In the midst of ugly memories, a realization that times have changed

April 13, 2012 

With the arrest of George Zimmerman, who now stands accused of second-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, maybe the nation can collectively exhale. This case has brought to the surface simmering issues many thought had long since been put to rest.

While we try to ignore the invisible elephant in the room, cases such as this bring it into sharp focus. African Americans are reminded of centuries of oppression when it was almost impossible for justice to visit any perpetrator of a crime against their community. White people, tired of being blamed for atrocities they had nothing to do with, don’t understand the visceral reaction of the black community. But they should. For example, 48 years ago outside of Athens, decorated World War II veteran Lt. Col. Lemuel Penn, was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan. Three men went on trial and were found not guilty by an all white jury. Penn’s story was common and it resonates today when justice is seemingly denied.

What African Americans need to remember is that this is 2012, not 1964, and much has changed. There is still a fight for justice, as in the case of Trayvon Martin, but justice will be done, because unlike the Penn murder, people of goodwill, white and black demand it.

-- Charles E. Richardson, for the Editorial Board

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