COMMENTARY | Early Sunday morning, Shaimi Alawadi, an Iraqi mother living in San Diego, passed away after injuries sustained from a vicious attack upon her in her home. She was found with a note next to her that read “go back to your country.” On the other side of the United States in Philadelphia, thousands of people donned hoodies and carried packs of Skittles in The Million Hoodie March, a protest against the alleged murder of Trayvon Martin, an African-American teen killed by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood-watch captain in Florida. Zimmerman claims the shooting was in self-defense.
The two killings have once again raised questions about “post-racial America”: Namely, is there such a thing? The term was popularized in the American lexicon after the election of President Barack Obama in 2008, signaling what many people thought was the final threshold of acceptance for people of color in this country. Sociologists were consistently suspicious of the theory, but with two violent killings so close to each other, both seemingly motivated by race, we can safely say that this country is far from post-racial. For Shaimi Alawadi and Trayvon Martin and everyone touched by their deaths, things seem worse now than ever.
I’m resisting the urge to play the blame game, but it seems the increasingly divisive rhetoric of the GOP may be contributing to the social climate in which tragedies like this occur. Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have both made comments in which they paint African-Americans as welfare hounds and enemies to economic progress. Who could forget Herman Cain suggesting that he’d make Muslim people swear an oath of allegiance to the United States before allowing them to serve on his cabinet? Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann went back and forth for weeks over how big a Super Fence bordering Mexico would need to be to keep illegal immigrants out.
I found it odd that Gingrich called President Obama’s response to the Trayvon Martin tragedy “divisive,” because the real source of division in this country is coming from Gingrich’s side of the aisle. Their need to find a scapegoat for the country’s problems has lead to people of color being painted as the Other.
This is an uncertain time in our country, and many of us are understandably frightened about the future of the nation. When our politicians try and direct that fear toward people of color, this is the expected result: a teenage boy and a mother of five, both dead.