Sunday, July 21, 2013

No More "Conversations" About Race!

I promised that this posting would be about Nate Silver again.  As in:  how are we going to get along without him.  But in the interval, President Obama has spoken out about the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case.  I agree with all he says (see my posting after the verdict), but that's pointless because it's not my business to agree or disagree with him.  None of us can disagree with the other guy's experiences.  He's the one who is walking in his shoes.  He's the one who knows what's happening to him. We may try to go a mile in those shoes, but he has walked a lifetime in them.

What astonishes me is the reaction of others to his speech.  So many people saying they are surprised to hear about what young black men go through.  Really?

They think we certainly should have a "conversation" about race in this country.

Are they serious?  We have been having a conversation about race in this country for hundreds of years.  I'm white but, God Almighty, I say "Enough!"

Let's cut the talk and get rid of the racist laws, the racist law enforcement, the racist power structures, the wink-wink agreements between whites, like those among the prosecution team in the Zimmerman case.  Absent a "gentlemen's agreement", how can you explain a prosecution that allows an all-white jury, that doesn't prepare its key black witnesses, that accepts without question the defense staging of the last moments of Martin's life by showing him on top even though there were witnesses to the contrary.   And on and on.  As a retired attorney with some criminal defense experience I was astounded at how the prosecution pulled its punches against Zimmerman.

And it's like this all the time and everywhere.  Blacks have a hard time in this country whether we have a black president or not.  In fact, just when black male youngsters had Obama as the ultimate role model, the GOP response to the recession guaranteed that the already inadequate schools in black neighborhoods would get worse. It's great to have a role model, but you had damn well better have a decent education too.

So we don't need a conversation.  The only conversation that's relevant is the one that all the white talking heads apparently know nothing about.  And here it is:

In the South when a black male child turns six years old, he gets "the talk".  It is made very, very clear to him that he is never again to play with any little white girls.  He is never to speak to them or any white person unless spoken to first.  He must step off the sidewalk and make way for  any white person. Any white person.  Even the town drunk.

He must put up with being called "boy" until he is an old man, an "Uncle Tom".  He is never, never to insist on being called "Mister".  He must help any white person who asks him and do anything they ask by way of help.  He must never contradict a white person.  Or try to get ahead of them in anything.

Above all, he mustn't look at white females.  Or whistle at them. Or try to engage them in talk or banter.

That's the mistake 14-year-old Emmett Till made back in 1955.  Visiting in Mississippi from Chicago, he didn't know "the code of the South".  Apparently he said something to the woman running a little shack of a store.  Her husband and his brother kidnapped Emmett that night and gouged out his eye and tortured and killed him.  After they were acquitted by  -  of course  -  an all-white jury, they bragged of what they had done.

But Emmett's mother was not finished with what had happened. She insisted on an open casket and a public funeral.  What could be seen in the casket fired up the Civil Rights Movement.  And the rest is history.

Except it isn't.  It isn't history because it's still an unfinished piece of work.  Maybe "we shall overcome someday" but we sure as hell haven't done it yet.  That's why Trayvon Martin is dead.   And why his killer goes free.

So what comes next?  Tune in next time for a look into the future on this matter by someone who can look back on a long stretch of our past.  And, yes, we shall get to the Promised Land, just like that other Martin said.  Martin Luther King, Jr.

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