Where you’re from is not who you are, what you do is.
Yes, there are crappy places on earth to live, but that’s not the point. Whether some of those crappy places include Haiti and El Salvador, countries reportedly named by President Trump in an article from The Washington Post, is also not the point. Assuming that people who come from these countries are also crappy IS the problem. Colonization, corruption, unrest, and natural disasters all play a part in the quality of life within a nation. And none of those factors can be easily controlled by the average citizen. The average citizen simply wants a better life which is what immigration is all about: getting the hell out of s***holes. From the Pilgrims to the ‘poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free,’ we are descendants of people who mastered the art of spinning straw into gold and this thread is woven into the fabric of the American experience and, most importantly, American success.
Last week, news broke that Oprah Winfrey had experienced racism at the hands of an Italian store clerk while shopping in Switzerland. She simply chalked up the incident to prejudice, saying, ‘‘I’m in a store and the person doesn’t obviously know that I carry the black card and so they make an assessment based upon the way I look and who I am.” The internet was a buzz about how things like this can still happen to Black people despite a tremendous amount of wealth and mainstream success. After apologies from the store owner and the Swiss tourism board, Winfrey later stated that she regretted mentioning the incident at all. It all seemed a bit familiar. As far back in 2005, Winfrey made similar claims when she wasn’t allowed into a Hermes store after it had closed, and according to the staff, was being organized for a private event. I was surprised I couldn’t find many articles from the sales clerk’s perspective. Though the owner offered apologies, she did add that there was likely a language issue rather than malice on the part of the clerk and after reading an interview in a German newspaper with the clerk (who wished to remain anonymous), I’d have to say I agree. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that an Italian speaking English might not have accurately conveyed what she meant, but that doesn’t make her a racist. It’s also not so far-fetched to think that Oprah, with a movie to promote, offered up a tasty soundbite to get her name trending. I think it’s terrible it comes at the expense of this woman who feels she needs to hide for fear of humiliation or worse. It’s a shame that someone as learned and as well traveled as Oprah would make the assumption about this woman’s character and exploit her in national and international media.
I can’t say I’m surprised or disappointed by the verdict (which is sad). Trayvon Martin joins what seems to be an endless list of black men murdered on suspicion: Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Kimani Gray, Kendrec McDade, Ramarley Graham…
Graham’s case was an interesting one; the officer gave chase, breaking down the door to his home, following him into the bathroom, shooting him dead. The lack of search warrant and a weapon (on Graham), as well as security footage presented the opportunity to charge the officer with, at the very least, unlawful entry. Officer Haste ended up being charged with manslaughter only to have the indictment tossed out by the judge on a technicality. Prosecution of an officer is rare. Rarer still is a trial and although George Zimmerman is no police officer, the fact that this charge was brought before a judge and jury is a small victory. In the cases mentioned above, only two (Bell and Diallo) went to trial (all officers were acquitted in each case).
The only reason Trayvon Martin’s story went beyond the typical news cycle was because of the public outcry and grassroots efforts to have Zimmerman prosecuted. The next step is to galvanize support for the repeal of the various ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws in this country. The maxim that an individual has no duty to retreat from a place where he is lawfully allowed to be, encourages ‘shoot first’ logic and the inconsistent application of the law provides justification to those who have malicious intent (and no witnesses).