Have we changed?

By Jerry Levine.

It’s been a month since George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin. Some media commentators suggest that when it comes to race relations, little has changed in the past 50 years. “No white jury is going to convict a white person of murdering a black person in the South.” I disagree. To quote Charles Barkley, “When it comes to race, I don’t think the media has a pure heart.” Driving for high ratings, which enhances advertising dollars, the cable news stations ran the trial non-stop, knowing the racial animus they created would keep people glued to their sets. I always preferred Rodney King’s, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

To reflect on how things have changed since the “bad old days,” I reread Bruce Watson’s Freedom Summer, an account of the summer of 1964, when several hundred American college students descended on segregated, reactionary Mississippi to register black voters and educate black children.

On their first night there, three volunteers — Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner — disappeared and were later found murdered in Philadelphia, Mississippi. A few years later, the perpetrators, who turned out to be the local police and Klansmen, were acquitted. It was not until 2005 (41 years later) that the ringleader was convicted, but the others involved still remain free.

Watson quotes a volunteer about what sent her to the South. She remarked on a scene from the movie Judgment at Nuremberg, when a judge asked a German housekeeper what she had done under Hitler. The volunteer asked herself how she would feel 30 years later if someone had asked her what she had done during the civil rights movement and could only say, “nothing.”

I was reminded of my own short-lived “Freedom Ride,” a lunch counter sit-in with black and white friends in Montgomery, Alabama, in the spring of 1962. We naively believed that Gandhian pacifism could defeat knee-jerk hatred and brutality. Thank God no one paid much attention to us or beat on us. We stayed for three days at my black friend’s house and then went off to spring break in Florida. My friend however, stayed home in Montgomery with his wife and 3-year-old daughter. I was terribly fearful for their safety. They were the real heroes.

The Federal Civil Rights Act passed in 1964 during the Freedom Summer, and the Voting Rights Act followed. Mississippi began to change, as did the rest of the country. By the end of 1965, 60% of Mississippi African Americans were registered to vote, compared to only 7% in 1960. But getting elected was another matter. Jim Crow gave up power slowly. Yet within a few years, Medgar Evers’ brother, Charles, was elected mayor of Fayette with the backing of a former Klan leader. By the late ’70s a black man from the Delta was elected to the U.S. Congress and a black woman was elected Miss Mississippi.

There is still a debate as to whether the Freedom Summer was a catalyst for change or an unnecessary provocation inducing a greater white backlash. Watson is uncertain, but does conclude “the summer changed the minds of blacks who came to look upon themselves as somebody.” Watson also believes that the volunteers were not the heroes of the story. That honor goes to the locals. The volunteers left a month or so later, returning to their northern middle class life. The locals were finally empowered at the ballot box, but they still faced poverty and discrimination.

With each passing generation, this country continues to make strides in racial tolerance. We are not yet perfect. But will mankind ever be perfect?

Question: Have your feelings on race changed?

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13 thoughts on “Have we changed?

  1. Jeff Scott

    Trayvon Martin was not murdered Lloyd. He attacked another individual and was on top of Zimmerman beating him and was shot in the process. Was Zimmerman stupid for his part in the situation? Yes he was but so was Trayvon who could have out run Zimmerman without trying but instead hide and waited for him.
    As far as race in this country and with all you liberals and our “unbiased media” I will give you an instant example.
    A young Australian man was jogging past three teenagers. Two of them were black and one was hispanic/white in Oklahoma.
    The Australian man was not doing anything but running past these three wastes of skin but they were supposedly “bored” so they got into a car and followed this jogger stalking him in a premeditated fashion and shot and killed him with a 22 rifle for no other reason than “they were bored”…which I don’t believe.
    This Lloyd was MURDER IN THE FIRST DEGREE unlike what happened between Zimmerman and Trayvon.
    Has he media been on this story 24/7 like they were with Trayvon? Did Obama come out making asinine statements that only served to inflame? Where is the outrage from Sharpton, Jackson, Farrakhan and all the other race pimps?
    One more thing…do you suppose these three punks remind Obama of the son he could have had like Trayvon did? Their silence is deafening and your “Trayvon was murdered” statement is just as asinine!

    1. Noah Graff

      Jeff, you need to read a little more closely.

      First, the blog was written by Jerry Levine, not Lloyd.

      Second, the sentence said “George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin.”

      Thus, nobody said Zimmerman was a murderer. Evidently you have an agenda to preach so you decided to use this as a springboard, even though it wasn’t accurate.

      Since we are talking about Trayvon however, I have a question for everybody to think about.

      If Trayvon Martin was white and Zimmerman was African American, while all the other circumstances of the incident remained the same, do you think the same verdict would have come out?

      Somehow I don’t think so.

      We have changed a great deal as a society in how we treat race. But the system still does not treat everyone equally.

  2. Dan K.

    Interesting column. My opinion on the extent that racism still exists in the U.S. was altered dramatically when I moved from the Midwest to the Deep South as a young adult. It was apparent from living there, even though at a much later era than you, that racism still exists, though it is not as institutionalized as it once was. Another good read on the topic is “Of Long Memory: Mississippi and the Murder of Medgar Evers”, by Adam Nossiter.

  3. john j. frost

    Lloyd, you open with the Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin story. The media never showed a clear picture of Trayvon as he really was with his morphing from that angelic little kid of 12 or 13 to what he had become with his school and police record. The media manipulated all news in favor of Trayvon so that when Zimmerman was acquitted a guilt stamp could be applied to the south as a whole. The hysteria created by the racial demagogues acting as journalists and the professional rabble rousers won again in their strategy to keep racial issues alive. Now take a look at the most recent incident. Three bored teenagers, two black and one white, in Oklahoma killed a student from Australia, “just for the fun of it.” they are to be tried as adults for 1st degree murder. Where is the outrage. What laws do you want passed which will prevent blacks from killing just for the fun of it. Well race relations have changed in Oklahoma. It is still reminded of the black massacre in Tulsa. An incident such as this present killing would have triggered revenge of great consequences in another generation. The race concerned people of Oklahoma have advanced. Their legal system will address this racial incident.

  4. Donald Gwyther

    It seems so much more complex now, white privilege, sub-conscious racism, what is color blindness, etc. are things that every white male needs to examine.

  5. Eric

    Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best and we should not forget, we should all be judged by our character and not the color of our skin. More of us need to stand up and say that to the race pimps, gang bangers, news scum, P.O.S. liberal politicians and race “victims”.
    Bill Cosby is spot on. We are individually responsible for our actions and taking care of our families and communities.
    What happened to the Democrats who applauded when JFK proclaimed, “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”.
    Where are those Democrats???????????? All I see now are politicians keeping blacks in poverty and promoting a sense of entitlement.

  6. chuck lacasse

    If you don’t think the out come would be the same with the oppesit races google Roderick Scott,Christopher Cervini.

  7. Greg Knox

    Most all of the folks I know are so “over” white vs. black vs. yellow vs. green…
    I mostly know white people, but I do interface on a regular basis with numerous ethnicites…and having grown up in the South Bronx I was certainly “the minority” for most of my youth.
    I don’t care so much where we came from – as a father, as a business owner, as an American.
    I care about where we are, and much more importantly, where we are going…
    Noah – you’re a good kid – but you are wrong.
    The juxtaposition of the Martin case has happened since – so we need not speculate – black on white crime is just not deemed “newsworthy” by our media.
    I refuse to get dragged into discussions about the past – I had nothing to do with it and I certainly can’t change it.
    I can change the future and I work with schools, students, my 6 children and everyone I can within my circle of influence to promote fairness, honesty, integrity and all of the other color blind values my parents raised me and my siblings on.

  8. Jeremy

    I am begining to question the value of this post and the time it takes to read it.
    Why are the same mass media topics being thrown out again and again to beat that horse twice and three times to death. If I wanted to rehash Martin vs. Zimmerman I could do that on any website/blog. Why does the race flag have to be paraded around all the time? And here too? We have a black president, so what…to me it only matters for the history books. Does his policy matter? Yes absolutely ! Did my working class taxes go up because of a black president or an ineffective congress (of mixed race/greed/creed/orientation). Everyone took that one soundly on the chin, and not a word since. Why is the media not discussing how to fix that problem? Media wants to stir up prejudice and breed confusion. It makes bigger headlines. Lets stop talking race and focus everso slightly on jobs, economy, (personal, business, national, anything.) and maybe even a littl on making chips, tricks and skills that do directly relate to the business we all make our lively hood at. Stop being so small. Sheep.

  9. John Craychee

    Noah Graff,
    You say “somehow I don’t think so” in regard to the question of whether Martin would have gotten a fair trial if he were in Zimmerman’s place. Well, why don’t you think so? Could it be your liberal bias telling you that the majority of Americans, particularly white Americans, are racist? If that’s what you think then why don’t you say it. If you have some other reason for your doubts about a fair trial for a black Zimmerman then let’s hear it. Because for my part I think you’re dead wrong—my answer to question is yes—absolutely he would get a fair trial and the result would be the same. Racism is wrong and just plain evil and there are certainly plenty of racists around. However, I have spent my entire life in mixed populations and based on that experience I believe that the vast majority of Americans are fair-minded, not racist. I believe they wouldn’t dream of deliberately convicting a black Zimmerman in the face of overwhelming odds that he was innocent, which is the situation that existed in the Zimmerman trial.

    Your “somehow I don’t think so” statement implies that most Americans are too racist to give a black man a fair trial. It’s a favorite accusation made by liberals, it’s wrong, and I’m sick of hearing it. So let’s hear it. Why don’t you think a black Zimmerman would have gotten a fair trial.

    That brings me to another question—you state that Jeff’s post “wasn’t accurate” but you don’t give tell us what “wasn’t accurate”. I assume you’re referring to his description of the Zimmerman/Martin confrontation. Here’s what Jeff said: “Trayvon Martin was not murdered Lloyd. He attacked another individual and was on top of Zimmerman beating him and was shot in the process. Was Zimmerman stupid for his part in the situation? Yes he was but so was Trayvon who could have out run Zimmerman without trying but instead hide and waited for him.”. Tell us what is inaccurate in this. If you followed the trial and listened to the eyewitness testimony and the evidence, you would know that Jeff’s description is accurate. Of course if all you do is follow the mainstream media’s coverage, with their repeated attempts to turn this into a racially motivated hate crime (there is not a shred of evidence that it was), you will have a different opinion. Most people I speak with are amazingly ill-informed about the trial—because of the media’s biased reporting.
    So tell us Noah—what did Jeff get wrong?

    1. Noah

      I’m not saying I agree or disagree with the verdict of the case. I am answering the question: “Have we changed?” We have improved but we are still a racist bunch. Us and the rest of the world.

      Jeff got wrong what JERRY LEVINE wrote.

      1. The post was written by JERRY LEVINE not Lloyd Graff.

      2. Jerry never claimed in his column that Zimmerman was a murderer. He said was acquitted. Jeff appears to be accusing Jerry of claiming that was a murderer.

      Enough said.

  10. Jim Goerges

    I believe you’re wrong. Have you ever done jury duty? Have you ever sat in a court case? Have you ever deliberated in a hung jury? Do you understand what a republic is? The comments the president made undermine our justice system and the great American’s that participate in the system, his comments were and still are HORRIBLE.

    I believe the problem in racism is that everyone is living in the past. Everyone is skeptical of change and causes them to look backwards at certain situations and not forwards so change can happen. As far as what our president said and what you are saying is proof that YOU won’t let it go, the PRESIDENT won’t let it go! It is kinda ironic don’t you think that the campaigns were “Hope and Change, and “Forward”, and when it comes to race, your all looking backwards, don’t you think that is a bit hippocritical?

    OK, point in case, tell me your thoughts on the OJ SIMPSON case. Was justice served? Funny how we don’t bring that up! OH, you will say, that’s different, well it certainly wasn’t for the victim and the victim’s family. But funny how we don’t care, oh, that’s because …….! Please feel free to fill in the blank! So really Noah, what is your agenda?

  11. Dick Crosby

    Since the LBJ’s 60’s generation got us going with over the top civil rights legislation, our governments , both Democrat and Republican, have, for the most part, administered and legislated the “cause”, to the point where the pendulum has now swung so far to the left, the Negro minority has concluded that they are now automatically entitled to the gains that have been handed to them. The liberal media, and the left leaning educational system this country has engendered, is, for the most part, to blame. It’s no surprise that there’s now a white backlash toward the black community. Call it racism. I call it cause and effect. I suppose it’s too much to hope the educators could go back to teaching ‘real’ American history, and how this country came to be different, because the citizenry was individually responsible for their success or failure. But then, you can’t teach what you don’t know. The public school teachers, for the most part, certainly can’t teach conservative principles, when they’ve been spoon fed the liberal slant for so many years. How about a Mike Huckabee / Ben Carson ticket in 2016?
    God willing, maybe the next congresses and legislatures can swing it back so we can truly start to get along with each other as a national community


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