OP-ED: Is there still a race problem in America, in Washington County?

LETTER TO THE EDITOR – With the national news coverage focusing on the Trayvon Martin situation, we as Americans are once again being faced with an issue that can’t simply be ignored. Regardless of one’s view on this whole ordeal. Regardless of what one believes is the truth. We are faced with that crucial question. Is there still a race problem in America?

Or is this an old hurdle that we as Americans simply do not want to jump? Is the minority community once again, with a full chip on our shoulders, playing the victim? Is it all we as minorities know how to do? Are we simply crying racism to get attention? There seems to be a general perception that minorites like to play the victim.

As someone who is involved in activism for the local Latino and Immigrant community, I have had what I call the “race card card” pulled on me many times. It seems that as soon as a member of a minority community calls out a situation that one may deem as racism, that individual is accused of playing the race card. It’s almost used as a cop out.

Such as when an individual is automatically accused of being a socialist because their views may differ from a majority opinion, thus being automatically shot down for being “anti-American.”

But getting back to the question at hand, is there, in the American system, a race problem? Or are we simply invoking old wounds? From what we are witnessing on the news, I feel all signs point to a yes. There is a race problem in America.

According to a Gallup poll, 49 percent of caucasians believe Martin’s race was not a factor in the shooting, while only 20 percent of blacks believe it wasn’t a factor. This shows the racial divide in America. Much as during the Rodney King situation, we are now seeing this racial divide in the forefront of the news media. It’s right in front of our eyes. We can’t simply ignore it, anyone who watches the news has to see the racial divide, they have to see the majority of individuals at rallies in support of Trayvon are people of color.

It’s hitting us right in the face again, America’s race problem. But why are we so afraid to face this sad fact? Why are we, who are supposed to be intelligent and well educated, still refusing to face the problem at hand? Why is there a race problem?

A good majority of white people’s perspective of people of color comes from what they see in the media. The way they see people of color portrayed in movies, music videos, cop shows, documentaries on gang violence. Thus perpetuating the stereotype that blacks and latinos are a bunch of thugs. Now one could easily bring up the fact that you take a drive through compton or East LA, predominately black and latino neighborhoods, chances are you will either witness or experience a violent interaction. But this has nothing to do with the ethnicity of the people living in these areas, but the level of poverty that is so prevalent in these areas. The media portrays people of color for the most part as gang members or thugs.

Now on the other hand, a majority of black and brown people’s perspective of white people come from experiences with police officers, employers, or other individuals in an authority position. And many of these experiences, such as an encounter with a police officer, very well may have been a negative one. Perhaps the individual felt they were being racially profiled thus creating a negative view of not only the police officer, but contributing to a negative perception of white people in general. These are factors that very much contribute to a racial divide.

I can honestly say in confidence, that there is a big racial divide between the local Latino community and the local Caucasian community. There is also, unfortunately, a view spread out among the minority community that is negative towards the local police department. I have spoken to people of color who have personally had what they feel were negative encounters with the police, that they feel racial profiling played a factor. I have personally had instances where I feel I was racially profiled. Are our assumptions unfounded? We’ll let you decide, but we don’t think so.

There is a conversation that takes place in the homes of many families of color. A conversation between parents and their children. The “talk” if you will. But not the talk as we know it, but the race talk. The conversation, varying among families obviously, has a basic theme to it. It is to tell the children, you are black or brown. Chances are, you will at one point or another be seen as different. You may very well be seen as a thug or gangster at some point. Whether it be walking on the streets late at night, or at school, or even work. Therefore, you must not draw attention to yourself. Hold your own and mind your own devices when you are in a setting that may warrant you being judged for your ethnicity. This is a conversation that I’m sure the majority of who may be reading this article, simply cannot understand. And that’s okay, we can expect everyone to understand who has never had to face it.

But if we want to bridge the ever widening racial gap in America, we need to start finding common ground. We need to engage in conversation with one another. Most importantly we need to listen to each other’s perspective and try to understand where the other individual is coming from. If a person of color is discussing an issue where they feel they were racially profiled, try not to automatically accuse them of playing the race card, but try listening.

People of color need to start listening as well, and not generalize all white people of being racist because of a negative situation we experienced where our race most likely played a factor. Most importantly, we need to stop seeing the differences between each other, and start seeing the vast similarities. And see each other as brothers and sisters in humanity.

Jon Martin

Washington County Minority Coalition

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5 Comments

  • Old timer April 16, 2012 at 10:29 am

    Yes, there is still a race problem in America. There are many black leaders out there who make their living off feeding the anger for race inequality. Louis Farakahn wants a race war. Jessie, Al and Jerimiah keep feeding this anger every single day on TV and the radio.

    However, all 4 of these guys have deep feelings for MLK and all that he did for race inequality in the 1960’s. What do these guys really stand for? Come on already, give it up and give us a break.

    As for problems in Wash. County. I don’t see it. Not that it isn’t there, it’s jut not that big of a driving force in our everyday lives . Other Cities are using this racial divide to stir up riots this summer and create chaos for everybody else. 2012 will be a very rough year for many larger cities.

    Also, there are murders everyday al over this country. Why is Trevon’s more significant than all the others?

    • Jon Martin April 17, 2012 at 9:38 pm

      You obviously missed the point of this article. I’m not trying to argue that the shooting was racially motivated. It has nothing to do with that. Personally, I do believe Trayvon’s color played a role in the shooting, but that’s my opinion which is neither here nor there. What this article is saying is that we are once again being faced with this race issue, regardless of the details of the situation itself, we are being asked this question again.

  • Panda April 16, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    There is a major race problem in Washington County. When a county sheriff slaps a crying 7 year old 1/2 hispanic child when he tries to call his mother because he is afraid because his grandfather (a legal resident) gets handcuffed and thrown around because the sheriff decided to rule with fear instead of calm peace keeping – it’s time for all to stop ignoring the problem and find solutions. In the end once a translator was on the scene, the grandfather was not charged with anything except a child restrain infraction, because the sheriff assumed he could arrest him on immigration without any real evidence. The escalation of the situation by the sheriff was unnecesary and he had no right to slap the child.

    • Jon Martin April 17, 2012 at 2:01 pm

      Hello I’m the author of this article, and also with the Washington County Minority Coalition, please contact me as what you describe here is a heinous act. I would like to discuss with you more this story.
      [email protected]

  • Carlos Hernadez Phillipe Santana April 16, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    Race issues in Washington County? Oh hell yess. But i think slowly getting better. the urban areas of the county are becoming more diverse so locals are adjusting to the growth in diversity eh

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