Racism is alive and well in America
Years ago my office wall displayed the picture of two men I admired: John Steinbeck, for reasons I won’t bore you with right now, and Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK), because he was right and had the courage of his convictions.
You may discount my opinion as a white man, but I believe if MLK could come back today he would be saddened that America remains stuck in group politics instead of judging each other on our actions and content of our character.
I think MLK would be even more dismayed at how black America has squandered so much opportunity, with over 70 percent of black children born to unwed mothers, many of whom become locked into a cycle of poverty, while black men are more than seven times more likely than whites to commit murder and eight times more likely to commit burglary.
It is easy to guess MLK would be appalled that about half of black males drop out of high school, and while blacks are less than 13 percent of the population, they are 40 percent of the prison population.
You’d have to stretch the facts to the moon and back to blame this disaster on white racism, and yet some try. Maybe some day we will get past the compulsion to place everyone in competing groups and look past appearances to judge each other on our actions, MLK’s dream.
If you are black, successful and hot under the collar at my comments, please know that white America is pulling for you and ardently hopes for blacks as a whole to succeed.
But there is a long way to go, not only in accomplishment but in our perceptions of one another, as we are reminded by the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman case and the group politics that fan the flames of strife.
I don’t know the facts of the Martin-Zimmerman case well enough to conclude where fault lies and whether criminal charges are warranted, and neither do all the loudmouths who have gathered in polarized groups shouting at each other and spinning the facts to their prejudices. It is so easy to believe what we want to believe.
Leaping to the conclusion the black guy has been wronged by whitey is how Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton predictably make their living as race-hustlers. The disappointing part is how the news media treats them as serious people, and how so many blacks follow their lead.
Jackson’s specialty is shaking down corporations and other organizations, leveling racism charges that he is willing to mitigate so long as a sizable donation is made to his organization. Columnist George Will nailed it a long time ago when he observed, “No modern American farce is complete without a cameo appearance by Jesse Jackson!”
That was long before Sharpton became legitimate in the eyes of the media, when he was still trying to attract TV cameras with shouts of outrage on street corners in New York.
Somehow Sharpton gets a pass from the media from his discredited efforts, like his leading role in the case of Tawana Brawley, a 15-year-old black girl in 1987, falsely accusing six white men of sexual assault and whipping up a national frenzy.
As an agitator Sharpton is skilled, like his inciting a riot when he inserted himself in a real estate dispute, characterizing one party as a “white interloper,” which prompted one of his followers to murder the interloper and kill a number of others when he burned the building. Be sure to call Sharpton “Reverend.”
I understand these two clowns inserting themselves in the Martin-Zimmerman case to promote themselves, that’s what they do. What is unforgivable is President Obama making comments on the case that fan the flames of outrage before the investigation is complete.
You’d think he would have learned the hazards of inserting himself similarly in 2009 in the case of Henry Louis Gates, prematurely criticizing Boston police officers of racism when they were doing their job, then portraying himself as the peacemaker instead of apologizing as he should have done for being dead wrong, never mind that in his position he should have stayed completely out of it.
All of these things have at the root the presumption that the black guy has been wronged by white America, a racist presumption with a hair trigger.
If the President wanted to comment on the Martin-Zimmerman case, maybe he could have assured the American people that the FBI will investigate the New Black Panther Party’s announced $10,000 bounty on the capture of George Zimmerman, the man who shot Trayvon Martin. One wonders what they plan to do with Zimmerman once captured. Maybe they will get away with it, just as they did with voter intimidation in Pennsylvania in the 2008 election.
If the President wanted to comment on racially charged crimes, he could have mentioned Shawn Tyson, the black 17-year-old who was recently convicted of last April’s murder of James Kouzaris, 24, and James Cooper, 25, two white British students on holiday.
The two students were out for an evening of drinking when they wandered into a public housing project near the Newtown area in Sarasota, Fla. Tyson decided to rob the Brits at gunpoint, but they said they had no money, and while they pled for their lives, then 16-year-old Tyson shot and killed them.
You would think some diplomatic intercession might be called for, but the President has been too busy to respond to three letters from the parents of the dead Brits. I would bet you haven’t seen this case hammered on TV news since it doesn’t fit the preconceived mold of blacks as victims. That’s racist, by the way.
Was Trayvon Martin presumed to be trouble by a trigger-happy vigilante? I don’t know, but I do know something is missing from all the commentary I have heard from concerned black parents about “the talk” they give their kids warning them to avoid conflict, stay out of situations where someone, presumably whites, could hurt them by presuming they are not good people merely because they are black.
If I were black, I would be angry, too, to be suspected of criminal potential based on my appearance. But I hope I would be smart enough to direct my anger at the overwhelming number of young black men who commit a tidal wave of crimes, the ones who make me a target of suspicion by their egregious actions.
You can write anti-profiling policies and stomp your feet insisting that we all engage in willful blindness to ignore the obvious, but a little bit of common sense will sneak through the small cracks that still exist in the barriers of political correctness.
It would be nice if a black man could be judged on the content of his character, but so long as black men commit the preponderance of crimes, good black men will be unfairly seen as threats by those who don’t know them.
Racism will never disappear because we can’t control what lurks in each other’s heart. But maybe we could grow up enough to stop generating race-based frenzies with charges of racism where none may exist.
Maybe one day a genuine successor to MLK will step in to force the black community to take an honest look at itself, become the inspiration for all black Americans to shake off excuses, break down barriers and seize the opportunities of the American dream.
Maybe one day.
[Terry Garlock of Peachtree City occasionally contributes a column to The Citizen. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org For info on his book see www.garlock1.com.]