly and white, is that they see the death of what they feel is their country. They have dominated the body politic for so long that to see it slipping away from them as the country changes demographically is painful indeed. As to whether it will lead to an improved America, well we'll just have to wait and see, but it will involve change, and change seems to be a very frightening proposition for conservatives.

  • Mr Data posted at 10:53 am on Sun, Jul 21, 2013.

    Mr Data Posts: 4055

    Yes, you could say that lucky. But it is hard to believe that is true.

    Who voted for the liberal politicians so strongly the last the election?

    Seems it was the majority of those segmented citizen groups that those radical Progressive liberals like Mathews, Schultz, Maddow, Harris-Perry, Olberman, or any of the hard left radio hosts like Combs, etc. plus the nation's very liberal educators and liberal politicians advocate by doing / saying whatever possible in order to keep this nation divided and segmented into those groups who voted for the liberals, and not for the conservatives.

    The point is, lucky, our nation is currently led by the strong influence of the liberal world - its politicians, its media, its policies. Conservatism is on the decline. I will agree 100% this nation does get as much as they possibly can deliver --- radical, ill will influence from both political parties.

    The methods used by each party is quite different today. The liberals control our government and strive for national division. And they have become very good at doing that. The conservatives are now a bunch of gray haired white males who have NO influence over any one, or any group. And they're getting more and more inept at pulling anyone in America together today.

    The Dems are very expert at dividing this nation's various groups, especially during our current times of economic and social unrest when people of various backgrounds in our nation out of pure fear seek common ground for strength in numbers; ie the Dems help them to align in their own secular groups.

    The Repubs are now has-beens unable to unify any of these many groups into collaborative group fighting for a common cause. As a result they therefore become a weaker and weaker influence in our nation's policies and politics. All they can do is either get completely bowled over by the Dems political power, or continue to go down in blaze of glory, standing their ground.

    It won't be long before this nation will be only a large number of various liberal groups politically -- from extreme Progressive radicals on the left fringe to those near the middle who call themselves conservative liberals.

    And I bet the political bickering will still exist, regardless that everyone is a so-called liberal.

  • luckydog posted at 11:10 pm on Sat, Jul 20, 2013.

    luckydog Posts: 3634

    MrData, I could substitute a list of right wing commentators and radio/tv hosts in your rant and achieve the same point you make about keeping the nation divided. The conservative movement in general and the Tea Party specifically are too radical and too ill willed for this nation to succeed under their influence. I too believe that Americans are getting tired of all the wedge issues constantly being advocated by the right wing that are dividing the many groups of Americans.

  • beloiter posted at 1:03 pm on Sat, Jul 20, 2013.

    beloiter Posts: 2197

    What influence? Most the people you named work at MSNBC, a network that gets half the viewership of Fox News. Fox News, like MSNBC, is owned by a large corporation. If you want to look for the source of division in this country look to the corporations. Not only do they own the media, but they also own the government. Now, through Citizens United, they own the electoral process as well. By keeping us fragmented over silly social issues like gay marriage and abortion or playing on our differences like race and middle class vs. poor they can do whatever they want to make themselves unbelievably rich even if it means tanking our economy while directly building up the economies of countries overseas.

  • beloiter posted at 12:57 pm on Sat, Jul 20, 2013.

    beloiter Posts: 2197

    There were no riots.

  • Mr Data posted at 5:55 pm on Fri, Jul 19, 2013.

    Mr Data Posts: 4055

    The sad truth about people like Mathews, Schultz, Maddow, Harris-Perry, Olberman, or any of the hard left radio hosts like Combs, etc. and the nation's very liberal educators and liberal politicians all feed upon doing whatever possible to keep this nation divided.

    The radical Progressive liberal movement has adopted a platform of segmentation for this nation. If the Progressives can keep women, Hispanic, Blacks, poor, elderly, college kids, lower educated, and union workers all divided with their own specific agendas, and if the Progressives through their power (media, education, political office) can then keep the blame for those groups failed agendas squarely focused upon the conservatives, then liberals believe they will keep their power an control over our nation's government.

    The Progressive movement is too radical and too ill willed for this nation to succeed under its influence. I believe Americans - many even in the liberally centrist community itself - are getting tired and fatigued from all the wedge issues constantly being advocated by the Progressives that are dividing the many groups of Americans.

  • 1badbubyu posted at 3:45 pm on Fri, Jul 19, 2013.

    1badbubyu Posts: 1418

    The case became racial because of the infection that is the progressive in our "news rooms". It was a case of self defense (as ruled by the jury) and the Progressive media turned it into something it clearly was not. I wonder if people like Schultz, Maddow, Harris-Perry, Olberman, or any of the hard left radio hosts even realize that all the harassment, beatings, riots and vandalism after the verdict was read is their fault? I doubt it.....

  • Mr Data posted at 1:26 pm on Fri, Jul 19, 2013.

    Mr Data Posts: 4055

    Mike eloquently writes .."If we can somehow manage to stop the fighting on the little stuff, then we can go after the big stuff. ..."

    This nation could be so very powerful and prosperous if we could achieve what Mike says. Just imagine everyone in our entire nation rowing this national boat in the same direction, at the same time. We'd no longer be going in a circle all the time, would we?

    And lucky, I was very glad to see that someone in this nation (albeit, Fox and the conservative talk show folks) at least spoke up for Zimmerman and gave him the fairness he deserved; ie, not being a racist killer as your liberals / liberal media accused him of being.

  • Mike_Zoril posted at 8:42 pm on Thu, Jul 18, 2013.

    Mike_Zoril Posts: 2829

    The circumstances of the Zimmerman case already happened about 4 years ago when Roderick Scott shot and killed 17 year old Christopher Cervini, claiming self defense. Roderick Scott suffered no injuries whatsoever and actively confronted Christopher Cervini whereas George Zimmerman did have physical injuries and claims he did not confront Martin. In other words, if you think George Zimmerman was guilty, then you would have to believe Roderick Scott was even more guilty.

    Anyhow, the jury acquitted Roderick Scott just like George Zimmerman was acquitted. So why did the George Zimmerman case get national attention whereas the Roderick Scott case did not? I'll let you decide for yourself.


    At the end of the day, we cannot let race or other little differences (like Dem vs. GOP) divide us. If we can somehow manage to stop the fighting on the little stuff, then we can go after the big stuff. For example, the liberal Occupy Wall Street people are really very similar to the conservative Tea Party people. If both groups could set aside their differences, they would be a real force for positive change.

    We as a people need to focus our attention on the people that constantly seek to take the attention away from the real issues...the people that benefit from a population fighting between themselves. Things like the Zimmerman trial are only serving as diversions to keep us fighting among ourselves while the enemy stays lurking in the shadows, untouched by public scrutiny.

  • luckydog posted at 6:29 pm on Thu, Jul 18, 2013.

    luckydog Posts: 3634

    js, your patently racist rant is a perfect example of why we are still at such a racial divide. The sad thing is you probably don't even recognize your racist viewpoint. I would echo Rupert in praising the editor for his well balanced and fair assessment of the situation.

    MrData, even if the news media you claim to be liberal jumped on the case it didn't take long for the conservative media, Fox News and the right wing talk shows to jump on the pro-Zimmerman bandwagon. So I think that both sides exasperated the situation.

  • js20094 posted at 5:26 pm on Thu, Jul 18, 2013.

    js20094 Posts: 1345

    As long as minorities keep asking for special treatment because of some horrible act from the past ( indian casinos, race based scholarships, etc), this country will never stop seeing the color of skin. Better yet, how much screaming do you suppose would be done if we started NAAWP, a national association for the advancement of white people? Or college scholarships you must be caucasian to receive? It may sound like i'm racially biased, but i'm not. I just believe there has been enough screaming by minorities, that they actually now have special priveleges over the average white person.

  • Mr Data posted at 1:20 pm on Thu, Jul 18, 2013.

    Mr Data Posts: 4055

    The problem I am having with the entire Trayvon Martin shooting / George Zimmerman trial is that it has been allowed to morph into a national wedge issue in our nation based upon ... race. Yet, the people involved in the trial on both sides (including Trayvon Martin's own parents), all claim the shooting of Trayvon Martin had nothing to do with racism on the part of George Zimmerman at all.

    We should not skirt the issue and should give credit for this national disgrace to all those where credit is due. From the very minute of this horrible event, for some ignorant reason NBC and CNN quickly chose to report the tragic shooting of a black teenager,Trayvon Martin, in Sanford, FL as being a hate crime murder by a white man, George Zimmerman. NBC has apologized for embellishing their account in an inflammatory manner by editing the 9-11 call by Zimmerman in their news report making it sound like Zimmerman chose to shoot Martin because of the color of his skin. They even fired the man who did the intentionally inaccurate editing. NBC will be sued handsomely for their negligent role in their admitted journalistic fiasco.

    And, CNN initially called Zimmerman a white man to enhance their news account; but when they later learned that Zimmerman is actually half white / half Hispanic they created a brand new race label for Zimmerman, calling him a ...... white / Hispanic. (Let's see does that make President Obama a white / African American, or a white / black man, or even, a grey man?)

    From the minute those news stories hit air, in February, 2012, many in our nation became convinced the tragic killing of Trayvon Martin was all about an act of racism by George Zimmerman, never giving a bit of credence to his self defense claim. Black leaders from our nation's president to Al Sharpton to Jesse Jackson and more marched in Florida screaming for justice which further fueled the inaccurate accounts of racism by Zimmerman.

    I am one of those who happens to believe that the more deeply classified and segmented we are in this nation, the more divided we will remain. The more conflict we will have. Where once we had Caucassion, African-American, Hispanic (actually Latino), Asian, and Native Americans as major classifications, today thanks to a CNN's news mistake cover-up, we now have White/Hispanic. I suppose that means we also have Black/ Hispanic, as well.

    I am of the belief and hope that we can only be ONE when this nation truly sees no skin color. In our nation's evolution - there were several flavors of whites: white Irish, white Italians, white Scandanavians, white Germans, etc,. They were considered different and lived in their own neighborhoods because of language and traditions. They have now all become simply ... Caucassion.

    I saw an expert on TV the other day say that the races are becoming so co-mingled today we are all becoming just mutts. I will welcome the day with open arms when our nation's melting pot truly puts out just one legal ethnicity in this nation called -- the American.

    When we reach that point in nation's history, we will all be able to collaborate collectively striving in justice, fairness, and equality for all of us. And that will work because we will be one at that time. Today, it sure does feel to me like our leaders in this nation ... in politics, education, religion, business, national media, et al like us kept segmented amongst ourselves, and constantly going at each others throats.

    That might be good for the business profits for those folks in those professions; but it certainly is not good for the rest of us in the nation.

  • Rupert posted at 6:52 pm on Wed, Jul 17, 2013.

    Rupert Posts: 6

    Yes. Yes. Yes. One of the better editorials you have written. Thoughtful and poignant. I believe you are a conservative so I unfairly expected a slanted article. As a liberal conservative (yes, we do exist), I was so pleasantly surprised at your diplomatic yet insightful and trenchant comments. One note though - please do not advocate color-blindness. To those of us who are minorities (and many who are not), it smacks of promoting tolerance rather than embracing color and SEEING and valuing differences (whether those differences be racial, religious, sexual orientation, or others).


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