What’s This About Racism?
Following the rapid fire incidents in Ferguson, New York, and Cleveland, each where it appeared police used unreasonable force, local communities have acted out about discrimination. These mostly African American communities have lead the protests against what they see as a pattern of excessive police force towards African American youth. “Hands up, don’t shoot”.
President Obama spoke out this weekend calling for patience and persistence necessary to solve deeply rooted feelings of racism and bias. It will take time the President said. Hmmm.
So what exactly does it mean to be a racists?
Does one have to think that all members of a race or ethnic group are different from all members of another group?
Being prejudice is not a new phenomena to America. Protestants resented Catholics. Both groups ridiculed Mormons. And everyone agreed Jews were a problem. Anglos treated the Irish as trash. Italians were considered even lower. Chinese and more recently Vietnamese were considered un-savable. And so on.
But is that true with African Americans?
If you look in on many classrooms or out on the soccer fields, you will observe African Americans youth mixed in with non-african americans in what looks to be a natural setting. And when an African American young man or woman achieves academic success or scores a goal, everyone cheers. For at least these moments, the world is color blind.
In Ferguson, New York, and Cleveland other factors than race played important roles. Some members of police units were confronted with situations which exceeded their law and order skills. The officers who killed these African American citizens do not represent the entire police forces of their respective cities. “Some” does not equal “all”.
It is important also to note that in police action, even in the most difficult to understand situations, there are usually extenuating reasons behind police action. Even if not true in this particular situation, criminals do carry guns and people in “hoodies” do often steal. People roaming the streets at odd hours do often commit burglaries or sell drugs. And people who commit one type of crime, too often commit other types.
The well trained, competent law enforcement officer can react to situations with sufficient restrained force to distinguish the difference.
When ever the theme that the African American community needs to do more for its own, just as previous generations of Irish, Germans, Poles, Italians, etc, did, the answer comes back that these other groups were (1) not slaves, and (2) looked somewhat alike. Hmmm.
I wonder what one says about Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, or Indians (the subcontinent) who have come to America and are now successful doctors, lawyers, professors, and high tech workers? Does anyone associate these groups with hoodies, slouching pants, or big billed baseball caps?
There is most certainly work needed with law enforcement, both law writing and enforcement efforts to address racism. But it is not that simple. The African American community contains great numbers of successful people. Unfortunately it also contains more than its fair share of the poor and uneducated. Single parent, poverty stricken families just don’t lead to good outcomes.
Moving the ball forward will take patiences and persistence. But the ball won’t move very far if the spotlight is only on police law enforcement. The soul searching must include the greater African American community (reaching down to help their brothers and sisters).
We shall see.