Black and White

People have been extremely vocal about last Saturday's acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Everybody can make their own judgment about whether or not justice was served by the verdict in George Zimmerman's trial.

At the time of Martin's death, America's first black president, Barack Obama, took this death personally, saying, "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon." In the Rose Garden on March 23, 2012 President Obama also indicated that "Trayvon's parents are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves, and we are going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened."

Martin was only a 17-year-old kid in high school and was killed while walking home along a street, not doing any harm. I am so sorry to think that now thousands of African-American moms have to explain the recent verdict to their children while feeling more unsafe. Who wouldn't feel violated if they were a young black male and were stopped just because of their appearance? Martin reminds me of Bruce Springsteen's song "American Skin (41 Shots)," which he wrote in 1999 following the police shooting of Amadou Diallo, a 23-year-old Guinea immigrant, in New York City: "You can get killed just for living in your American skin." Yes, just like that.

It is a wake-up call for black people. Even though many Americans believe that "racism is over," obviously it is not. From time to time, racism shows its ugly face at every level of American society, and Martin's death at the hands of Zimmerman takes its place in America's troubling racial history.

"Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible," said African-American poet Maya Angelou. Of course, the problems of the black underclass are not new. The root of the problem lies in slavery, and more time is needed to solve it. The actual problem is cultural, and it can be solved only when the culture, somehow, is changed.

Since we are talking about changing the culture, the leader's mission is very crucial. President Obama disappointed many people when he stated: "We are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son," right after the verdict. Many Americans believe that if the Justice Department had brought civil rights charges against Zimmerman, the result would have been different.

Also, many African Americans are upset, and they feel that President Obama has not tried hard to deal with discrimination and racism for them. They expect him to make more sincere speeches to heal the heartbreak and despair, and take action to eliminate some ongoing problems in the black community, such as high rates of unemployment, discriminatory drug laws unequal access to health care and healthy food and "accidental" shootings of unarmed black men by the police.

Many African Americans feels neglected by the president. President Obama has talked about many delicate issues, such as women's rights, gay rights and health care, but has not said as much about civil rights as many African Americans expected. When crime intersects with race, people remain silent or confused in the U.S. It's about time to speak up to change culture..

If we look around, we can see similar examples to President Obama. When a leader puts distance between him or herself and his or her people, there is always a problem.

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This article was previously published in Today's Zaman