As we near the anniversary of the verdict that set free George Zimmerman -- the man who stalked, shot, and killed Trayvon Martin -- race again comes into play here in Florida.
Progressive Choice, a 501(c)4 PAC, has recently begun running ads talking about what a lot of people do not want to discuss:
I want to talk about race.
I want to talk about how our laws have had disproportionately negative results that affected our community. No one ever wants to talk about the real problems in our community, and now that these ads are calling in to question what African-Americans have complained about for quite some time, people are crying foul.
Why is it foul to put these serious issues out for discussion?
Foul is the fact that as an African-American in Florida, I run a greater risk of being killed, jailed, or harassed, simply because of the color of my skin.
Is anyone really going to argue that African-Americans dont go to jail for nonviolent crimes on a larger scale than other groups? I hope not, because then they are really not being honest.
Is anyone going to argue that Marissa Alexander, who fired a warning shot and ended up with a 20-year sentence, which State Attorney Angela Corey wants to turn into 60 years, was afforded the same right to stand her ground as George Zimmerman? I hope not, because again, they would not be being honest with themselves, or us.
What about Jordan Davis? He was killed by Michael Dunn, and yet Michael Dunn was convicted, not of killing Davis, but of attempting to kill the other three boys who survived. Does that mean if Dunn had killed the other three, leaving no witnesses, he would be walking free like George Zimmerman?
When a person can brag about being awarded a nickname such as Chain Gang Charlie, and not be called on the carpet for it because he has decided to run for office in a different party, there is a problem.
From The Orlando Sentinel:
"Crist did sponsor a bill in 1995 to bring back chain gangs in Floridas prison system, which then-House Speaker Peter Wallace, D-St. Petersburg, said at the time brought back images of slavery. The maneuver drew national media attention and earned Crist the nickname Chain-Gang Charlie, which he often bragged about during his 2006 gubernatorial primary."
Are African-Americans supposed to quietly sit by and let elected officials do and say whatever they want? Are we always supposed to be seen via our votes, but not heard concerning the injustices perpetrated against us?
Take a look at how President Obama is treated. Has any president ever been so disrespected, mainly because of his race?
I want our community to hold these people accountable for their records, their rhetoric, and the way they have treated us.
When we accept mistreatment, lies, and crumbs, thats exactly what we will get: mistreatment, lies, and crumbs.
Its past time to talk about race. Its past time to talk about the records of politicians. Its past time to hold those who are in office, and those who want to be in office, accountable.
As an African-American woman who has seen things like the recent beating of an African-American woman on a highway in California, I am glad that Progressive Choice has put the issue of race-related injustices on the doorstep of this state.
While people are calling the radio ads racially charged, and paid for by shadow organizations, as an African-American woman who is a Democrat, I say the ads arent saying anything I havent said, and havent heard said by other African-Americans.
Instead of focusing on the message, people are focusing on the messenger, because the message is too difficult for them to accept.
While Politifact said Crist wasnt the only one to implement harsher laws that affect our community, the message in the ads is based on fact.
I personally dont care who did it, or why. I do care about the fact that the message has validity and it affects my community.
If you recall, I wrote a similar article long before these ads started running: See "How Can any Minority Vote For Charlie Crist Knowing This?"
Ive also discussed the subject in "Democratic Party Leaders Taking The African-American Vote For Granted."
We need to hold elected officials accountable. We need to hear where they stand before we cast a vote, not after. Its when we wait until after, that we get the Trayvon Martins, Jordan Davises, and Marissa Alexanders here in Florida.
We need to discuss it more, and before these people get either elected or re-elected.
We need dialogue. We need debate, We need to hear from the candidates exactly why we should use our political power, and we do have political power whether some want to admit it or not, to give them what they want, when we continually get nothing.
We need money. Money for our communities, money for our schools, money for our youth programs, money for libraries, money to allow us to compete on the same scale as other communities.
We need money to put more African-Americans on the ballot, as well.
I know its painful to discuss.
Its even more painful to bury a loved one, visit a loved one in prison, or not be able to feed a loved one.
These things are directly tied to our elected officials, and they need to answer for their records, past, current, and future.
Our elected officials need to stop taking our votes for granted.
Lets make sure they do.
Leslie Wimes is a registered nurse who was working in cardiovascular intensive care until she decided to form"Women On The Move,"a South Florida-based networking group that promotes positivity in professional and personal areas. Her website of the same name and progressive but independent columns have thousands of readers not only in Florida but across the nation. This column is reprinted from the site with the author's permission.