Friday, August 02, 2013

How Can We End Racism If Nobody Wants To?

Steve, continuing convo started on Facebook:

 uncomfortable as it is to admit it,  I had the feeling that the speeches and denands for justice for Trayvon were faux outrage. I think someone, someone without a full grasp on the circumstances, the neighborhood's background, and Florida statutes, made the decision that here was an "obvious case of a white man profiling a young black boy and shooting him without justification." (Quotes mine for emphasis.)

I think Black "leaders" picked the wrong case to get behind. Trayvon Martin was not profiled simply because he was black. There were extenuating circumstances. Looking at the case without emotion, they were understandable and acceptable extenuating circumstances.

No, Trayvon was not profiled simply as a black teenager. He was profiled because there had been a series of burglaries and break-ins in the neighborhood and nearly all the suspects were young black males. Had there not been a rash of break-ins in a "gated community" that was suffering many vacancies and homes where the owners moved out and turned them into rentals, there would have been no history of Zimmerman calling 911 so many times and he likely would have taken little notice of Trayvon. Again, Trayvon was "profiled" because he fit the descriptions of suspects from other criminal activity. That profile included young black males wandering around the complex looking for targets. One can honestly believe that, after calling 911 hundreds of times and having multiple times been given the description of the alleged burglars by victims and witnesses,  Zimmerman felt Trayvon fit that description.  Had the alleged burglars been white, it's not too hard to believe that Zimmerman would barely have given Martin a second thought. But the many suspects WERE black. And Martin WAS black. Martin WAS young. And Martin DID NOT live in the complex and Zimmerman didn't recognize him as a neighbor so, in Zimmerman's mind, this young man, who fit the description of other troublemakers, did not belong where he was. Remember, yes, it is a gated community so normally members would have a passing acquaintance with one another. Yet it was a community in flux, an almost transient community that had been developed for middle class owners who would occupy and maintain their units. Umtil the housing market tanked. Some units went into foreclosure. Others, owners moved out and rented out the units for whatever money they could get. Some owners just up and left. Some were short saled to people who otherwise would not have been able to live there.

I often got a sense Sharpton and the media were using the Martins as fodder. Like I said, it almost felt like faux outrage.  The case black leaders should be more concerned with is the up coming trial of Michael  Dunn, accused of shooting an unarmed black teenager, Jordan Davis, who was sitting in an SUV at a gas station/convenience store Dunn pulled into. the SUV had arrived at the station first, the driver out of the car pumping gas. Dunn came in after, and his girlfriend left the vehicle to enter the store.

Dunn, who theoretically would only be sitting there for a few minutes, felt the music coming from the SUV was too loud and asked the teenagers to turn it down. Most reasonable people would have just ignored the temporary situation, maybe closing their windows, maybe turning up their own music to block the other. But Dunn asked them to turn it down. The kid in the front complied, but Davis, sitting in the backseat closest to Dunn, complained. He and Dunn began arguing and swearing at each other, until Dunn, still in his car, grabbed his gun from the glove box and started shooting. The driver of the SUV, who had just finished pumping gas, hopped in the vehicle and tried to get away from the shooting. Dunn got out of his car and kept shooting. The SUV stopped in the next parking lot over, out of range.  Dunn's girlfriend, who had been buying wine in the store, got in the car. Dunn drove away. The SUV came right back to the scene and waited for the cops and ambulance. 

Dunn and his gf, in town for his kid's wedding, where they'd been drinking, went back to their motel and drank the wine they had just bought. Dunn had told her what happened. They made no calls to the police or sheriff. They heard Davis had died. The man had shot and killed an unarmed teenager and did nothing. Nothing! According to the girlfriend's later statement, they drove home the next morning ostensibly "to take care of their new dog." Dunn never reported the incident to the cops, who traced him through his plates and subsequently arrested him. He claimed Davis had a shotgun or a stick so he's claiming Stand Your Ground self-defense. There was no stick or shotgun.  Dunn is a 45 yr old white guy. Davis was a 17 yr old black kid (young man). IMO a much better case if somebody's looking for a cause, but I haven't seen anything about it in MSM. The trial is in September. Maybe they'll get interested then. 

But again, it's white on black. If they do use this case as a cause, while in neighborhoods in large cities, every weekend in some, monthly in others, tens of people are shot, many killed, a good number innocent bystanders, including children, how will they justify ignoring those crimes while focusing on one case that seems, on its face, to be a clear case  of racism. Or, it could just be a case of a somewhat inebriated guy being an asshole, and when he felt the kid was being a punk, disrespecting him, it turned into a case akin to road rage. 

Except...except Dunn claimed the four black teens were gang members and if he didn't skedaddle after firing eight rounds into their car, he might be in for a world of hurt. A reasonable man might have called the police. If he was afraid to stay at the scene, he would have driven away to a safe place. Perhaps use his GPS to find a police station or even a fire house. A reasonable man would have immediately called the police. Not gone back to enjoy a night in his hotel room with his girlfriend and a bottle of wine. 

But we'll leave that case to a Florida jury. On the face of it, one would expect a conviction on serious multiple charges, possibly including murder of some degree. How the black community will respond, before, during, and after the trial, is an unknown. Much depends on whether there is a grassroots gathering of support,  as in the Trayvon case. And whether leaders like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, black music artist and actors and athletes lend their support, both emotional and political, to the Davis family. And, of course, much depends on the Davis family.

But, meanwhile, we still have that pesky problem of crime in predominantly black neighborhoods in bigger cities like Detroit and, especially Chicago. DC crime is spreading out to Maryland and Northern Virginia suburbs. There does not seem to be a national response to these crimes. Because they are mostly black on black? Unfortunately it appears so. While the Obama administration (disclaimer: I am an Obama supporter) focuses its, and thus our collective, attention on mass shootings, it seems the administration is doing little to nothing to curb crime in places like the Obamas' hometown Chicago, or now bankrupt Detroit.  

It seems they have chosen an issue that they can squeeze the most emotion out of, gain the most yardage. Mass shootings of innocent victims. Hell, the Sandy Hook shootings in Newtown, CT seemed to have been tailor made as a  distraction for the down and dirty issues of guns on the street. At the risk of sounding callous, could one have scripted a more touching and emotional scene than twenty little, angelic six and seven year olds being, literally, massacred just before Christmas? Could one have scripted a conga lone of kindergartners and first graders being led past fallen friends, told to close their eyes as they passed devastation no person should ever have to witness? There's no question this was a haunting, unbelievably horrific tragic event. But it was perpetrated by one man. A young man with known mental health issues that went uncontrolled.  In one unforgivable act he killed twenty-six people, including twenty children. Since that time, over forty people have been shot, many killed, in neighborhood shootings in Chicago alone.  We don't hear about that. Unless it runs as filler on the news or on a website.

 Most of the mass shootings have been perpetrated by angry or frustrated, mentally ill young white men, with the exception of the VA Tech shooting, who was Asian. Most of the victims have been white. In the past few years there have been several of these shootings. Still, the total dead do not approach the numbers of those killed by the ones and twos, in the streets or crowded apartment buildings of poor, urban, black neighborhoods. Sadly, many of these victims are children as well, caught in a crossfire, accidentally shot in a quick drive-by, struck down by a stray bullet.

Where is the black "leadership" of The Rev. Jesse Jackson, The Rev. Al Sharpton. Even  Rev. Joe Simmons, from Run DMC, who has quite a following in the young black community who may find they don't relate to Jackson or Sharpton. Where are the actors, the musicians from rap, hip hop, crossover music? Where are the athletes? Where are the black political leaders?

Yes, I think the Trayvon Martin case was used and abused as a false representation of continuing racism in America. Yes, as I said, I believe the outrage was false. I believe the intent was to form a dichotomy between racists and non-racists, between blacks and whites, with some exceptions where overlap occurred. Black leaders seem to be presenting a Venn diagram with very little overlap between the black sphere and the white sphere, indicating little change in the decades since the 1960s Civil Rights movement, whereas non-racist whites, and some blacks, see a huge central overlap of blacks and whites living, working, playing, CO-EXISTING together with small factions of extremists on either side.

My biggest fear is that blacks don't really want racism to end. It has become a sort of crutch. Definitely a comedic tool, arguably a songwriter's toll, quite often used in story framing, in books and on television and the movies.  Should blacks be allowed to play roles written for whites, or vice versa? Should white directors be allowed to direct "black" movies? Can white writers capture, accurately, the black perspective? We are hearing stories of the warnings black mothers are imparting on their black sons. Warnings similar to the ones my white siblings have shared with their equally white, mostly anglo-saxon children. Of course we can't ignore the vestiges of racism. Blacks speak of being followed closely, near to the point of harassment, as they shop; they imitate the clicks they hear as they cross the street or walk too near a vehicle occupied by whites who are reminded to lock their doors at the site of black people perceived as potential criminals. 

But for all the hue and cry about racism in America, one has to wonder who is responsible. Are blacks really making an effort to assimilate even as they co-opt  words like nigger and use the derivative nigga to refer to each other? While at the same time ridiculing white hip hop artists who use the word? When people like Whoopi Goldberg and Sherri Shepherd change their speech, both patterns and vocabulary, when discussing black issues on' The View? When a respected director like Spike Lee claims that a multi-award winning director such as Steven Spielberg has no business directing movies like Amistad because he is white and reduced the black characters in the movie to just above extras? Is that not racism? 

I see what I feel is faux outrage because at the same time as I see blacks calling for Justice for someone like Trayvon Martin, I see black and white leaders ignoring justice for all the young black men killed in "the hood" because, as few will admit, maybe they deserved it. Or maybe they can't get the publicity, the political mileage out of supporting those young men because likely they were thugs or drug dealers. But aren't assumptions like that racism?

Are black leaders responsible for perpetuating the idea of racism, if not the behaviors? As they pick and choose which victims to champion, whether they be young black men killed by whites or young black women who claim they were assaulted, physically and sexually, by groups of young white men (Duke University Lacrosse team), (the infamous Tawana Brawley), are they not doing so while ignoring black on black crime? Or the rates of acts of racism perpetrated by blacks on members of other races, especially Hispanics but also Asians, Indians and those from the Middle East? 

It sometimes seems that blacks, for whatever reason, don't really want to see the end of racism. It may be a fear of adjusting to a new way of life. It may be a suspicion that only racism on the surface is disappearing but that it still roils just below, waiting to release a rogue wave or even unleash a tsunami of hatred and persecution. Sometimes I just want to say "Get over it. Most people aren't behaving like racist and those that do are assholes. Just treat them like the assholes they are, like we do." sometimes, by looking at everybody as potential racists, blacks create problems where they don't exist. Or they perceive slights when what they may be experiencing is just ignorance, or someone trying too hard not to offend. 

So if we're ever going to solve this racism issue, we need to stop labeling conflicts as racist simply because they involve two or more people of different races. And a speaker isn't a racist because he points out bad qualities in someone of a different race. Maybe they disagree on the issue: race has naught to do with it.

What we need to do is change the discourse, to re-order the dialogue, to drop race from the top of the list to wherever it appropriately belongs in a list of factors affecting a situation. Yes, at times it will come first, but most times it will fall farther down the list, farther than expected. But that may be where it belongs as a consideration. And yes, sometimes it should even be left off the list. Perhaps even most times. I think we have reached that point. I don't know if black leaders agree but are afraid to come out and admit it, or if they really see a benefit in perpetuating what most of us are trying to put to rest; if they just have a need to fan and fuel the flames of the fires we are trying to extinguish.