Jul 25, 2013 - Issue 526

BlackCommentator.com Cover Story: Changing What's in the Hearts of the George Zimmermans of This World By Greg King, BC Guest Commentator

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Trayvon Martin was murdered and George Zimmerman walked free. It’s just the latest example of a country rife with racism. So many whites, when they look at a person of color, don’t see a human being there. They see a nightmare. Going through their minds are all sorts of ludicrous, stereotypical images that somehow must be eradicated. When they slaughter the person in front of them, like Zimmerman did with Martin, they believe they are stifling those nightmares. The only real way to end the nightmares is to live among people of color and interact with them every day. Whites who now see fearful phantasms will then begin to see human beings, as kind, thoughtful and loving as they are, or maybe more so.

Hegel, in his Phenomenology of the Spirit, has the Master-Slave dichotomy. The Master and the Slave, when they first regard each other, see the “Other.” As we know, an “Other” is not like us, is somehow not quite human. But as they gaze furtherinto one another’s eyes, they see a reflection of themselves. They see an equal and recognize the other person as fully a human being.

That’s what it takes. It takes recognition, leading to familiarity. For that, we need integrated communities, integrated schools, integrated daily lives, in our neighborhoods and in our workplaces. Those who would perpetuate racism and injustice, who would keep the way clear for future Trayvon Martins to be murdered in cold blood, know that. That’s why they’re trying so hard to prevent it. Where it exists, they are trying to roll it back.

One of my Dad’s favorite images was of Canute the Dane ordering the tide to roll back. It didn’t, of course, except temporarily, to gather strength for the next surge. That’s what we must do. We must gather our forces and then roll on. “Roll on over, or we’ll roll on over you - .”

We must open our hearts to the “other” and realize she is not really an “Other,” but rather a reflection of ourselves. If we want respect and dignity accorded us, we must accord the same to our reflection, our fellow human being.

One reason Hawaii became such a great place to live is that people from everywhere were thrown together into the sugarcane plantations and the pineapple fields and had to learn to work and live together in order to survive. Proximity led to passion and some progeny. Yes, stereotypes and prejudices had to be overcome. Everybody came with some baggage. But they threw away that baggage or shared it and together found out it wasn’t as useful as it might have been before. These people of many nations and colors joined together and changed Hawaii forever for the better. Yes, there remain many problems, economic injustice among the worst of them. But people who have learned to work together can continue doing that and solve any problems which they recognize as such.

That’s why we in the other 49 states, we in the rest of the world, must defeat attempts to keep us or push us farther apart. We must afford recognition to one another and reject the sowing of divisions. We must learn from Dr. King and from Nelson Mandela. We must change what’s in the hearts of the George Zimmermans of this world. Then maybe the Trayvon Martins can walk the rest of the way home and enjoy their Skittles.

BlackCommentator.com Guest Commentator Greg King is a veteran labor activist in Boston. Click here to contact Mr. King. 

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