Henry Louis Gates, Jr., a lightning rod for white trolls, published a mild, thoughtful column about “Black America and the Class Divide” in the New York Times yesterday. It has already collected 347 comments, most of which blame black people for being poor.
What is most astonishing is that news about increased mortality rates for older white Americans, including drug overdoses, received a much more sympathetic response, just last month.
When white Americans are defended, and black Americans are attacked, for having the same problems, this is a classic case of racism. These responses are based on stereotypes which have been flogged for centuries: the laziness and fertility of blacks, the industriousness and spotless morality of whites.
With so much ignorance, we need the annual opportunity to concentrate on morphing racist attitudes, and the education needed to combat them. Black History Month is a necessity, until proven otherwise.
On the subject of police killing black people, here is Jack Henry Abbott on Texas, 1962:
“Every cop had his pistol drawn and aimed at him….Before I reached the police, they opened fire on the farmer. I froze, because I could not believe what I was seeing. The farmer was merely standing there with the club raised. He did not attack. I heard him shout over and over: Leave me be! …He was dead before he hit the ground. The little boy was wailing, watching his daddy die.”
The idea that killing black people benefits society is deeply embedded in the American consciousness. It may only change when white people become a minority, now set for 2044. Until then, let’s each do what we can to adjust and believe that, as they say, all lives matter.
I was on Kaua’i for eight days in March, and three people drowned during that time. Death is a tragedy. It has a lasting, awful impact on the families. Sunday night while I was on the phone with a friend, a pedestrian was decapitated by someone driving a stolen car with a mountain bike on top of it. I watched three helicopters search for the suspect, as yet unfound.
War is terrible. People get killed. Massacres are horrible. It is impossible to say one massacre is worse than another.
We must go on living, and take care of each other. There are many problems to face, sudden death is only one.
“Finding Me” by Michelle Knight; “It’s OK to Tell” by Lauren Book; “A Stolen Life: A memoir” by Jaycee Dugard
These books tell the stories about three young females who have seen the worst of humanity – childhood sex slavery. Imprisonment, mutilation and manipulation were imposed on them. Their predators had their excuses and justifications, as always.
Knight and Dugard were held captive for many years. Knight was horribly abused physically, yet Dugard was so brainwashed she wasn’t sure her mother would accept her and her two children, born in captivity.
Book was abused for several years by an emotionally disturbed nanny, who made Book feel as if she were an accomplice to her own destruction. Finally Book complained to her father, and the nanny is now in prison.
Knight was already the survivor of severe childhood sexual abuse by a family member, with the aid of her parents. It is not surprising that Knight has avoided her birth family.
Survivors need more support and belief. These incidents are far more common than we admit. It is not a personal problem or a family problem, it is a social problem.
Twenty-three years ago I told a young friend, “Riots are not good. But someone’s death is a good reason to riot.” Referring, of course, to Latasha Harlins, a young girl shot to death over a bottle of juice; her killer given probation. The Rodney King tape just put the match to the fire.
Putting blind faith in the police and whatever they do is stupid. Insisting “protocol” was followed when an incident occurs (but paying millions of dollars, later) is extremely short-sighted. Holding onto a code of silence isn’t working. Omerta should not be lauded as a social value.
We need to know how Freddie Gray was murdered. All the uniforms in America won’t change that.