“Better” Isn’t Good Enough
A reaction to racial profiling and the Zimmerman verdict
Peyton R. Helm
If you have seen “The Butler” or read The Warmth of Other Suns by last spring’s commencement speaker Isabel Wilkerson you already know that our country has made progress in its struggle with racism.
But if you have read about the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act, or followed the trial of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin, seen the fact-based film “Fruitvale Station,” or watched the HYPE-documentary “Still Seeking Justice” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RT7Tp1-FVHc&feature=share) you must realize that we have no excuse for complacency or self-congratulation.
Among the many obstacles racism creates for members of our society, three particular realities of contemporary American life combine to pose an unacceptable threat to the lives of young men of color in the United States:
There is no safe haven from this toxic blend, even right here in Pennsylvania.
How would you react if Muhlenberg issued a policy like the following?
Effective immediately, all students, faculty, and staff of color will be required to wear clothing and hairstyles that will not be perceived by other students, faculty, and staff as “threatening”. Penalties for non-compliance may be severe, up to and including summary execution by any gun owner who feels threatened.
Absurd? Crazy? Paranoid? Perhaps, if you are white. But if you are an African American male wearing a black hoodie, carrying a box of Skittles and a bottle of iced tea, almost certainly not.
Muhlenberg is a small component of a large and complex society, but even if we can’t solve a national problem that was centuries in the making, we can do our best to confront it on our own doorstep.
As long as some members of our community are at risk, none of us should rest.