Allow me to lay the foundation. I’m an adherent to the politics (and thinking) of pragmatism. This is to say that I cannot abide by dogmatic- or emotional-based thinking. I shun it. It’s as much as abhorrence to me as stupidity and emotionally-based thinking. As such, I believe that public—and in most cases, individual—policy should be made based on what’s in the general interests of those involved, and not based on some narrow ideology…whether liberal, conservative, libertarian, religious, socialist, or whatever (with the acknowledgement that on occasion, a policy may originate from and/or be a platform of one of these traditions of thinking). I extend the following examples:
-The taking of a human life is wrong, whether its an individual decision, such as in the case of abortion, or by the state-sanctioned taking of a life in the case of the death penalty (neither of which addresses the personal or societal issues they stem from).
-Gun ownership should not be restricted among qualified and reasonable individuals (i.e., without criminal/psychological records or unsavory intentions). Personally I wouldn't feel safe living in a house without a gun to defend myself. Simply put, the police cannot be everywhere, nor can they always prevent crime.
-Government cannot solve every problem. And neither can the Free Market.
-There is no Constitutional provision which says that America must be a Capitalist/Free Market society...that's based solely on tradition.
-O.J. did it (Mark Fuhrman's racism not withstanding).
-Religion has no place in public policy (although there may some influence based on the level of tradition it has on a particular policy).
-Our government spends too much. So too do individuals; neither seems to have a sense of what it means to work within a budget, or save for a rainy day.
-People need affordable health care, not some ideological preservation of “American values." And simply put, 230 plus years of medical services being another commodity of the market economy, and an exploding amount of health care spending as a percentage as a part of our Gross Domestic Product proves that the Free Market is not wholly up to the task.
-Based on reason and a passing knowledge of history, there is no way that anyone—outside of an emotional argument—could have concluded that the Founding Fathers and Framers of the Constitution, in their wildest dreams, have imagined or even anticipated the reality that two adults of the same sex would want to ever get married, thus negating a “Constitutional Right” for them to do so (this is not to say that gay people don’t merit the same legal rights and/or protections against discrimination and persecution that all other Americans have, because they do).
I felt it necessary to establish the thinking behind this post. It is not about beliefs, emotions, or ideology, neither yours or mine. Policy should be based on what people need, not some ideological dogma...not reason, not passions. Setting the parameters is a way of heading off the accusations that I know are bound to come when one reads this; now you know that accusations of "Conservative," Liberal," "Fascist," "racist," or whatever are not going to fly. And now my rant.
I am an African-American.
And race is still an issue in America.
Given scope of issues in the news recently, once again I feel compelled to bring a little objective sanity into an otherwise contentious discourse (or lack thereof).
Although African-Americans have a right to be angry over last month’s shooting death of 16-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, every American should not only be just as angry but in the mood to engage in deep introspection. This includes African-Americans.
For African-Americans, such outrage should be a daily occurrence. Throughout many urban areas, we see or read about killings of children every bit as tragic Trayvon’s, almost on a daily basis. Maybe if Americans were to exhibit as much outrage over these murders, maybe we could make an impact. But sadly, most Americans—especially African-Americans—have adopted a level of fatalism with regard to life in the ‘hood. Many of us have come to see the senseless death of children as part of our daily existence.
Yes, there are instances of organized protests and candlelight vigils in these areas whenever there is a particularly brutal or senseless murder of an innocent occurs, but in general all such murders are senseless. If traditionally recognized “black leaders” such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson were as motivated to travel around the country and address the deaths of young black children who are victimized by similar violence almost daily as they are at appearing at higher-profile murders, they would soon have to be hospitalized for exhaustion. And the lack of even acknowledgment from black conservatives speaks for itself; it gives the appearance that it’s not even a concern for them.
As a matter of priorities, black leaders—both locally- and nationally-recognized leaders—should be as quick to organize and shame those criminal elements in black communities who would engage in the same level of unreasonable behavior as George Zimmerman.
Yes, there is an acknowledgement that revealing the identities of perpetrators of such violence on black children may result in violent reprisals against would-be responsible individuals, the “don’t snitch” mentality which feeds this insanity needs to be eradicated See: "Stop (Not) Snitching! Part 1" and "Stop (Not) Snitching! Part 2").
Black parents need to be more responsible and not validate such counter-productive thinking. They need to be even more of an influence in the lives of their children than their children’ friends.
Black mothers and relatives need to treat their hearts like the enemy. If black-on-black murder is to stop, blood relationships can no longer be allowed to influence blood allegiances. If these individuals know that their relatives are responsible for the murders of young black children, they should be not only obligated but pressured to turn them into the authorities. Such behavior needs to be shamed like the community offense and threat that it is.
Black churches, and in particular black clergy need to do more than, in the words of the late great James Brown, “talking loud and saying nothing.”
More professional police officers are needed in communities where getting to know the people who reside there is more of a tactic than profiling those who live there. Working relationships with organized groups are needed.
If you want a more radical solution, I would propose that responsible black people arm themselves and start patrolling the streets in groups, and enforcing order. The Black Panthers did it in the 1960s and early 70s. Perhaps the “New Black Panthers” would be more constructive in redirecting their anger into the black community and threaten those who would disrupt the lives of law-abiding black citizens instead of putting a monetary bounty on the head of Trayvon Martin’s killer, or shouting to the rooftops how they “hate Whitey!” (See: "New Black Panther Leader Arrested as Group Sets Bounty in Florida Shooting"). Maybe if African-Americans were just as willing to patrol their communities with the same fervor of George Zimmerman, then maybe Trayvon Martin’s murder could be placed within the context of an abhorrent single instance instead of another senseless taking of a young black life. Maybe black child murders need to be the ones living in fear for a change...
No, soul-searching is not just for blacks. White American thinking with regard to race is something of mystery, not just for myself, but for most blacks.
But before I make my points, allow me to say that I like President Obama. I admire his intelligence, his cool-under-pressure-demeanor, and his desire to want the best for all Americans. Is he perfect? Of course not…and no, I don’t agree with every policy he proposes or enacts. Among the policies I have issues with was his decision to involve America militarily in what was essentially an internal matter of Libya. I don’t agree that enhanced interrogation techniques employed against suspected and confirmed terrorists should be banned or discouraged (when at war, fear is every bit an option as any other when it comes to matters of security…especially against foes who are willing to die for their cause anyway). And I don’t agree that America should have closed down prison facilities at Guantanamo Bay (enemies willing to die to inflict harm on Americans need something to fear). But I still like him. He means well.
However, a great many whites do not—or are not able to—view their opposition to (seemingly) every policy proposed or enacted by Obama, our nation’s first African-American president as being problematic, especially in regards to race relations. Indeed, some of these individuals have successfully managed to convince themselves that their opposition to policies such as health care reform is nothing more than ideological differences. And while any difference of agreement is not meant to imply that the President should be given a “pass” with regard to his policies being scrutinized, make no mistake about it; much of this opposition is just a proxy for racial-based animosity.
Without question, President Obama is the most disrespected American president since Abraham Lincoln…an ironic observation considering that many of those who opposed Lincoln’s policies did so based on their racial animus also. One would be hard-pressed to find a president in recent memory that has had his credibility assailed in the most non-traditionally disrespectful of manners—remember South Carolina’s conservative Republican Congressman Joe Wilson’s outburst, “You Lie!” from the president’s 2009 address in front of Congress (yes, there have been occasional “boos” or jeers from other Congressmen toward other presidential addresses, but nothing in the records like Wilson’s)? Then there was that famous picture of Republican Arizona’s Governor Jan Brewer pointing her finger in the face of the president of the United States. Simply put, if these individuals had tried that with most other African-Americans of lesser stations, their actions would have rated an immediate (and probably illegal) response. And then there are the thousands of unflattering caricatures of the president meant to (ostensibly) mock his policies, but in many cases, amount to attacks on Obama’s ethnic heritage, without appearing as such.
Aside from the caricatures, President Obama has had nearly every aspect of his life either challenged or impugned in ways that white presidents have rarely experienced. Despite long-ago revealed evidence proving otherwise, many people still continue to think that the president’s birth certificate is a forgery. And of course, those willing to believe such paranoid insanity don’t offer an alternative birth certificate showing his “true” birthplace (hint birthers: instead of trying to prove the president’s birth certificate is a “forgery,” try providing a birth certificate from Kenya…it would go a long ways to proving your assertions. But I won’t hold my breath waiting for you to produce one). Many Americans also still continue to believe that Obama is a Muslim partially because non-Anglo name, despite the fact that he had to distance himself shortly after taking office from the church of Chicago Pastor Jeremiah Wright…a Christian pastor!
President Obama is also the most threatened American president in memory. He's the former presidential candidate who's required the earliest Secret Service protection, and also the most. Please don't tell me this all about "ideological differences."
And sadly, the issues surround the president’s legislative Pièce de résistance, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—health care reform—has given white xenophobes a great policy issue to mask their racial animus toward Obama. We see this most often in how they accuse him of being a “socialist,” which for many is a proxy term for the “N-Word.” More so, they mask their fears and racial apprehensions behind a paranoid fear that health care reform someone is a “threat to individual liberties.” Really? In reality, when have whites in America ever had their individual liberties “threatened” on a wholesale level? On the other hand, history showcases many instances where government entities have actually—not implied—to not only threaten the lives and livelihoods of African-Americans, but done so.
Shall I cite how Southern states conspired to keep blacks from enacting their right to vote, to be represented in the South up until the early 1970s? How about the instances in American history where entire black towns were wiped off the map due to racist mobs because local government’s complicity in refusing to intervene (or because of government intervention)? The Greenwood district of Tulsa during the May 1921 race riots? The Rosewood Massacre of 1923? How about the various gun control laws that were enacted when blacks opted to (legally) pick up weapons and defend themselves against lynchings in the South and official abuse by authorities elsewhere back in the 1960s? The upshot is that whites possess a phantom fear of having their liberties threatened (that health care reform is supposed to do) in a way that has never happened to them on the same scale in which blacks have experienced them. So where does such fear and paranoia stem from? From the fact that an African-American occupies the Oval Office, and their intolerance of that fact. The health care debate is just a convenient vehicle for many whites to voice this point without having to be vocal about it in the way they would like.
Think about it this way: Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are seen as “race baiters” by many whites, who invariably (and ironically) do not see the same tactic being employed by white politicians who pander to white suburban fears. In much the same way, Republican presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum recently made subtle racial innuendoes pandering to these white fears:
"I don't want to make black people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money; I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money" (Rick Santorum at a campaign stop in Sioux City, Iowa, January 1, 2012).
“I will go to the NAACP convention, and explain to the African-American community why they should demand paychecks instead of food stamps” (Newt Gingrich at a campaign stop in New Hampshire, January 5, 2012).
These are the same white suburban paranoid fears which caused George Zimmerman to carry a weapon whereas many black neighborhood watch volunteers—who operate in far worse neighborhoods than Zimmerman’s—leading to the death of Trayvon Martin.
These are the reasons that radio and television demagogues like Rush and Glen can surreptitiously slide in a subtly but racially-insensitive remark and not be called on it; it takes something more blatant, such as calling a law school student “a slut” before people react.
Yes, both black and white America has some serious soul-searching to to. Sadly, it was needed before Trayvon Martin was killed, and it will no doubt be needed long after.