Sunday, July 26, 2009

Let's Talk About Race, Baby! Part 2

Continued from Part 1 (

If anyone wants to see how truly polarizing the issue of race is in this country, one needn’t venture any further than the Internet. Brimming with vitriol and diatribes about how whites are unrepentantly racist “devils,” and how blacks should “get over the past,” the ‘net is an excellent barometer for measuring the depth of discontent which lies below the surface of the thin veneer of social calm we perceive, especially in light of the election of the nation’s first African-American president. Indeed, I have seen several Internet postings with regards to the Henry Louis Gates arrest that suggested that African-Americans “have their black president now…time to move on.”
Such remarks reveal the inability (or undesirability) to understand in any appreciable way the experience of being a racial minority in America from a historical perspective. And what’s truly sad is that such individuals will be the first to tell you that “some of their best friends are fill-in-the-blanks.” Part of this mindset is due to the attitude that some racial groups, blacks in particular, are being placated in order to prevent inflaming our over-sensitive natures in regards to perceiving any slight as having racial under-or overtones.
For blacks, who seem to often exhibit the highest numbers of many socioeconomic ills, we fail to understand that whites and others see us as not doing our part to create the lives for ourselves that they and others have succeeded is doing for themselves. The “I-did-it, why-can’t-you-do-it” mentality is how we are viewed and judged. And it only roots this perception in the white psyche further when high-profile figures such as comedian Bill Cosby and black conservatives point out that we indeed are the masters of our fates, and captains of our souls, to paraphrase the fine line from the poem, Invictus.
Even when noticeable numbers of individuals in each group prove these competing perceptions can be somewhat valid, their numbers are underplayed; guilty whites will often act indignant when confronted by the reality of their insensitivities, and blacks in denial will tell you that the social pathologies such as exceedingly high teen pregnancy, crime, drug use, and dropout rates that are a way of life for many in inner-city neighborhoods represent “only a few of us.” We simply cannot put ourselves in the mindsets of how and why we view each other.
It doesn’t help the underlying issue of race relations when others take further advantage to help polarize sides. Conservative Asian-American commentator, Michelle Malkin wasted little time in adding fuel to the fire of the Gates incident by castigating the “Anti-police bias of the Liberal Left.” With respect to Ms. Malkin’s position, her dividing of the incident along politically and ideologically dogmatic lines is every bit as divisive and unethical as the “race baiting” which she accuses others of doing with regards to the incident. And doing so ignores an entire history of police abuse in black and minority neighborhoods. It’s partially why the militant Black Panthers were formed in the mid- to late 1960s….to combat not the perception, but the reality of police brutality which was at one time rampant in the black communities of major urban areas.
Sadly but understandably so, what happened to Amadou Diallo, Abner Louima, Oscar Grant, and Rodney King strikes a resonate chord in many black males like myself. And to reduce vocalizing rational fears that permeate throughout black and minority neighborhoods to gutter-level labels like race-bating smacks of not only ignorance, but of insensitivity to the perspective of others, no matter how valid. But in the days since the Gates incident went on to become a national media obsession, homemade signs have popped up in front of Gates’ Cambridge residence, reinforcing the notion that Gates is a “race-baiter,” how he should be “ashamed,” and the like. Clearly, history has given blacks and whites a different view of not only race relations, but of their civil liberties in regards to the law and to the police; not many black and minority citizens would have the courage to create and place demeaning signs in yards of well-to-do or affluent neighborhoods for fear of arrest.

Was Professor Henry Louis Gates--on his own property surrounded by several police officers (including Sgt. Jim Crowley, the arresting officer)--any more belligerent or "disorderly" than this overly-irate driver, on a public highway, with a single officer who couldn't have been aware of the driver's intent? Could a black or minority driver had gotten away with this behavior without having been pepper-sprayed, tasered, or arrested? Does the officer represent professional or exemplary behavior (is this what it means for an officer to be "thick-skinned?")

To Be Concluded...


  1. SO now what? Where do we go from here after an intense week of yet another racial dustup and fire storm? We have the usual blind spot posturing of Police Unions always speaking up to defend and support their brethren but never out front with constructive criticism of their members when they commit crimes against innocent citizens both white and non-white.

    We have usual passive posturing from both white and black politicians who lack the courage to confront the realties and truth about the racism inherent in our criminal justice system. We now even have the tragic spectacle of our president and even professor gates retreating when the pressures of being an ordinary Black male are visited upon their homes and professions.

    Into this impotent void I offer up to those who unlike Gates and Obama have the ability to run for cover a solution and a resource to engage when they are confronted by the raw and real life realities of being a Black male in our nation confronted with racial profiling by those in our law enforcement system. I recommend we seek the rights, privileges of our United States Constitution which even provides for those under attack by activities of those under the color of law the right to SELF DEFENSE.

    I know it is an option I will have no problem reaching for..