Let me thank R.L. Schreadley for his April 11 commentary on the Trayvon Martin case. I waited for the predictable letter or column demeaning those calling for justice before commenting, and Mr. Shreadley didn’t let me down.
Mr. Schreadley noted that American justice provides for the presumption of innocence until one is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. He doesn’t note that George Zimmerman scuffled with and shot Trayvon Martin, who was armed with a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea. He wasn’t charged, although the 911 recording from the night of the shooting shows that he pursued Mr. Martin when ordered not to do so. Mr. Schreadley might argue that Mr. Zimmerman was “standing his ground,” but Trayvon Martin, confronted by a threatening stranger, was also “standing his ground.”
Mr. Schreadley labels those who have called for justice in this matter “race hustlers.” He doesn’t note that until citizens of all colors demanded justice, there were no legal plans to further scrutinize the case and see if charges were appropriate. Had he listened to rather than stereotyping those protesting, he’d have noticed that they called for two simple things — a proper investigation and, if deemed appropriate, charges to be filed so that justice could be dispensed in a court of law.
I’d also note that “race hustlers” are in the eye of the beholder. I don’t see those calling for equal justice under the law as “race hustlers.” In my eyes, “race hustlers” are those like Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, who increased their level of racial rhetoric to appeal to their “base” in our state’s GOP primary. I’m not surprised, however, by the label. It mirrors the labeling used by those who called Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — who was born in, lived in and pastored in the American south — an “outside agitator” in his day.
It’s interesting that Mr. Schreadley and others of like mind who are so bothered by calls for equal justice in this case expressed no such outrage in the case of Casey Anthony, a Florida resident who was charged with but acquitted of the murder of her daughter. That verdict produced demonstrations and death threats, but generated no furious calls for calm and reason. The only visible difference is the races of those involved in each case.
Mr. Schreadley also tries to justify racial profiling, noting the problem of “black on black” crime and the high incidence of crime in black communities. A cursory review of the news in any given month shows that crime happens in all communities, but is sometimes differently regarded when it comes to black communities. The last notable national instance of crime in a black community was actually in Tulsa, Okla., where two white men allegedly went “hunting” for black victims.
Contrary to Mr. Schreadly’s apparent perception, African-Americans welcome and support crime prevention efforts when law enforcement agencies work with them rather than imposing their tactics on them. The danger in racial profiling comes from those who make and act on suppositions based on appearance, as did George Zimmerman, who saw skin color and a hoodie in his neighborhood as reason for suspicion. His perception isn’t unusual. When my youngest son was a college student in Savannah and was lost on a rainy day — and wearing a hoodie — he asked a white lady downtown for directions. She screamed and ran. Her response speaks for itself.
Suffice it to say that like citizens of all colors, I love and will defend my family and my community and will demand equal justice for all citizens.
Should Mr. Schreadley or those of like mind consider that to be grounds to call me a “race hustler,” I really don’t give a hoot.
This is 2012, the days are gone when people of color can be told what to say or how to think or when their murders can be excused away. People of all colors have the right to demand fairness and to not bow to those who make accusations about playing the race card while they’re fondling the deck.
When it comes to that bigoted hypocrisy, Mr. Schreadley’s words are right, “Ignorance in action is a terrible thing.”
The Rev. Joseph A. Darby is senior pastor of Morris Brown African Methodist Episcopal Church.