Confronting America's Racial Divide
A Commentary By Scott Rasmussen
Friday, July 19, 2013
Sixty-four percent of Americans say that it's possible to have an honest discussion about race in America. I would like to believe that, but I am skeptical.
My skepticism is rooted in a painful recognition of the fact that white and black America have different histories and different experiences with our justice system.
Consider the simple fact that, compared to white Americans, black Americans are three times as likely to know someone in prison and twice as likely to know someone who was murdered. It's not surprising that most black Americans view the justice system with the same level of suspicion that the Tea Party has for the Internal Revenue Service. The distrust is justified.
So when a jury with no blacks declared George Zimmerman not guilty in the murder of Trayvon Martin, most white Americans agreed with the verdict, and most black Americans did not.
Most white Americans believe that such a jury can fairly consider a case involving the shooting of a black man. Most blacks disagree.
Most white Americans believe Zimmerman was motivated primarily by concern about burglaries in the neighborhood. Most black Americans believe he was motivated primarily by racism.
Many conservative pundits have pointed out that the prosecution simply couldn't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman was doing anything more than acting in self-defense. Even some on the political left, people like Slate's William Saletan, have said that when you look at the evidence and the law, the jury reached the right decision. Former President Jimmy Carter shares that view, as well.
But for many Americans, the technical analysis misses the point. Zimmerman made a poor choice when he ignored the dispatcher, got out of the car and tried to be a hero. As a result, a young black man ended up dead. Where's the justice in that? Would it have been the same if the dead man were the son of a wealthy white businessman?
I cannot claim to speak for black Americans, but what I see in the numbers is a deeply rooted belief that the rules of the game in America are rigged against black Americans. Eighty-four percent of black Americans believe the justice system in our country is unfair to minorities.
Most white Americans are appalled by such numbers. This is why it is so difficult to have an honest discussion about race in America. They just don't get it.
What white Americans need to understand is that there's a reason most black Americans believe our justice system is out to get them. The reason is that for most of our history government in America was an organized conspiracy against black Americans. The Constitution includes offensive language about black slaves. Southern states implemented Jim Crow laws and provided inferior educational options to keep blacks down -- laws that survived until the 1960s. There's more to American history, of course, but we can't ignore those realities.
What black Americans need to understand, though, is that George Zimmerman and his generation never lived in that world. America has changed, but we have failed to honestly confront our past.
If our nation is ever to truly become a land of liberty and justice for all, we need to have an honest discussion about race. The evidence of the past few weeks makes me doubt we are ready for that today.
To find out more about Scott Rasmussen, and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2013 SCOTT RASMUSSEN
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM
See Other Political Commentaries.
See Other Commentaries by Scott Rasmussen
Rasmussen Reports is a media company specializing in the collection,
publication and distribution of public opinion information.
We conduct public opinion polls on a variety of topics to inform our audience on events
in the news and other topics of interest. To ensure editorial control and independence,
we pay for the polls ourselves and generate revenue through the sale of subscriptions,
sponsorships, and advertising. Nightly polling on politics, business and lifestyle topics
provides the content to update the Rasmussen Reports web site many times each day.
If it's in the news, it's in our polls. Additionally, the data drives a
daily update newsletter and various media outlets
across the country.
Some information, including the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll
and commentaries are available for free to the general public.
Subscriptions are available for $4.95 a month or 34.95 a year
that provide subscribers with exclusive access to more than 20 stories per week on upcoming elections,
consumer confidence, and issues that affect us all. For those who are really into the numbers,
Platinum Members can review demographic crosstabs
and a full history of our data.
To learn more about our methodology, click here.