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The great divide

The not-guilty verdict in the case against George Zimmerman should not shock anyone, as the same thing is happening all across America. America simply cannot get rid of the poison of racism. It is as American as apple pie, and the cup of hatred and bigotry is what tens of millions of Americans drink from every day.

On a normal day during the trial CNN.com had more than 25,000 comments posted. Every day more than 95 percent of them were in support of George Zimmerman and called him a hero, and thousands upon thousands of the posters called Trayvon Martin a “thug,” “a “hood,” a “criminal” and an “animal.” An unarmed teenager walking home from a convenience store with a soft drink and a bag of snacks is a thug and a criminal?

When Trayvon’s friend Rachel Jeantel testified, hundreds of thousands of comments were posted and tweets were sent calling her a liar, calling her stupid and calling her an animal. Does anyone believe that if she was a slender, blue-eyed, blond, white American woman the same response would have happened?

The Fox televison network on a daily basis spews forth its vile racist hatred towards our president and has the highest rated show on TV every night. The NRA had their highest increase in membership after the president called for background checks when two dozen little children were murdered at Sandy Hook. The NRA and it’s supporters, the Tea Party and the Republican Party, express their hatred of our president in the most sickening, disgusting way every single day.

White Americans like to tell black Americans that our electing a black man as president proves that racism is a thing of the past in America. Oh, really? Barack Obama won 51.1 percent of the vote last November, winning 65,900,000 votes to Mitt Romney’s 61,000,000. He carried twenty-six states and Romney carried twenty-four states. Despite saving the country from entering a Depression, ending the war in Iraq, saving the US automobile industry from collapse and extending healthcare to 30 million people who never had it before, which is something every Democratic president since Harry Truman tried to do, when you subtract the 95 percent of blacks, 76 percent of Hispanics and 71 percent of Jews who voted for Obama, the president won no more than 40 percent of the white vote. Sixty million people voted for a man who spent his life taking over companies and throwing out of work people who lost their medical care and their pensions, while he made millions of dollars in profit by driving those companies into the ground.

Americans like to say that having Barack Obama as our president proves that racism does not exist, but the truth is that the minute he does the slightest thing to say he is proud to be black, Americans are all over him with criticism. It’s bad enough that he is the first president in our history to have his place of birth questioned, and the first president and first lady to have their loyalties to our country questioned, but when he tried to tell the nation that he understood Professor Henry Gates’s outrage at being arrested for trying to enter his own home, Twitter and the Internet and talk shows were alive with millions of people saying, “How dare he identify with Gates?” Look what happened when President Obama said that “Trayvon could be my son.” America was all over him with criticism. They won’t even let the man be proud he is black or acknowledge he is black.

If you doubt that racism is alive and well in Americ, look no further than the response to the Supreme Court’s recent gutting of the Voting Rights Act. White Americans are offended that we even have a voting rights act. They’ve never been denied any of their civil rights because of the color of their skin, but yet they’re offended by a law that seeks to ensure that no one is denied the right to vote because of the color of their skin. The recent decision by the Supreme Court on affirmative action was a setup to further dismantle it with cases set to come in the next session. White Americans think they are doing black Americans a favor by not discriminating as much as they once were. A favor? A favor to be treated equally and the same as anyone else?

If you believe that the only time racism exists is when Fox News is on, you are badly mistaken. Racism is alive and well in every city and town in America, and tens of millions of white people are thrilled that a white man who murdered an unarmed black teenager was declared not guilty. People you work with may not say this to your face, but these are the same people who go to church on Sunday and say how much they love Jesus and then believe the worst things about black people the other six days of the week. They love to tell you how much Jesus is a part of their lives. Well, one thing I know is that Jesus spoke about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the poor and loving your fellow man, and there are very few white people who say they love Jesus that practice what he preached.

I weep for Trayvon’s mother. I cannot imagine how incredibly shocking it must have been for her to sit in the courtroom and hear the verdict. What are black mothers and fathers supposed to think when their son leaves their home to go purchase a soft drink and snack? Are they justified to be frightened that their son may not come back alive because a jury of white people in Florida said that killing an unarmed black teenager in a hoodie is perfectly legal?

Don’t be fooled by those who say that things are better. In the hearts and minds of millions of white Americans the vile poison of racism is still alive and well. Before we as a country try to tell the Chinese, the Russians, the Egyptians and other nations how they should treat their citizens, it’s long past the time when we begin to treat every one of our citizens with decency and love, and respect the civil rights of everyone and not continue to make excuses for denying civil rights and hating black Americans. I think of Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream that he gave to the nation fifty years ago, and it saddens me that the dream is still very much only a dream fifty years later.

America needs to rid its heart of bigotry and hatred and prejudice before it can call itself a superpower. A nation is not measured as a superpower by the size of its military or strength of its economy but instead by how it treats its citizens, and in that regard we have a long way to go before we can call America a superpower.

Mark Jeffery Koch

Cherry Hill, NJ

Aug 2 2013 - 1:00pm