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Racial and ethnic differences determine the relevance of a tragedy, not the scale

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By Sydney Wolfe

On Sunday, April 13, a man in Kansas City shot at five people in two different Jewish Community Centers. Three were killed. The man was quoted as shouting, “Heil Hitler,” from the back of a police cruiser. This crime has been called a hate crime against Jews. The man is believed to have been involved in white supremacist groups, and he has now been charged with premeditated first-degree murder. But do you know his name?

On Feb. 26, 2012, a man on his neighborhood watch saw a suspicious looking, hoodie-wearing young man carrying Skittles and a soda. The night ended with that young man being shot and killed. Many called this crime one of racism. Less than a week after this incident, did you know the names of these two men?

While I’m not discrediting the murder of Trayvon Martin by any stretch, I was surprised to see the varying reaction of the American public regarding these two events. Both racism and anti-Semitism are types of bigotry that have been around for many years and sadly show no sign of disappearing any time soon. Between slavery and the Holocaust, both African Americans and Jews have had their fair share of widespread tragedies.

Personally, I was a little shocked to see how quickly the public eye focused its attention on the case of Zimmerman and Martin. Only one man was killed, and despite evidence of racism, Zimmerman was declared innocent. With the recent incident in Kansas City, three people were killed, the man had a history of being a white supremacist, and there is distinct evidence that this crime was one of hate and anti-Semitism. I know that in a sense I am sort of comparing apples and oranges, as the manner of these incidences were different. But still- why the extreme variance in the public knowledge of these cases?

I think it has to do with history and demographics. 2.2 percent of Americans identify as Jewish, whereas 12 percent of Americans are African American. The Holocaust took place in Europe, while slavery in the 1800s took place in the southern United States. African Americans have been discriminated against for many years, even after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. To this day, African Americans make less money per year than their white counterparts. I think that because racism has been such a major part of our country’s history, people tend to be more touchy with the subject and react more when an incident of it occurs.

That’s not to say that people who didn’t react as powerfully to the Kansas City shooting are anti-Semetic. That would be like saying those who don’t eat M&Ms automatically hate them. Anti-Semitism just hasn’t played as big of a part in the history of the United States.

I personally reacted strongly to the Kansas City shooting because I myself am Jewish. African Americans most definitely had strong reactions to the murder of Mr. Martin. Both African Americans and Jews recognize the weight and the impact of these two crimes on each others’ communities. But I think that it’s understandable to say that these two groups reacted more strongly to the crime involving the racial or ethnic group to which they identify. And that in no way is a bad thing.

I think that the real thing to realize here is that just because something made bigger headlines doesn’t make it more tragic or important. And just because you might not identify with the victim(s) of a tragedy doesn’t mean that you are prejudiced against them. But don’t let me tell you what to think. The tragedies I discussed helped to prove a major theme in human history: we are all people. No physical or religious differences between us make us any less human.

And the Kansas City shooter’s name is Frazier Glenn Cross.

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Racial and ethnic differences determine the relevance of a tragedy, not the scale