Now that George Zimmerman has been arrested, right-wingers should cease attacking President Obama over this issue.
Obama, remember, sensibly called the shooting a tragedy and said that if he had a son, the boy would look like Trayvon Martin.
Then, all at once, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Rush Limbaugh, Southern Baptist leader Richard Land and others accused Obama caring about Martin only because the youth was African-American.
This bogus charge fuels the old canard that Obama wants to be president for black America and not for the entire country. But Obama is hardly a black nationalist. While he identifies as a black man, he has bent over backward not to show preference to black causes, such as the prison-industrial complex or the crisis in urban America.
That’s not enough for his conservative critics, however.
In this case, they want him to ignore the anguish and anxiety that parents of black youths face in this country every day. It is not a figment of our imagination that racism is still alive and well. We want to protect our sons and daughters from it, but we are excruciatingly aware that at any time, they could face what could be fatal judgment at the hands of a vigilante.
By Starita Smith
Conservatives manufactured this controversy in part to try to get Obama to be even more circumspect about bringing up race than he has been since being elected and in part because they are worried that Obama might be rallying black citizens to vote for him. They understand that the Republican Party has a problem appealing to minorities.
When Obama won the presidency in 2008, he received 95 percent of the votes cast by blacks. He also got 67 percent of the Latino vote and a majority of the votes cast by Asian-Americans. Plus, he managed to win 43 percent of the white vote.
Just as the voters who put Obama in the White House represent a diverse majority of America, people who expressed outrage over the shooting of Trayvon Martin were also a diverse group.
Unlike conservatives who want to pretend that racism no longer exists, millions of Americans understand that we have not finished dealing with racism in this country. Obama was trying to provide comfort in a way that no other American president could have done and, at the same time, was acknowledging what he sees in the mirror.
He should be applauded, not ridiculed, for doing so.
Starita Smith, Ph.D., teaches sociology at the University of North Texas. She was an award-winning journalist at the Gary Post-Tribune, the Columbus Dispatch and the Austin American-Statesman. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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