This is the summer of our discontent. We began early with Ferguson and have progressed through Baltimore and on to McKinney. Law enforcement officers in far too many instances have decided it is their job to keep black folks in line. If that means shooting them, then so be it. If it means tackling, putting your knee in the back, pulling the hair of a black teenage girl in a bikini, so be it. What people are not seeming to get is the divide among our populace about whether these incidents are oppression or vigilance, peace keeping or prejudice. The divide is primarily among blacks and whites, although there are whites on both sides and sadly, a few blacks on the wrong side. The people defending the police, no matter what they do, fall into three groups; white people who are afraid of black people and sure the police are the only things keeping them from being slaughtered in their beds, serial racists and black people who want white people to like them more than they want to stand up for justice. I understand the motivations of all three of these groups which I consider on the wrong side of the law. The first group, the scared white people are plagued both by stereotypes of black people and by white guilt. They know whites have been historically in the wrong when dealing with black people and are sure that we are out to get revenge, one way or another. These are the people who try very hard not to be racist because they know it is wrong, but cannot help it because if they are not racist they will have to fight racism and that means going against some of their friends and neighbors. There are, fortunately masses of white people who do not mind standing up when they see something wrong regardless of who agrees with them. Their ranks are growing I do believe, which gives me great hope for the future. The serial racists do not think anything done to black people is out of line. They are the ignorant group, the ones who are sure that all blacks should probably still be picking cotton. Sadly they are not all poor people with unfortunate teeth who live in Snake’s Navel Mississippi as we are often led to believe. They are, frequently, our neighbors, our policemen, our teachers, our city and county employees, our butcher, our baker our candlestick maker. The blacks who want white people to like them cut across lines of class and color, but are found most often in the ones who think they have “made it.” I was no surprised in the slightest to see a couple of the black citizens who lived in the area around the latest Texas Swimming Pool Massacre condemn the children and side with the police. They think they have gotten where they have gotten by making white people like them. The fact that this means being as white as possible and reminding them you are black as little as possible in their minds means they have to protect their hard won turf. They have been invited over to Stan and Sally’s cookouts for God’s sake and they are not about to let some snot nosed kid getting slammed to the ground in their neighborhood because she is black mess with their progress. They may be right. An awful lot of black people I know who are financially successful are more skilled at making white people like them by being as white as possible themselves than at social justice concerns. In many cases the less often you remind white people you are black the better off you are, thus it was in slavery, thus it is now. Of course these people are going to be the first to criticize other black people’s behavior if it goes against the white norm. After all, they have to constantly reestablish their house nigger creds.
Anyone in America, or indeed, the world who has not figured out that we need an intensive diversity education program for our law enforcement officers is mentally defective. Sadly, we also need to branch out into other areas of public servants,including our teachers and principals. We have a principal in Miami of a school that is 99% minority applauding the police officer, a man whose own chief described his behavior as over the top and unacceptable. We have a Texas fourth grade teacher posting on Facebook that she is so sick of black people she is ready to return to segregation and that perhaps the 50s and 60s were on to something–referencing Jim Crow. I will bet money this woman does not teach only white kids. Perhaps the next time we start discussing the achievement gap we ought to take a better look at who is teaching the kids and what their attitudes about the capabilities of those kids might be.
America is plagued by a domestic terrorism called racism. It has cells in almost all of our cities and towns. It is not as common as it once was because it does not have as many adherents, but it is still a dangerous cult capable of carrying on its covert activities in relative safety because so many people do not recognize racism, or if they do recognize it they stand silent in its presence. All those folks who shake fingers at the peaceful Muslim majority for not speaking out against their terrorists keep their mouths firmly shut when they hear or see things that they know are products of our domestic terrorist racists (DTR) .
The DTRs are organized, well funded, and have ways of infiltrating organizations and institutions without ever uttering a single racist thing. Depending on the climate where they are trying to get their way they may not have to hide it too well, but use a few dog whistles just in case someone is recording it so they can deny that what they meant is what they meant.
I was raised in Xenia, Ohio. I was not born in Xenia, Ohio because the only place you could be born, McClelland Clinic did not allow blacks to stay overnight. In the days when I was born women actually got to stay in the hospital for more than 8 hours when they had a baby so no black babies were born in hospitals or medical facilities in Xenia prior to 1952 when Greene Memorial Hospital was built. I only had a few brushes with racism after I was born , but the city operated then as it does now on the basis that white supremacy is not a philosophy, but a fact. There are cracks showing in the institutional racism, but there are enough practices still in common usage that it is not going away anytime soon.
If I had to pick which of the two, police or teachers, is the larger problem race wise in Xenia it would definitely be the latter. The police force is not as diverse as it should be and I may be out of touch since a decent number of them are former students, but I have not heard of lots of racial incidents with the police beyond the fact they tend to send 8 cars for any small disturbance in the East End of town, which is the historically black ( but getting more and more integrated) part of town. If I had to guess I would say that class may have more to do with your relationship with the police than race. The teachers on the other hand are a different story. Xenia has always been dismal at hiring black teachers and principals and great at hiring conservative whites. As a result the educational community at the secondary level in particularly has been dominated by people who do not even attempt to represent all students’ interests. I will not bore you with the myriad incidents, suffice it to say that one of the librarians recently posted a picture with children holing books donated to the library by some Republican Woman’s Club . The books were all about or written by Republicans, of course, nothing wrong with that, but the only book about a black person, Condi Rice’s bio, was given to the only black child in the picture to hold. The librarian being Republican and the donors being Republican they no doubt thought that was appropriate, liberal even. After all they included a black author and a black kid. The fact that their staging implied that only a black kid would be interested in a book written by a black person and that a white kid would only be interested in a book written by a white person was too complicated for them to grasp. But, that brings it down to the problem with some , not all, not even the majority happily, of Xenia teachers. If you do not know you have a problem you do not seek a remedy. I cannot even imagine what kind of diversity education it would take to make them culturally aware, but I know they have not had it and are unlikely to get it.
Black people have to be students of white culture to survive. The idea that you can plop down anyone into dealing with people from a different culture, in many cases a culture imposed on them by your culture, and expect them to know what the hell they are doing without any training, education or understanding of the history of the people is ridiculous. Yet, we do it daily. Some people take the time to learn what they do not know and it takes a long time. Black people are not all alike anymore than white people are, so you have to learn the differences in not only race but class, culture, educational levels, geography, that makes them who they are and how you can relate to them, work with them, interact with them, teach them or protect and serve them. American education is under attack. It was already shaky and I do not see it getting better for anyone but the wealthy.
We could improve our society greatly by better diversity education for public servants of all stripes. Education is cheaper than ignorance.