Racial issues still rampant in society

April 9, 2012

April Wefler
awefler@uccs.edu

During the summer of 1955, a 14-year-old boy was murdered. His name was Emmett Till.

Till was killed for reportedly flirting with Carolyn Bryant, a white woman, while visiting his relatives in Mississippi. As a native of Chicago, he didn’t know any better.

According to jimcrowhistory.org, although many Mississippi natives condemned the murder, backlash from the NAACP and other Americans put racists who supported the killing on the defensive. The governor of Mississippi, Hugh White, insisted that “This is not a lynching. It is straight out murder.”

Till’s killers, Carolyn’s husband Roy Bryant and his brother, J.W. Milam, were found innocent. A boy was dead and they were free. The court’s decision set off several important events in civil rights history.

Now, 57 years later, in a country run by its first black president, a self-declared neighborhood watch captain has been found innocent after killing a 17-year-old boy. The boy’s crime? Holding a pack of Skittles.

Although there are differing accounts from George Zimmerman’s family and Trayvon Martin’s family about what happened the night Martin was killed, the facts remain: Martin is dead, Zimmerman killed him and there is no justice for Martin’s family. I’m disgusted to be an American.

Zimmerman claimed he acted in self-defense. The police of Sanford, Fla. took him at his word and didn’t arrest him or test him for drug or alcohol use. The police of the 1955 Mississippi Delta region acted faster, and we are supposed to believe that racial issues are almost non-existent in today’s society?

When the nation heard the details of this case, there was an outpouring of support for Martin’s family and death threats against Zimmerman. Because the press noted that Zimmerman was white, it automatically became a racial issue.

Zimmerman is white; however, not the ethnicity people think of when they think of white. When race becomes an issue, people tend to jump to the conclusion that white means strictly Caucasian.

However, Zimmerman is Hispanic. Sanford’s census indicates that the city is made up of a population that is 45 percent white, 29.2 percent black, 20.2 percent Hispanic, and 5.5 percent other.

The Mississippi Delta region during Till’s lifetime had a population that was 45 percent black. When a black boy is killed for something he may or may not have done in the diverse area of Sanford by a Hispanic man, it becomes more than a racial issue.

Emmett Till did flirt with Carolyn Bryant. Trayvon Martin might have attacked George Zimmerman. Martin wasn’t innocent; he had a record, and he’d been in trouble before.

Did he deserve to be killed? No.

Martin was a 17-year-old boy who was more than welcome in the community he was walking in that night. Martin could have been any of our younger siblings.

Not only is Zimmerman free, he is still permitted to carry a gun. He’s already killed a black teenager. What happens next time he claims to defend himself? What if he kills a white girl? Will he be punished then? What if he kills a boy of his own ethnicity?

The Trayvon Martin case is more than “black vs. white;” it also indicates that racial issues are still core to this country. Martin is dead because of Zimmerman. I believe Zimmerman should pay; instead, he walks free. Where is the justice in that? It’s 2012, but it might as well be 1955.