By the time you get to be my age you’ve experienced a fair amount of history. Among the history that has passed my way has been the social struggles of black America. I have been around since the early struggles of what is called the modern civil rights movement of the 50’s, through school desegregation and freedom marches of the 60’s, to civil unrest and urban violence of the late 60’s and early 70’s, to all the controversial cases in the past 20 years that have brought out racially motivated police brutality, racially biased justice systems, skewed racial demographics in our prison populations… well, let’s face it, having been a white person most of my life I guess I am somehow responsible for all the black racial tension and injustice in America. Well, that’s kinda how I feel at the moment.This business in Ferguson, MO and Staten Island, NY is just the latest banging away at my senses that somehow I should feel guilty for having any opinion other than that which favors the “alleged” racial victimization of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Before them was Trayvon Martin, etc. etc. etc.
Here’s some points that make me racist because I am white.
- The fact I am white says it all. I will never ever experience what it’s like being a black African-American in this country. I am also old, which means I can never identify being a young black African-American in this country, which seems to be the demographic in the urban black economic and social struggle. Given that, nothing I can say or do opinion-wise will make any difference (especially what I regurgitate in this blog). I have no credibility on black issues because I am white and tend to prefer solving problems by exploring what caused them to determine a solution, rather than just impulsively join in with the emotional rhetoric in blaming “racism” as if it were an entity unto itself, and pointing fingers (toward white people). “If we eliminate those bastard racists that apparently permeate law enforcement and our justice system then African-Americans will forever have happy and prosperous lives”. If you say so.
- Regarding the events in Ferguson and Michael Brown… silly me seems to have some impression that Micheal Brown would still be alive if he had a) not shoplifted the cigars and/or b) listened to the cop who stopped him rather than getting physical and trying to grab the cop’s gun. But it seems accepting responsibility for one’s own behavioral choices is not part of solving racial victimization in urban black culture. If young Mr. Brown had survived by listening to the cop he would likely have gotten prosecuted for shoplifting (evidence seemed to support that from the video) then a benevolent judge might have seen he had no priors and maybe given him a sentence well less than the year in prison he could have gotten for the crime. Then we would be asking ourselves how can we help young teenage black males who have been raised in economically poor neighborhoods (they used to call that an economic “ghetto”) by an economically challenged family, usually consisting of one active parent. Because this young man would likely leave jail more bitter toward his lot in life than before he went in, the stats suggest he will likely commit more crimes. It seems, from the vantage point of this entitled white man, that the social values of African-American urban culture has failed him. But it seems far easier to blame the police officer, Darren Wilson, for having some racial bigotry in “deciding” to kill Michael Brown for assaulting him. Michael Brown’s death is in fact a tragedy unto itself. But the tragedy was well in the making before the gunshot that killed him. Economically challenged black Americans seem to always need to blame someone. That’s an obvious insensitive white perspective, of course.
Regarding the event with Eric Garner… silly me seems to have some impression that Eric Garner would still be alive if he had a) not sold cigarettes illegally and/or b) listened to the cops who were instructing him what to do rather than choose to have a street debate about being hassled. BUT… after seeing the video I was also appalled with the police take-down response and thought it was rather excessive. Yet in the end we have to call it what it is… there was a point in the discussion where the cops had enough and wanted to take him in; he resisted, albeit loosely and not overly aggressive or defensive, yet the cops wrestled him to the ground and in the process Mr. Garner died because of the Daniel Pantaleo choke hold and contributed by his asthma, obesity, and heart condition. I interpreted nothing racial about the whole thing. . I think cops need to “fine tune” their technique a bit given the alleged offense and certainly the choke hold is a bit extreme. But this means that if you are stopped by a cop for any reason, do what he/she says. You can sort it all out later. Mr. Garner had this choice. Where does race enter the picture? Oh, wait.. you mean the image of four white cops taking down a black man looking like racial oppression? Uh, huh. Again, maybe we need to explore the reason behind Mr. Garner having to sell cigarettes. Was there some economic plight he was suffering that brought him to do this? No.. we don’t want to explore the root of the problem, let’s just blame police racism.
I get the feeling that all the rioting, the social unrest in Ferguson before and after the Grand Jury decision, is more about the citizens lashing out at their economic plight rather than some sort of justice for Mr. Brown’s killing. Brown’s step father’s guttural response with “Burn it all down!” after the unpopular Grand Jury decision, illustrates that very well. Officer Wilson was the icon of the moment representing economic oppression … and young Brown was the struggle to escape urban poverty. Likely the reason “they” have tended to torch and loot their own neighborhoods since the 60’s each time something like this happens; “they” want out of the economic prison. Again, white man interpretation. Silly me.
Perhaps the one thing that makes this white man question the choice of urban black-Americans (yes, I thinks it’s a choice) to remain in economic ghettos is the number of black-Americans who have indeed achieved a measure of education and success and career achievement, if not just in being as average a member of the middle class as anyone else, that I meet each and every day. I’ll acknowledge that many have likely worked very hard to overcome those racial pockets of our society, but they did overcome. An education is damn near free in this country (I mean by “free” as the opportunity for education financing is possible for anyone who makes the effort; yes, you have to pay the piper later, but the start is almost “free”), it’s just a matter of self-esteem and determination to try. Something apparently not encouraged in homes of urban black America. Just a white guy’s perspective.
Ferguson’s mayor has recently said the city will review and change their hiring practices to allow for more minority representation in the police department. . does that mean that prior to all this that the local police department was not allowing minorities into it’s ranks? Was there some hiring practice in place indicating that “we will hire no blacks into the police department”? Let me take a wild white-person stab at this… you need to have some sort of basic education, a sincere willingness to serve and protect at some risk to your own safety, and a desire to advance in a career with continued training and experience… to apply to be a cop. There’s few “minorities” (which we assume is a politically correct word that’s synonymous with meaning “black Americans”) currently represented in the Ferguson police department perhaps because there’s no one from “neighborhoods of color” (love that PC term, too) who meet the basic requirement to join? Ok.. so what is going to change to attract competent minority applicants now that were not being attracted before? More to the point, why does there need to be any change if we assume the Ferguson PD all along was an equal opportunity employer? Does this mean that somehow criteria for hiring minorities will be made easier because they are poor and less educated and come from questionable family environments? (do we remember how to spell “affirmative action”?) Wait.. here’s an idea even more basic than that. Does the black community presume that if there are more black Americans serving in the local police department that somehow this will provide some sort of advantage to serving and protecting black citizens in a measure more befitting their lifestyle and culture? Or is this more the idea of reducing the icon image of an authority white person with a gun and baton looking like an overseer trying to subjugate blacks? If I were a white resident in the city of Ferguson am I supposed to feel guilty that white cops dominate the police department? I mean, as a white person I am truly confused here.
So now you see the reasons for me being a racist because I am white… and not a white racist. Economically depressed neighborhoods of color are my fault as a white man; the high crime rates reflected in those communities are the result of young people “just being kids”; and the police patrolling those communities are just over-reacting extensions of plantation owners wanting to whip slaves into submission.
Frankly, I’ve always felt I was no more or less a racist than the average black person. Here’s a dumb-ass white guy thought… let’s hold off on all the racist stuff and try and work together to figure out a way to reduce the effects of urban poverty in our neighborhoods of color. Likely the rest will take care of itself over time. In the meantime I wish black racists would quit assuming I’m a racist because I am white.
“I can’t breathe!” While the tragic last words of Eric Garner perhaps we can walk away from this using his words to describe the economic “prison” and stifling of personal growth so prevalent in urban ghetto neighborhoods. Maybe Mr. Garner’s last words are in fact a cry for help for the community, reflecting the futility of a life of poverty and a breakdown of self-esteem. Rather than “Burn this place down!” the rallying cry should be, “I can’t breathe.” This is a human problem.. not a white person’s problem.