Sunday, August 02, 2009

Black Anger Should Be Everybody's Anger

In a NY Times column entitled "Anger Has Its Place," Bob Herbert connects the Henry Louis Gates case to the larger police treatment of African-Americans and Hispanics. The Gates case is only a particularly prominent example of the arbitrary police stops, arrests and disproportionate imprisonment that African-Americans face in cities like New York, Boston, and Cambridge, Mass.

Not former bastions of segregation like Montgomery, Alabama, or Jackson, Mississippi, or Breau Bridge, Louisiana--New York and Boston.
New York City cops make upwards of a half-million stops of private citizens each year, questioning and frequently frisking these men, women and children. The overwhelming majority of those stopped are black or Latino, and the overwhelming majority are innocent of any wrongdoing. A true “teachable moment” would focus a spotlight on such outrages and the urgent need to stop them.

I wrote a number of columns about the arrests of more than 30 black and Hispanic youngsters — male and female — who were doing nothing more than walking peacefully down a quiet street in Brooklyn in broad daylight in the spring of 2007. The kids had to hire lawyers and fight the case for nearly two frustrating years before the charges were dropped and a settlement for their outlandish arrests worked out.
Herbert emphasizes that the only check on the outrages involved in the police treatment of minorities is the anger of minority groups.
Most whites do not want to hear about racial problems, and President Obama would rather walk through fire than spend his time dealing with them. We’re never going to have a serious national conversation about race. So that leaves it up to ordinary black Americans to rant and to rave, to demonstrate and to lobby, to march and confront and to sue and generally do whatever is necessary to stop a continuing and deeply racist criminal justice outrage.
That's unfortunately true, but black anger should really be everybody's anger.


Todd Mayo said...

On March 8, 1965, African-Americans, planning to march in protest of the denial of their right to vote were attacked by local police as ordered by Governor George Wallace and carried out by Sheriff Bull Connor. The carnage was seen on television. American citizens were appalled as was President Lyndon Baines Johnson. On March 15, 1965, President Johnson introduced the Voting Rights Act of 1965. For a little while at that time in the United States of America, “black anger was everyone’s anger.” Speaking for an outraged nation President Johnson said the following in his address to a joint session of Congress and to the American people, “…even if we pass this bill the battle will not be over. What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and state of America. It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life. Their cause must be our cause too. Because it's not just Negroes, but really it's all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome. As a man whose roots go deeply into Southern soil, I know how agonizing racial feelings are. I know how difficult it is to reshape the attitudes and the structure of our society.”
A southern President. A great President. In my view, the greatest President of the 20th century had articulated for the entire nation the personal anger and outrage he felt as well as the outrage that many ordinary Americans felt after seeing those horrific scenes live on television.
It was true then, it is true now. “Their cause must be our cause too.” Personally, I am angry that we’ve come no further on healing the racial divide. I find myself especially angry when a smug, arrogant, right-wing attention-hog like Glenn Beck calls President Obama a racist. If anything, the President is too silent on race.

Todd Mayo said...

What really burns me up are the people who want to celebrate the “defeat of racism” just because an African-American is President of The United States. It’s a step forward but that’s about it. Of a hundred U.S. Senators one is black. And that's Roland Burris whose career was DOA if for no other reason than the fact that he was appointed by Rod Blagojevich. There are TWO black Governors, one in NY and one in Massachusetts and Governor Pattersen in NY got the job default because of Governor Spitzer’s pre-occupation with his hooker. This country is nowhere near willing to elect black leaders on a regular basis. That’s a point of anger for me.
Here are some other points of anger for me:
1. Blacks have double the unemployment rate of whites and have for over forty years.
2. The government has been underwhelming beyond belief in it’s response to AIDS among African-Americans.
3. Racial Profiling. All across this country we who will pay attention hear the stories of young African-American men and women being ‘mistakenly shot’ or ‘wrongfully killed’. ‘Wrongfully killed?’ What the hell is that? White cop shoots black person, says, “woops, my bad”, and it’s over? This is not justice and that makes me angry!

Todd Mayo said...

There is so much one could mention. Abysmally low funding for public schools in black neighborhoods. Or the Supreme Court eviscerating Brown versus the Board of Education. There’s the ignorant cracker, U.S. Representative Lynn Westmoreland from Georgia who during the Presidential campaign, referred to Barack Obama as “uppity”. There’s the most recent high-profile example of racial profiling, the arrest of the Professor at Harvard, “Skip” Gates in his home even after he provided proof that it IS his home. I agreed with President Obama’s initial response when asked about the incident. The police, especially Officer Crowley, did behave “stupidly”. It was pure naked profiling as the President accurately suggested. The backlash that the President’s initial comments drew from right-wing demagogues and which the White House has been attempting to defuse are proof positive that despite the step forward we have made on racial relations as attested by the President’s election, the fact is we are not even close to a post-racial society. So, the President, Crowley, and Officer Gates met at the White House where Gates and Crowley apologized to each other and threw back some beer with the President. Nice. Cozy. Irrelevant. It’s worth about as much as if the bus driver in Montgomery had apologized to Rosa Parks, and Ms. Parks had apologized for refusing to obey his order to go to the back of the bus. That would have satisfied the personal interaction but the buses would have remained segregated. The policies are in need of either enforcement or change. That means fully funding the existing programs so that the laws can be enforced.

Todd Mayo said...

As a nation, The United States is laden with the heavy burden of past sins for which we have not yet atoned. Insidious institutional racism is pervasive and requires far more work than that which this nation has ever been willing to commit itself.
Not long ago, Attorney General Holder stated that this is a “nation of cowards” when it comes to discussing race. A bold statement but so very true.
When I put it all together and consider the situation IT MAKES ME VERY SAD AND VERY VERY ANGRY!!