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Web letter: Nation’s racial problems take constant vigilance

When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, claiming that we live in a “post racial” society, they pointed to the election of Barack Obama as proof. Conservative pundits asked of us: What could possibly be left to do, in this brave new world of racial harmony?

Well, in 2013 alone, 81 one laws in 31 states have been introduced to suppress the ability of people to vote. Since the court ruling on June 25, a dozen Southern states have moved forward again, on measures that would have been blocked by the act.

Here in Northeast Indiana, a small community festival chose to include a Confederate symbol, offensive to African Americans, in its promotional material of the summer event.

Now, in probably the most astonishing verdict to be handed down since the acquittals in the famous murder trials of the civil rights era, a grown man in Sanford, Fla., has been set free after gunning down a black teenager. This man with an attitude and a concealed weapon stalked and confronted a teenager, who had committed no crime, other than being a young black male alone on a quiet residential street. The teenager defended himself with his fists, so the man shot him dead.

Had Travon Martin known that the assailant stalking him had a firearm, he would have fled at breakneck speed – just as you or I would.

So, in answer to the pundit’s question: As a white man living in today’s America, I would ask for a country in which an angry man cannot shoot and kill a black child, who is just walking home from the store, minding his own business. I would ask for a criminal justice system that understands that liberty and justice for all includes frightened African American parents, who now fear for the safety of their children, alone at night on a residential street. And I would ask that we understand that freedom of all kinds, including freedom from racial prejudice, requires eternal vigilance.