Talking About Race

Barak Obama, our first African American president, seldom talks about race. Yet at times when a nation’s emotions are strained, as with the George Zimmerman trial, he is indeed called upon to speak out.

Yesterday, the president spoke at length about the Zimmerman case, whose verdict traumatized the Afro-American community and left a bitter mark on all those who place their faith in the justice system.

The trial’s outcome can be understood in its strict legal sense, but the injustice against Trayvon Martin did not start with the jury’s verdict. It started when Zimmerman, for no reason, suspected this young man of being a criminal; when the police, without the least hesitation, accepted Zimmerman’s explanation; and when the authorities failed to even consider pressing charges until a nationwide campaign burst out. The prosecutor’s poor decisions in the trial might even be considered legal ineptitude.

All this causes frustration within the Afro-American community, who are all too familiar with the effects of racism, manifested through myriad forms of prejudice.

Obama did well in voicing his community’s feelings. At that time, despite what some may say, he truly rose to the occasion as president of all Americans.

He spoke as the elected leader of White, Black, Latino, Asian and Native Americans, serving as a bridge in this diverse country of ours.

The president would have failed our nation if he had simply spoken in generalities rather than share his heartfelt emotions as an Afro-American citizen of the United States at a time of racial tension. Rather, he called for calm from some,and explained to others why the events have been so painful.

We are in dire need of an ongoing dialogue on relations and co-existence among our great nation’s diverse racial and ethnic groups. Yesterday, President Obama made an important contribution to that dialogue.