Outrage is not Enough
Much has been written about the killing of Trayvon Martin last March. Since his tragic death, much more information has been revealed about George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin and the “jury is still out” as to where the truth lies and what will happen to George Zimmerman. There were cries of outrage through out the media. Trayvon Martin’s death sparked a national dialogue. We do not know Trayvon Martin’s role in his death. But that does not really matter. One more young, black man has died. We need to, once again, take this time to look at racism in our country.
The United States has an historic legacy of white supremacy and institutional racism. In her book, The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander addresses a society where the color of your skin quite often defines your treatment in the legal system. She states that "more African American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began." She continues, “In some black inner-city communities, four of five black youth can expect to be caught up in the criminal justice system during their lifetimes. 70% return to prison within 2 years.”
Sadly, racism remains part of our collective experience as Americans. The number of hate groups in the U.S. continues to grow, increasing from 1,002 in 2010 to 1,018 in 2011. This culture of hate, bred by generations of myth-based racist beliefs, is reflected in laws and policies passed in the United States. Although Arizona’s recent attempt to pass SB1070 was struck down in a Supreme Court ruling, the court upheld one provision that gives “law enforcement authority to investigate and question a person about their immigration status during a lawful stop if they have “reasonable suspicion” that the person is undocumented.” This interpretation leaves much room for one’s biases. Since the passage of that law, Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah have passed similar laws.
WILPF envisions a transformed world at peace, where there is racial, social, and economic justice for all people. Addressing social injustice that both results from and causes ongoing cycles of violence, WILPF’s Building a Beloved Community issue committee works to inspire dialogue that reflects on the social and economic injustices rooted in race, class, gender, and other differences in U.S. society, and aims to create norms for establishing more just and peaceful societies.
Understanding that institutional racism and hate continues to permeate all aspects of our society, we take this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to building a Beloved Community.
WILPF U.S. believes that Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision of Building a Beloved Community is necessary and attainable, but we as a predominantly white culture with unearned privileges need to understand how our racial biases cross all lines of decision-making and policy-creating.
We now have the opportunity to examine our own communities and to ask ourselves, "Do we have underlying problems with racism? Does law enforcement treat all crimes equally? What are public attitudes towards people of color? Could it happen here, in my community? This is the time to act for racial justice and be the eyes and voices of our communities, to be the community watch group that sees the subtle forms of racism and stops racism before it results in tragedy.