Opinion: America needs united identity

July 17, 2013


We are so programmed by our history with race in America that reaction to the acquittal of George Zimmerman on charges of murdering Trayvon Martin depends largely upon one’s individual, even group experience.

If you are African American, you might react like former Washington, D.C., homicide detective Rod Wheeler. Appearing on Fox News, Wheeler said many blacks look at quarterback Michael Vick, jailed for taking part in an illegal interstate dog-fighting ring, and wonder why Zimmerman gets away with killing a young black man.

If you are white, or Hispanic, you could possibly see the trial as something whipped up by the always racially conscious media and rhetorical bomb-throwers like Rev. Al Sharpton. You might conclude that if the victim had been white and the perpetrator black the media would have shown little or no interest. Or you could point to O.J. Simpson, who was acquitted of killing two white people by a majority African American jury.

Your view would be reinforced by a case in Georgia in which four African American teenagers beat a 36-year-old white man as he emerged from a gas station convenience store. While trying to escape, the man stumbled into the middle lane of a highway where he was struck by a car and killed. The Marietta Daily Journal reported that the four are charged with felony murder, aggravated assault and violation of the Georgia Street Gang Act. The incident occurred two weeks ago, but I have seen no national media coverage.

As defense lawyers noted after the Zimmerman verdict, the loss of any life, especially a young one like Trayvon Martin, is a tragedy, but tragedy and race were not on trial in Sanford, Fla. Putting all extraneous considerations aside, the jury of six women was asked if there was sufficient evidence presented by the prosecution to convict George Zimmerman of murder or manslaughter. The jury found there was not.

The Justice Department says it will look into the shooting death of Martin to determine if evidence in the case “reveals a prosecutable violation.” That may turn out to be more of a political decision than one based on facts. It would likely perpetuate the media narrative of blacks as victims and whites as descendants of slave masters.

What helps keep us divided is our propensity for labeling and categorizing people. Certain behaviors and language are tolerated, while others are not. Some people can get away with language that others cannot. Some faiths can be disparaged while others are insulated from criticism. We hyphenate some Americans, making them appear as though they are less than fully American.

What is needed is one standard. One national identity. One America. We’re not there yet.

Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Trayvon Martin’s family, compared Trayvon’s death to those of Emmett Till and Medgar Evers. Any attempt to turn Trayvon into a civil rights martyr similar to Till and Evers goes well beyond the apples-and-oranges analogy. More to the point was a comment by Zimmerman’s attorney Don West: “The prosecution of George Zimmerman was disgraceful.” The defense believes he should never have been brought to trial. Co-defense counsel Mark O’Mara speculated about “how many lawsuits will be spawned by this fiasco.”

Probably quite a few, given our never-ending racial double standard. As both sides noted during and after the trial, there are no winners in this case.

— Cal Thomas is a columnist for Tribune Media Services.


funkdog1 4 years, 5 months ago

HA. Cal Thomas' idea of a "United America" is everyone thinking the same -- everyone thinking like white, Christian males. Which means that everyone should just pretend that sexism and racism don't exist, LGBT people should just go away, and all while white men continue to enjoy their myriad of privileges. As long as you share Cal's world view, you're a "real American" and we'll have "unity."

Liberty275 4 years, 5 months ago

In 20 minutes I have to leave for work. I'll work about 9 hours today, outside but in the shade. Now it just so happens I'm a beige atheist, but next to me at work will be at least 2 white male Christians. They make almost 2/3rds what I do.

Tell me about the privileges they have. If what they have is "privilege", I don't want any.

jafs 4 years, 5 months ago

Well, so far we haven't had any non-Christian presidents, so perhaps a privilege of being Christian is that you have a chance of being elected president.

Shane Garrett 4 years, 5 months ago

Funkdog1 are you saying that white men continue to enjoy their myraid of privileges, such as work and taxes, so that the under or non priviledged can enjoy the fruits of thier labor? Were is the opinion of the leader of the free world? Or are we to listen to the minions of radical social terriorists?

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 5 months ago

"What is needed is one standard. One national identity. One America. We’re not there yet."

I don't agree with that statement at all. A large part of the present day United States' strength is our diversity. Very few nations have one standard and one national identity, and those are nations that I would not care to live in. A moment's reflection will reveal any person's possibly prejudicial opinion of which nations are like that today, but they are all cultures that are so very different than our own that any comparison is not possible. I don't believe it's possible to understand a foreign culture very well at all, unless a person has lived in it for quite some time, and accepts its values.

Even in the days before the European conquest of the North American continent, there was not one standard and one national identity. The Native Americans were split among more than 1,000 tribes, but not all Native Americans fit into a tribal group. And the tribes varied so much - I have known Hopis, Navajos, one Inuit, one Cheyenne, and I suppose a few others, and it's a fact that they were all so different as to seem to be from another continent. But the travel distances between some of the different tribes were so great that they may as well have been, given the modes of transportation then available.

It was fortunate for the Europeans that the Native Americans didn't put up a united front against the European invasion, because if they had all fought together the Europeans would have had no chance of invading and taking over almost all of the continent, leaving only crumbs for the original inhabitants.

Instead of one standard and one national identity, we, that is, all the people on the Earth, need to have one common set of morals and values before anything is really going to be fair. But that seems to be unimaginably impossible, because there are so many different cultures in present day conflicts that seem to have no resolution in sight, and what Sigmund Freud referred to as the ego will always be a problem, with the "me first" mentality controlling so many people's actions.

The most we can hope for or work for is fairness in the United States' judicial system. Fortunately, the courts are all open to public scrutiny. Unfortunately, the cases that get the most media attention seem to have nothing in common that I can see, nor are they uplifting in any way. When watching a public trial on television or reading about it, the commentary that accompanies the program certainly influences people's opinion, and that commentary is not heard by the jurors. And I think that is why so many people think that so many verdicts are unfair. And the circle goes all the way around - so many verdicts are actually unfair. But it's the best that we can do for now.

jonas_opines 4 years, 5 months ago

We could make all the linguistic changes in the world to give the impression of unity and none of it would make a single dent into the fact that there are many, vastly-varied American Experiences that one can be subjected to, that are very much dependent upon where, and to whom, a person was born.

The suggestions made here should be likened to political correctness. Changing the way we talk, and trying to change the way people think in such superficial ways, will make no lasting change.

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