Race Matters

7/23/2013, 8:33 a.m.

Out of the Trayvon Martin tragedy has come what we hope is the beginning or the continuation of honest, unvarnished discussions about the issue of race in America in all its manifestations.

Since a jury found George Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter on July 13, discussions, debates and conversations on television news outlets from the View to Fox News to Melissa Harris Perry, radio programs and exchanges on the street have centered on race.

As has become apparent, there are some who would prefer that no one ever broach the subject, but as Trayvon’s murder and the subsequent uncomfortable attempts at discourse illustrate, America must come clean.

We live in a country struggling to come to terms with 400 years of slavery, segregation and discrimination. America was almost torn apart by the Civil War, a conflict rooted in the issue of slavery. But in the aftermath of the war, Reconstruction and on through the Civil Rights movement, there has yet to be a thoughtful, serious, comprehensive, in-depth airing of all this dirty laundry.

President Obama did the country a favor when he decided – after careful reflection and the prompting of friends, colleagues and allies, we’re told – to add his voice to the cascade of voices speaking on this topic. His intensely personal recollections of being a black man in America resonated with most black men and many women who have been stigmatized and profiled for no other reason than skin color. All of the men in black families have talked about driving while black, being stopped and harassed by police, seeing white women clutch their purses and white Americans click their car doors shut as a black person approached.

In 2013, African Americans and people of color are being buffeted from all sides, be it Supreme Court decisions, the Trayvon Martin verdict, voter suppression and efforts to deny us the right to vote and on and on. Many blacks want their country to give them the same respect and love that they have for it.

Talking straight, no chaser, is the first step. What comes after is the quest to seek out constructive ways to gain each other’s trust. Without that, nothing real or sustainable can result and that will be America’s loss.