Obama Talks Race Relations and Zimmerman, and it’s Important

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Obama gave a speech on Friday regarding the Zimmerman verdict, which I immediately shared on Facebook. It was humble, it was real, it gave me goosebumps and made me think. But then I read the comments people had written underneath the transcript (I have included some below). And a woman that I work with was brazen with her opinions, and claimed Obama was dividing our nation. She literally said, why do we need to talk about racism? It only makes things worse.

Here are some of the comments written below the transcript of the speech. Grammar untouched…:

“If blacks did not rape murder and rob whites EVERYDAY throughout this nation than maybe the whites would not be racist. However since the racist blacks DO rape rob and murder whites EVERDAY and whites do not mess with blacks. The true racists are known. They are not white!!!!!”

“Shame on you Obama, your do not even deserve to be called President of these United (UNITED) States, that you are trying to devide with your stupid comments. Did you forget your half white too, did you forget that Zimmerman wasn’t white? How stupid can you be?”

“50% of all American murders are committed by blacks. Now consider that about 800,000 blacks are in jail at any one time, and that most blacks are not murderous thugs, being either children, elderly, just plain decent folks. So, who is committing all those killings? I’ll give you a clue … they like hoods.”

“wow..keep stiring the pot. awesome.”

“Trayvon was a thug.”

It saddens me so deeply that it seems we cannot have an open discussion in this country without it turning to hate. The focal point of the President’s address was to share his thoughts. The point of this speech was to spark a dialogue– not to divide us.

In the speech, Obama talks about things it seems most people don’t want to acknowledge. White women clutching their purses a little bit tighter if a black men walks into an elevator. Hearing people lock their car doors as a black man crosses the street. These are small things. Probably unnoticeable actions by the women in the elevator or the people in the car. I am guilty of it– I think most of us are. Sometimes I catch myself, and I feel guilty. Sometimes I don’t. It’s something seemingly inherent and it creates a context. This is something I, as a white woman, will never experience. This is something most white men will never experience. This is not a bad thing to acknowledge. This is not something that should spark outrage. These things happen– now what do we do with this?

Obama asks us to soul search. To talk with our families and our coworkers. To look at ourselves, and ask: am I judging this person based on their color or their character?

It is through this context, and through this history, that the black community is viewing the Zimmerman verdict. Asking, if it was a white boy, would the shooting even have happened? Asking, if it was a white boy, would the verdict have been the same? Asking these questions should not divide us. It should, as President Obama stated, make us soul search. Allow us to look within our selves. The question isn’t why did this happen. The question is, where can we take it? What can we do to learn from this tragedy, and not be swallowed by it?

No matter what happened– no matter who was right or who was wrong– a kid died. No matter what happened, a young black man died. No matter what happened, to learn from this experience, to move forward instead of mull in hate, is important in the aftermath of this tragedy. No matter what happened, for our president to talk about race relations like he did, and to discuss his feelings with us, is pretty damn cool. Even if you disagree with them.

No matter what happened.  We are to move to be more divided, not less so.

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