White People: So Many Refuse to Give Up Racism

Gerald Ensley, Tallahassee Democrat, October 17, 2007

White people wear me out, sometimes. .

Yeah, I’m a white person. That’s why I hate it when some white people poison the well of race relations.

A jury of six white people in Panama City acquitted all eight people charged in the boot camp death of Martin Lee Anderson. It took them a scant 90 minutes to find nothing wrong in the beating death of a 14-year-old boy. They couldn’t have deliberated too hard.

Yeah, I know the guards didn’t do anything they hadn’t done to other kids. Yeah, I know the state didn’t present its case well. Yeah, I know a jury can’t base its decisions on the race of the victims or the accused. Yeah, I know jury members didn’t want to send any of their neighbors to jail for 30 years on aggravated manslaughter.

But a boy died in the care of those eight people. Somebody did something wrong—whether it was grown men punching a slight-built boy until he was unconscious or a nurse refusing to stop them when the boy had trouble breathing. When people do something wrong, they’re supposed to suffer consequences.

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White people wear me out, sometimes.

At least, the jury had an excuse: It was bound by the specifics of the law. If the state didn’t prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, then the state didn’t prove its case.

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After the verdict, a couple of hundred mostly black students took to the streets of Tallahassee to protest. Protesting injustice, whether real or perceived, is an American tradition. Marching is a noble protest that beats the heck out of violence and looting.

But many of the hundreds of white people who registered comments on our Web site didn’t see it that way. They verbally lashed the marchers.

“The verdict is in. Get over it,” screamed one e-mail on Friday. The verdict was an hour old. Surely, it takes longer to “get over it.”

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“The newspaper never ran the pictures (of Anderson) in his dreadlocks, which showed he was a thug,” said an e-mail. So all those athletes and musicians with dreadlocks are thugs?

White people wear me out, sometimes.

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It’s not about race, the white critics insist. After all, two of the boot camp guards were black. It’s not the killing that’s racist. It’s the failure to hold somebody accountable that smells of racism.

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Obviously, I’m not blaming all white people for the reactions of some white people. Since Friday, I’ve heard dozens of white people bemoan the Martin Lee Anderson verdict. They remain as confused and heartsick as any black person that a defenseless 14-year-old boy can be killed without consequences. They understand the anger of black people and worry the verdict will further strain race relations.

But I am blaming the seemingly endless hordes of white people who refuse to give up their racism. The ones who write asinine things like “Read the Bible. Blacks will never be equal to whites.” The ones who criticize newspapers for “running too many stories about blacks.” The ones who think a single O.J. Simpson acquittal makes up for the hundreds of Martin Lee Anderson and Jena, La., cases.

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And they just wear me out.

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