We need a ‘conversation’

To the editor:

Our country is being Balkanized by those who seize on the Travon Martin George Zimmermann case to further divide us into racial categories. History reveals how sharp divisions can tear a nation apart. News reports from around the world echo the same message. I believe that many leaders who are calling for Zimmermann’s blood are rehashing an old battle from the ’50s and ’60s. To make Zimmerman fear for his life, because one of his parents was white, makes no sense.

Some activists keep picking at the scabs of the past and refuse to allow healing to take place. Their memories of an unjust era still linger. I too recall vividly those old days and they were ugly. When my parents moved us to Texas in the late ’40s we were shocked at the terrible treatment of people based only on skin color. In every phase of life, even in churches, minorities were humiliated. Fortunately this evil was put on the public agenda by both blacks and whites who courageously sacrificed themselves to show the country (and the world) just how unjust racial discrimination is, and how brutal the oppressors could be in defending that institution. We as a nation had a lot to learn.

Has there been progress or does the Zimmermann verdict show nothing has changed? I submit significant changes have been made. Acts have been passed by Congress to enfranchise blacks and ensure rights. Government officials such as a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a former Secretary of State, the current President and his Attorney General, as well as the Director of the ATF, are black. Clearly college campuses overwhelmingly support minority rights. Black studies are among the courses taught. I belonged to the Organization of American Historians for 30 years and can attest to the fact that minority views dominated the agendas of annual conferences. I challenge anyone to point out unfavorable views of minorities in the textbooks used in our schools. Actually, the slant is quite the opposite, and has been for the last 30 years. Our country doesn’t need to apologize to the world, as the major media suggest.

Do problems still exist? Yes, but I suggest minorities need new leaders who have a vision for the future and seek reconciliation. Those seeking an individual case to enflame the public to demonstrate and destroy property do not serve the public interest. No enforcement agency will ever be entirely free of losers. A fresh approach would look at the real problems of disparity. Instead of just offering excuses and ignoring serious neighborhood problems, we need to dig a little deeper for solutions. We all know the heartbreaking statistics that stifle the achievement of the young. The conversation might begin with how the victim mentality is by its nature self defeating. Mrs. Obama had it right when she once told black school children that she’s an example of how they too can make it. Good parenting, a stable family, possibly charter schools and decent role models worth emulating, might make good talking points. It would also be helpful in any constructive conversation to avoid labeling a different viewpoint as racist.

Frederick Wulff, retired

New Ulm

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