In focus groups exploring a number of issues from a racial perspective, blacks and whites shared these thoughts.



 



Regarding race relations:



Black: “… when you start making caricatures like monkeys out of the president’s picture, when you start doing that, then it becomes a whole different thing other than elephants and donkeys.”



Black: “And to me one of the worst diseases we’ve had, the worst disease we’ve had in the United States is racism. … And it’s dangerous and detrimental to the human being, to hold onto that type of hate inside of you. That is a cancer. And how do you convince others, like why don’t you get rid of that? And the way we can do it is to have honest dialogue.”



White: “Are [race relations] perfect? I don’t think so. I’m not saying racism doesn’t exist, I’m not saying that bad things don’t happen because of racism. But I think racial relations as a whole are in this country today are better than they’ve been in the entire history of this country.”



White: “It’s reversed. Now, I’m not running for political office, so I can say this. And that is that once a year they have — they call in all the black basketball players to play in tournaments in downtown Cleveland and there’s no whites. God forbid you had that tournament and you had all whites and no blacks. They would close the place down. That’s reverse, that’s definitely reverse.”



 



Regarding community responsibility for crime:



Black: “… we have to as black people … we have got to take our responsibility, too. You know, we see these crimes, we won’t speak up, we won’t tell.”



Black: “… the problem that these kids have in our community, the reason why it’s easy for them to just take a life, is because they don’t have an understanding of who they are.”



Black: “… I was a child watching drugs come into my neighborhood and it was not always black people bringing them in.”



Black: “There’s an angry spirit [in the community] because, like [he] said, there’s no money, they’re stressed out. You mentioned babies raising babies. You’ve got a 16, 15-year-old girl with a baby and she’s out to here with the second one, she’s pushing a stroller and the 3-year-old is walking along and does something and the next thing out of her mouth is she’s cussing the kid out. Now, how can a child, culturally that’s our fault. That’s nobody’s fault but ours.”



White: “I’m in the hood a lot. … Three, four guys walk together, they look and act mean because that’s the way that everybody else is doing it. They don’t want to be victims in their own neighborhood.”



 



On gun sales surging immediately after Barack Obama’s 2008 election:



Black: “It was that there would be some black insurrection because they felt empowered by having an African-American president. So [whites] all felt now we’ve got to protect ourselves from this black man and all those who believe in this black man. And that was triggered numerically. Factually, I don’t have the numbers, but the increase in gun sales skyrocketed.”



White: “The perception was that Obama was going to take away our guns, was going to take away the right to bear arms and defeat the Second Amendment. … Obviously it wasn’t true, but, yeah, that was the perception.”



 



On communications:



Black: “I will have white people come up to me after class and say ‘You speak really well.’ Excuse me, I’ve just got to say this: ‘What the hell did you think I would sound like?’?”



Black: “I’ve had so many white people say to me, you speak so well. I had a manager, my own manager, say you’re always using all those big words.”



 



Reason for guns:



Black: “That’s why I have a gun, because I’m afraid of crime. So anybody has a gun because they’re afraid, they want to protect themselves. Now my bigger question is, who is the menace for you? Who are you afraid of?”



White: “I got my first handgun for protection. … There’s different areas of town that I had to go into, mainly the hood. …I’d leave the office at night. Had a couple run-ins.” He carried a concealed weapon when it wasn’t legal. “I’d rather get the police to holler at me or do something to me rather than laying on the ground in a pool of blood.”



 



When do you carry a gun?



Black: “When I’m going into parts of the community that I feel fear as a woman. As a woman, that’s why. Because I go into some areas that are perhaps not friendly towards a woman.”



White: “Only when I know I’m going to go into areas that are really depressed.”



White: “I guess how I was raised was to bring a gun into a situation makes a gun an option. If you didn’t have the option, how would you get out of the situation?”



 



Of violence on television and video games:



Black youth: “I personally think that video games and violence have no correlation because I am an avid gamer. I play video games all the time. I have never felt the need to buy a gun and go out and shoot people. I think it has to do with a person’s personality …”



White: “Today, the cartoons are killing. They’ve got these magnificent make-up machine guns and stuff. I turned it on the other day and went, ‘My God.’ And the kids are watching this.”



 



On the February shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla.



Black mother whose son was killed in Akron: “There’s a lot of Trayvon Martins in this world that have gotten gunned down in black-on-black crime. It’s a serious issue, but we as a community … there’s no support.”



Black: “As a mother, I was just sickened because I kept feeling like that could have been my boy. And just because the kid’s got a hoodie on, doesn’t make him a criminal. Kids wear hoodies because it’s a cheap form of clothing.”



Black: “But Trayvon Martin, I just want to say for me brought out a lot of rage. It just brought back so many memories … of injustice and the police and the things that have happened.”



Black: “It motivated a lot of people. It motivated the mothers and the daddies and the kids. It raised awareness for the black kids to understand, first of all, how fragile their lives are in a certain situation. When a 17-year-old with one hand on a cell phone and Arizona iced tea and a bag of Skittles in the other hand, I’m just trying to see that as this major threat. I’m just struggling with that.”



White: “We’re talking a black person. I don’t mean to say of course, but we’re talking about a black person and all the stir came and all the big shots came into play and they were able to force [the lack of an arrest] to be reversed. Now, that in itself is a crime.”



White: “There’s been so much play in the media. The producer for I believe it was ABC was fired for editing the — was it the 911 call? Leaving out things, so that — to [an] earlier point, to make the situation seem more extreme than really it was.”



White: “The ‘stand-your-ground’ law. They determined he complied, which as I understand it, that’s the standard of proof right there. Once the police officers made that determination, he complied with the law, he was a law-abiding citizen, let him go. It’s unfortunate that Trayvon Martin is dead.”



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