To take white supremacy out of racism is to willfully ignore that reality, writes John Stoehr.
Last Modified: 13 Apr 2012 18:51
Trayvon Martin's family has appealed to public opinion for justice [EPA]
New Haven, CT - Last weekend, two white men went on a shooting rampage in Tulsa, Oklahoma, killing three African Americans and wounding two others. One of the men, Jake England, has suggested the slaughter was meant to avenge the death of his father at the hands of a black man who was not among the killed or wounded. Four days prior to this, one of my students, in a class presentation on American journalism that touched on the civil rights movement of the tumultuous 1960s, innocently used the phrase "race war".
Representing reality is problematic
As I say, my student didn't know any better, but it was a happy accident that provided occasion to discuss how representing reality is problematic even when you mean well. This led us to a brief talk about "racism", a term that can also be redolent of false balance. It can obfuscate who's doing what to whom and its use can put ideological debates about race on the road to nowhere.
And power is often above the law. Zimmerman and the man who killed Jake England's dad are equally protected under a similar law that allows you to "Stand Your Ground" when facing life-threatening situations. Neither man was changed, because both claimed they acted in self-defence. But that's where the similarities end. Trayvon Martin's family has appealed to public opinion for justice. Jake England appealed to his gun. The present is a product of the past. To take white supremacy out of racism is to willfully ignore that reality.
John Stoehr is the editor of the New Haven Advocate and a lecturer at Yale.
Follow him on Twitter: @johnastoehr
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.
Questions to Consider:
1) Do you believe that violence is treated differently around race? How or how not?
2) Do you think that the term 'race word' is appropriate? Why or why not?
3) What are common phrases that you feel are thrown around without full understanding of their background and significance?
4) How do you feel about impartiality in the media? Do you feel that at a certain point impartiality may lead to inaccuracy or bias?