We were never post-racial.

This is the message of the Trayvon Martin tragedy. The delusion is over.

Many Americans never believed that anyway. Some did, and now they are shocked at the fierce and sustained reaction to the not guilty verdict for a killing in America of yet another unarmed African-American male.

But if there is any good that shall become of the Trayvon Martin tragedy, it is that this false notion of an America that has become a "post-racial" society has come to an end so we can get down to the serious work of really addressing it.

Wake up, everybody, as Teddy Pendergrass once sang.

We can see it in the reactions to the verdict that acquitted George Zimmerman. Rallies and protests across the country began almost immediately. These multiracial gatherings in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and countless other cities railed against the racism that was part of this killing and the trial.

These protests should not be surprising, either. While the killing of Martin has a clear racial component, the denial of this element just made the racial component even more lethal.

Judge Debra Nelson, the presiding judge in the case, didn't help matters when she ruled that the prosecution could not even use the phrase "racial profiling" in their opening statement. It was an astonishing legal ruling considering that George Zimmerman had repeatedly called the police about black men when he was doing his neighborhood watch. According to some legal observers prior to trial, this evidence of "racial profiling" by Zimmerman was critical to the prosecution's second-degree murder theory; yet, they were forbidden to use the phrase.

But strangely, during closing argument, the prosecution argued that the case was not about race. Perhaps, they believed the jurors -- five white women and one Hispanic woman -- would never buy the argument or they too were naive about our racism in the United States.

But even more insulting, Mark O'Mara, Zimmerman's lead defense attorney, while also claiming race was not part of the case, played the race card numerous times. The defense's attempts to shed a negative light on Trayvon Martin prior to trial with photographs of marijuana use or gold teeth were just cheap appeals to racial fears. Perhaps it is good lawyering; however, it is still racial.

Even George Zimmerman's brother, Robert, got in the act before the trial when he posted pictures of Trayvon Martin on social media alongside convicted felons. This was an attempt again to play to the racial components in the case even though they all claim race was not an issue in the trial.

Does any of this racial ugliness mean the United States hasn't made racial progress? No.

The United States has a black President, Barack Obama. There are countless black elected officials across the country, including Deval Patrick, governor of Massachusetts. The Attorney General of the U.S. is African-American. Blacks run major companies, successful non-profits, are international entertainers, perform admirably as lawyers, doctors, accountants, government workers, and talk show hosts. In addition, other racial groups -- Hispanics and Asians, for example -- have made great strides in society as well as the nation pushes towards more and more diversity each year.

But despite the progress, racism lives in the United States, and this trial has made that clear. It continues to contaminate every institution across the nation. It changes life outcomes; it causes health problems.

Yet now what is even more dangerous than our racial problem is our unwillingness to agree that we still have a problem.

We owe it to Trayvon Martin to fight racism even harder now; anything less would demean his memory.

Brian Gilmore is a poet and public interest lawyer.


Add new comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.


It's finally setting in: Trump is Trump and he’s not going to change because of winning the nomination.

The new head of the Environmental Protection has a history of suing the agency for trying to do its job.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

Public School Shakedown

Progressive Media Project