Race relations are at the fore of discussion in this country lately and for many reasons.
Paula Deen’s recent fall from grace illustrates both the stubborn hold that racial discrimination has on our culture and the complicated history of the black experience in the South. I believe Ms. Deen has been unjustly vilified but, whatever her sins, they were committed out of ignorance and insensitivity.
Barack Obama inserted himself into the Trayvon Martin case by making statements intended to evoke a racial sentiment concerning young black men in this country. His Attorney General, Eric Holder, has vowed to pursue the Martin case as a civil rights injustice. Both men, in my opinion, are stirring the racial pot unnecessarily and to no good end. Again, though, whatever their misguided motivation is, I’m fairly sure it’s not for financial gain.
That’s what brings us to the outrageous, shameful and disgraceful conduct of the mainstream media during the Martin trial. It also illuminates the power and reach of the media in shaping public opinion and fomenting outrage. And that power is frightening in the face of such strides to combat racial discrimination in this country.
It’s only been since the 1940s that we’ve enacted serious discrimination legislation and since the 1950s that real progress has been made in legislating equality:
- Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 ruled that “separate but equal” was inherently discriminatory and directed the integration of public schools.
- The Equal Opportunity Commission executive order of 1961 was enacted to oversee workplace affirmative action.
- In 1964 we saw the landmark Civil Rights Act followed by much similar legislation including the Voters Rights Act of 1965 and the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act of 1975.
All this legislation, and much more, promoted the idea of racial equality in leaps and bounds in a country steeped in racial discrimination. At the same time, minorities evolved in the American psyche as well, with greater representation in the business, sports and entertainment arenas, becoming more visible and accepted in public service and daring to enter into inter-racial marriages.
All these societal victories, however, can be damaged by the splicing of one 911 tape. One greedy attempt to stir the racial pot into a backsliding frenzy for the sake of ratings, which translate into profit. It’s sickening.
The outcome of the Martin trial was based on the circumstances of the case and, whether you agree with the outcome or not, you must concede that race never entered the courtroom. Law enforcement never saw it, the jury never saw it, and the judge never saw it as a factor.
In fact, George Zimmerman was not arrested for a full 40 days after the incident and then only at the urging of the Sanford, Fla., city commission to appease public outrage, outrage that was fueled by comments by the President and the media starting with the term “white Hispanic,” first used by the New York Times. NBC news spliced the 911 tape to indicate racial prejudice that simply was not there. Philadelphia attorney James Beasley will soon file suit on the behalf of Mr. Zimmerman against NBC News for its shameful yellow journalism.
George Zimmerman and his wife mentored two African American children and, when funding was depleted for the mentoring program, continued to do so at their own expense. He includes black friends on social media and has worked on minority fund-raisers.
Let’s not let the facts dictate media behavior, though. Twist and spin will get ratings and profits and damned be the consequences which, at least could have resulted in a tainted jury, and at worst could spur vitriol nationally so that a man acquitted of a crime will spend many years looking over his shoulder and wearing body armor. And for what? For the civil rights struggle? For the betterment of the civil rights discussion? No way, those causes have been impaired by this, and a man’s reputation and safety forever damaged, all for profit.