Are black people predisposed to be less healthy than white people? That was the question proposed by an article in TIME Magazine by Noliwe M. Rooks. In the article, Ms. Brooks cites an example of a study that made the conclusion that genetic differences between black people and white people are responsible for the fact that sixty percent more black women die from breast cancer than do white women. The conclusion is based on the theory that cancer tumors are simply more aggressive in black women and that white women are more responsive to treatment.
But the article goes on to explain that more recent studies show that there are cultural, psychological, and economic barriers to healthcare that cannot be ignored when addressing the differences in survival rates between the two racial groups. Medical science has a history of relying on racial prejudices to explain away differences in treatment for black people. Black women are more likely to suffer from cancer, but black women are more likely to suffer from a lack of access to the same level of healthcare that white women enjoy. A black woman is less likely to get screened for cancer until the disease is further along its progression and more entrenched. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that there are other factors involved that will contribute to differences between black and white people.
The article gave another example of a study conducted by Lundy Braun where medical science has made the widely accepted assumption that black people have a more inefficient lung function that white people simply because they are black. The belief is that there is a ten to fifteen percent efficiency deficit for black people. Consequently, when black people seek help for a problem with breathing, they have to be fifteen percent sicker than their white counterparts in order to be treated. To add insult to injury, a black person would have to settle for fifteen percent less lung function simply because doctors have been trained to accept lower standards when the patient is black.
Black people have to be sicker in order to gain treatment. And when the treatment does come, black people are forced to settle for a lower health threshold in order to be declared healthy.
Now it is understandable that different people will have different lung capacity. People with a smaller chest cavity may have less lung capacity than people with a larger chest cavity because a larger chest cavity means that lungs should have more room to expand. That’s understandable. Older people may be more likely to have less capacity than younger people of the same size and shape. That’s understandable. Somebody who exercises by running regularly is more likely to have more lung capacity than a couch potato of the same size and shape. Somebody who smokes cigarettes regularly will have less lung capacity than somebody who doesn’t smoke. But how does skin color impact the function of the lungs?
Like a lot of things in our modern society, healthcare does not operate in an environment immune from America’s inherent racism. Sure we can grab a couple of black people and a couple of white people, do a study on the two and then use that information to explain the differences between black people and white people. But the accuracy of such a study would be suspect simply because the test sample would be far too small to account for all the variables that could impact data results. What was the health of the samples prior to the study? Was this a fair comparison of similar people or were there significant differences in the two group’s socioeconomic status?
Like a lot of things in America, healthcare depends on race. If the lung capacity is any indication, all things being equal white people are more likely to be treated quicker if there was a drop in health, and would be treated to a healthier level than black people simply because they are white. Is this any different than white people getting better access to education, jobs, legal justice, government representation, and the like? We can always look at somebody’s skin color and make the conclusion that if the person is black he or she are inherently inferior and consequently we do not have to do as much for them. It is a system of separation that is totally unequal.
Such racial prejudice is justified as simply as the condition of being black. It ranks right up there with the fact that our country’s forefathers writing into the Constitution that black people are only worth sixty percent human and therefore constitutionally inferior to white people. Then we wonder why so many black people are treated as second class citizens. It ranks right up there with law enforcement cracking down on black people because by cracking down on black people they arrest more black people. Then we wonder why so many black people go to jail.
If we say black people are less healthy than white people simply because they are black the result will be that black people will be less healthy than white people. If true wealth is in one’s health, black people are getting screwed yet again.
When I heard about former Massachusetts Governor and presumptive conservative presidential nominee Mitt Romney going to West Philadelphia to visit the Universal Bluford Charter School, I thought it was a good thing. If by chance Mr. Romney is able to unseat President Obama and become our forty fifth President then it would be a good thing for Mr. Romney to become more involved with and introduce himself to the black community.
There’s little doubt that the black community is heavily tilted towards Mr. Obama’s favor. This morning I heard that the estimate is somewhere between ninety five and ninety eight percent of black voters. Former conservative presidential contender and comedy relief Herman Cain would simply write the majority of black people off as brainwashed against the conservative agenda. But all the rhetoric conservative candidates made and make against the black community, sometimes referred to as the blah people, really had and has a way of offending black people.
Nevertheless, here’s Mitt Romney making an attempt, albeit a very tepid one, to reach out to the black community in his latest bid for the White House. The last time Mr. Romney and his staff tried to engineer a photo op with the blah people happened four years ago when he posed for pictures with a few young black people participating in a Martin Luther King Day parade in Jacksonville, Florida and asking no one in particular, who let the dogs out. Tasteless and totally void of any context for any issues pertaining to the blah community, Mr. Romney’s wearisome display did little to inspire anyone to support his presidential aspirations. He lost his bid for the conservative nomination to his good friend Arizona Senator John McCain who went on to lose to Mr. Obama.
Seeming to have learned from that enthusiastic yet meaningless visit, Mr. Romney has taken another stab to undo the brainwashing that drives black people away like hell drives away snowballs. Compared to Mr. Romney barking with his dark skinned homies, the visit to the charter school was a photo op with black teachers, administrators, faculty and students with cameras and reporters recording and watching his every move and word. And then Mr. Romney used the event as an opportunity to pitch his plan to expand student vouchers and cultivate more charter schools.
But even in the charter school friendly environment, Mr. Romney wasn’t able to avoid controversy completely. Mr. Romney referred to a McKinsey & Company study that compared student performance in the United States with the performance of students in countries like Singapore, South Korea and Finland and concluded that class size was not a factor. Mr. Romney dismissed the push for smaller class size as nothing but a ploy by the teachers unions to get more teachers hired in order to increase the size and political influence of their unions.
Mr. Romney should have remembered that unions are people too. Music teacher Steven Morris spoke up telling Mr. Romney that he couldn’t think of a single teacher throughout his thirteen year career as a teacher who ever thought that more students in the classroom would be beneficial. Mr. Morris went on to say that he couldn’t think of a single parent that would want a single teacher to be in a room with lots of kids.
Another teacher whose classes ranges from twenty three to twenty eight students, explained that a teacher with a smaller class size can give more personalized attention and time to individual students. A third teacher emphasized the importance of keeping class size below eighteen students in early primary grades.
The presidential hopeful admitted that it would be wonderful if classes were limited to five students. He said that a class of fifty students would be impossible to manage. But then he reiterated his contention that the previously mentioned study proved that class size doesn’t matter. According to the study the schools that are among the best performing in the world have classroom sizes that are about the same as in the United States and therefore the number of students in the class is not a determining factor in the success of those school systems. Although it wasn’t mentioned in the study it is Mr. Romney’s contention that parental involvement, top teachers, and supportive administrators that makes the difference. It is two parents in a home that makes the difference.
And right there, on the home turf of the teachers and administrators, Mitt Romney throws down the gauntlet and lets the world know that he does not value smaller class sizes. Singapore and others do more with less. They have better grades with fewer or the same number of students in a class as we do. Money is not the answer. The answer is that parents will have to figure it out. We need to get more involved in our students education instead of relying on teachers to do the heavy lifting by their lonesome.
And in that light, I say parents should get more involved. One place that they could be more involved is in the voting booth. Parents need to make sure that they vote for politicians who have a complete understanding of what it takes to make our schools better, and not just follow the recommendation of a single entity who may have a vested interest in helping to push a conservative agenda that promotes the idea that more money for more teachers in school districts with poorly performing students in large class sizes is not the answer.
Parents should definitely get involved. That means more than just making sure students get their work done. It means making sure the school district has the tools to make sure every student has access to quality education in the same environment that somebody like Mitt Romney went to school in. The Cranbrook school that Mr. Romney attended back in the day has a strict limit of eighteen students per class in early primary grades. But when you’re a private school whose clientele includes the children of state Governors, tuition rates probably make it easy to afford such a luxury.
Mr. Romney wants to compare the performance of our public schools to the performance of public schools around the world, but not the private educational institutions in our own backyards. If smaller class sizes are good for the well to do, why not apply that standard to the rest of us? To hell with what the McKinsey & Company said in their little study. It’s a fair bet that the executives at McKinsey & Company send their children to schools that strive to control class size. What’s good for the high dollar goose is just as good for the gander that relies on the public for the education of public students.
Back on April 13th of this year, the police in Milledgeville, Georgia managed to create a national controversy for their self after they handcuffed a six year old kindergartner and took her to the city jail for throwing a temper tantrum in school. According to police, when Selicia Johnson began tearing items off the walls in the principal’s office at the school she attended and started tossing around furniture on Friday, the school called emergency operators for assistance. When the police arrived, the six year old girl resisted the officer’s attempts to calm her down in the principal’s office and threw a shelf at the principal’s leg. School officials said that the police were called in to assist due to safety concerns for Selicia, other classmates and the school staff. The girl was subsequently placed in heavy duty steel handcuffs, the kind used to restrain men who beat their wives, murderers, and other hardened criminals, and the girl was taken away by police.
When Selicia’s aunt picked her up from the police station later that day, Selicia was being kept in a holding cell. The little girl complained that the handcuffs were too tight and hurt her wrists. The little girl found the experience horrifying and devastating. The parents and other relatives of the little girl said that while she may have misbehaved they asked the question was her behavior so abhorrent to the point where it was necessary for her to be handcuffed and taken to the police department.
The only thing we know about the incident was that the girl tore items off the principal’s wall and threw furniture. She was six years old. How big and heavy was this furniture that was being thrown? Did she turn green, grow overdeveloped muscles that would do a bodybuilder proud, grow larger than life, referred to herself as the Hulk and threatened to smash everybody and everything? Highly unlikely. If the school needed help how come they didn’t call the girl’s parents or relatives instead of calling the police and creating a controversy that was totally avoidable? It’s a fair bet that the parents would have been much more successful in calming the little girl down than a police officer itching to pull out his handcuffs.
Milledgeville Police chief Dray Swicord defended the police action with an announcement that it was department policy that any detainee transported to the police station in a patrol vehicle is to be handcuffed in the back and there was no age discrimination on that rule. If he wanted to prove his point, he should’ve pointed to all the other incidents where the police handcuffed a six year old and took them to jail for having a temper tantrum. Unfortunately, he couldn’t because this incident was the first of its kind and marked a new low for the professionalism of his department. Initially, Selicia was to be charged with juvenile assault and criminal damage to property. However, somebody at the Milledgeville police station came to their senses and ultimately decided not to file charges against the little girl due to her age. According to a criminal defense attorney, filing charges against Selicia would blatantly ignore years of precedent which says that children cannot form intent at such a young age. And it was just a coincidence that little Selicia was black.
Compare the official response to six year old Selicia to another incident that happened, albeit a few decades ago.
In 1965 John Lauber was perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality in his junior year at the prestigious Cranbrook School. When he changed his look so that he walked around the all boys school with long bleached blond hair that draped over one eye, it was more than some of his fellow students could handle. One incensed student, the eighteen year old son of Michigan Governor George Romney, complained that something had to be done about the walking eyesore that threatened their sense of conformity. The Governor’s son concocted a plan. A few days later, with the help of several friends, Mitt Romney walked out of his dorm room shouting about a plan to cut John Lauber’s hair. When they came upon John they tackled him, pinned him to the ground, and as his eyes filled with tears while he screamed for help, Mitt Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors.
The incident was recalled by the other attackers who gave their account of what led to the shaming of John Lauber independently of each another. One of the attackers went on to become a dentist, another became a lawyer, a third became a prosecutor, and another became a principal. They described the incident as something senseless, stupid, idiotic, and vicious. Each expressed remorse about their participation. Days after the incident, all were guilt ridden and waited to see what form of discipline would befall them at the famously strict institution. The incident had the potential of being a hate crime. But nothing happened. And the son of the Governor himself went on to become a Governor and the conservative’s best hope for a return to the White House.
Growing up in a world of privilege young Mitt Romney was protected from himself. He could initiate an assault on a defenseless student and walk away without so much as the slightest blemish on his record. In fact, he doesn’t even recall the incident that his bullying buddies remember so well. Mr. Romney went further to say that even though he doesn’t remember that assault taking place, he can say that it wasn’t because John Lauber displayed homosexual like behavior. Which begs the question, how can Mr. Romney not recall the event but defend it at the same time?
Little Selicia isn’t the daughter of the Governor. Her parents aren’t privileged and she doesn’t attend a prestigious school well known for strict adherence to the rules except when the Governor’s son is involved. She was just a little black girl having a bad day with the manifestation of a temper tantrum that sent her to jail at the prepubescent age of six. It’s a fair bet that if she misbehaves sometime in the future somebody won’t bother to fight the urge to call the police on her again. Her record of jail time will come up and that’s all the justification somebody will need to throw the book at her. She would be considered a perpetual nuisance and the strong arm of the law will come down on her like Mitt Romney coming down on a potentially gay student.
If the roles were reversed and it was little Mitt Romney that was six years old and throwing a tantrum by tearing a principal’s bulletin board down and using all his might to hurl furniture across the room, would anyone bother to call the police on him? Chances are the answer would be a resounding no. Privilege makes people care about the outcome of things. Who gives a shit about a little six year old black girl whose parents are nobodies? But the eighteen year old son of the Governor? That’s a totally different ball game. That boy’s future is at stake and we can’t allow anything to interfere with that despite his abhorrent behavior.
See the difference? One is protected from his self at the ripe age of eighteen, not quite mature enough to take on all of the responsibilities of being adult, but old enough to understand right from wrong and actions have consequences. The other is six years old and is punished severely for not having the foresight to think about their actions just a few years out of diapers and being weaned. One has a bright future that includes a shot at being President of the United States. The other has a future that will have a record of a brief stint in jail for throwing a tantrum. One is black and the other is white and the two are worlds apart.
I spent last week in a seminar to learn the ins and outs for an online database application for a client that I’m working with. The seminar was held in a little town about an hour’s train ride outside of New York City and very close to Connecticut. The misses and I drove the one thousand miles one way trip with our five year old son and made the trip a working vacation. She had never been to the east coast and I hadn’t spent much time their either so we were going to take full advantage of this opportunity.
The seminar was very successful. I learned a considerable appreciation for the online application I went to study and got more than a few ideals about future database application development. The misses and son spent their time exploring the area, chasing chipmunks, and studying a few artificial waterfalls at the resort we were staying. We all enjoyed ourselves and considered the trip a very successful one.
Saturday morning we started on the long drive home. While traveling through Pennsylvania along interstate 78 heading west, we saw a political billboard along the side of the highway that briefly summed up the record of President Obama as making the American people less free, endorsing bigger government, and responsible for fifteen percent “real” unemployment. The misses and I had to laugh at the sign and wondered what could anybody point to that would support the contention that Mr. Obama made the American people less free now than they were three years ago. We wondered what would has Mr. Obama done that has made the American government bigger than it was three years ago. We found the contention that Mr. Obama was responsible for the current unemployment rate dubious considering the fact that when Mr. Obama took over the reins of the country the American people were in the middle of an economic freefall resulting from the policies enacted from the previous administration. Blaming Mr. Obama for the unemployment rate would be akin to blaming firemen for the fire that burned the building down.
The sign went on to say that it was paid for by the local tea party. I just knew I had my inspiration for my next article. But by the time we read the sign we were passed it, traveling home at the illegal rate of eighty five miles per hour in a sixty five zone. I would’ve liked to have taken a picture of the sign. But it would have been miles before we would come to our next exit. With so many miles of travel ahead of us, turning around was not even close to being an option. I would look on the internet to find an image of the sign. Unfortunately, I never did find an image of it.
As we traveled down the highway the misses and I thought about what the country would be like if the tea party ran things. The tea party, with its single minded focus on cutting taxes and keeping government from being able to do much of anything to help support the development of our national infrastructure. The misses actually summed it up very well. If the nation followed a tea party mindset, chances are we wouldn’t have our interstate system that enabled us to travel so quickly and easily. The government would have never made the investment into the nation’s interstate highway system that so many people take for granted. We would still be stuck on a network of local roads with varying standards of design and maintenance.
One thing that made our travel so easy and painless was the navigation application that came with our android phone. We entered our destination into the phone and the global positioning system that the government developed guided us directly to where we wanted to go without a single wrong turn, just as long as you paid attention to the instructions the device was giving. And when you did happen to make a wrong turn, the device quickly calculated a new route to put you on track.
The billboard was gone. But I was going to use the internet to see if I could find a copy of the sign left by somebody else. Regardless, I would use the internet to let other people know how I felt about the sign and about the tea party. The same people who talk about getting government out of their lives would be using the same internet made possible by the government to tell people that the government needs to be made smaller and ineffective, so that the developments that would take us further into the future would be made totally unlikely to ever see the light of day. The tea party would prefer to dismantle our educational system that would make all the thinkers, scientists, dreamers, and the rest of us that make it possible for us to make the progress to keep us forever moving forward.
The sign reminded us that we need to keep working and making sure that government, the collective of people who come together to assure that the welfare of the nation is protected and developed to its fullest potential possible, is protected from people who don’t have the vision to see the benefits of investing into the future as a nation. Without the government the seminar that I attended would not have been possible. The highway system, the internet, the global positioning system, and many other things wouldn’t be possible if our government didn’t do its part to make progress possible. No corporation could ever do what our government has done.
To add just one more caveat to the mix, it was a federal government that made it possible for a couple of black people to pack their son into a car and travel across the country with some semblance of security that they would arrive safely to participate in the development of database applications as entrepreneurs for a fledgling software company. While the system is far from fair, without the federal government the second class status of black people would be even worse than it is now. It’s the government that initiated the social economic change that is helping to dismantle the bigotry that would have black people exist at white people’s property. The way a lot of people in the tea party operate, their against that kind of progress as well.
Anybody who reads this blog on a regular basis should know I can be pretty critical of President Barack Obama. Mr. Obama has been very careful to keep the black community at arm’s length so as not to give his political opponents any reason to bring race into the picture. Mr. Obama will deny that his race is a factor for any of the criticism and outright hatred that many of his constituents have for him. It’s understandable. In politics, it would be easy to say that a black man that embraces black people will be anti white.
When asked for his opinion on the Trayvon Martin case, Mr. Obama said that if he had a son he’d look like the slain teenager. Some conservatives were quick to use that comment as evidence that Mr. Obama doesn’t care for white teenagers. The same thing happened when Mr. Obama tried to put accusations of racism against white people aside when he addressed his relationship with his former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. In his speech, he talked about the racism he witnessed from his grandmother who he described as a typical white person. Many of his critics were quick to say that Mr. Obama threw his grandmother under his bus. This man can’t say anything about race without somebody calling him racist.
In order to give Mr. Obama some slack from the race factor, many people in the black community were willing to give Mr. Obama a pass from addressing the needs of the black community. Most black people were confident that Mr. Obama would do what’s best for the black community without being asked for assurances or for an understanding what his plan would be. He was a shoe in to win the black vote after all. Wasn’t he one of us? Didn’t he have black skin? So did Clarence Thomas and you see where that got us.
Nevertheless, the black community voted for Mr. Obama in droves and we kept our questions and concerns to ourselves. But that only helped to lead Mr. Obama astray. Instead of keeping his focus on our communities, his attention was elsewhere as he did his best to keep the assurances he gave to others around the nation and throughout the world. Mr. Obama bent over backwards to try and win favor from his conservative opponents. When the conservatives were making their pact to deny Mr. Obama anything that could be construed as a success, Mr. Obama was trying his best to gain the favor of conservative constituents by compromising time and time again with people who refused to compromise.
But by letting Mr. Obama off the hook and free to pursue the favor of conservatives who demanded concession after concession before saying no to everything, we left Mr. Obama to wander away from his political base in a fruitless appeal for bipartisanship with people who would rather drive the country to ruin in order to make Mr. Obama look like a failure than agree with him on anything that would improve the national welfare.
Mr. Obama seems to have awakened from his delusion that conservative politicians can be reasoned with. He now recognizes the fact that his political future and the future of the country depends on him taking a harder line on the people trying their best to sabotage his leadership. Mr. Obama now understands that it is naïve to think that he can negotiate with people who want him to fail at any and all cost.
Just like Mr. Obama has awakened from his slumber, the black community needs to awake from its slumber as well. If people had made sure that Mr. Obama focused his attention on the things that were important to the black community like jobs and the protection of educational opportunities and unemployment benefits while the country works through its malaise. It’s unfortunate that healthcare reform was done without a single payer option. But now that conservatives have challenged the reform in its current iteration, if it gets rejected maybe Mr. Obama would push for it on a second round. All of those things would help people in the black community as well as people who need help throughout the country.
If the black community wants to help Mr. Obama have a successful presidency, the black community needs to be willing to criticize Mr. Obama when he goes off course from his base. Staying mum as he goes down what we feel is the wrong path isn’t helping. The people who may care most about him having a successful shouldn’t be afraid to speak up and give him some feedback on what we see going down in the political arena. If we showed something that resembled a political backbone, maybe he wouldn’t be so quick to turn a back on his base to win the political favor of others.
Criticizing Mr. Obama when he fails to protect our interest is not necessarily an automatic condemnation. It ranks right up there when a parent criticizes a child or a supervisor criticizes an employee. Feedback should be welcomed in a relationship that remains respectful for everyone concerned. When Mr. Obama fails to represent us, when he fails to respect us along with the rest of his constituencies and we fail to bring that fact to his attention, we have no one but ourselves to blame for his lack of concern for us.
Mr. Obama is up for reelection and the black community, along with the Hispanic community, along with the female community, along with the Jewish community, along with the gay and lesbian community, along with the white community, along with the business community, and every other community, has interests that should be voiced and protected.
The ugliness of racism has been brought back into the spotlight with the murder of seventeen year old Trayvon Martin by self appointed, wannabe sheriff George Zimmerman and the botched, seven hour and thirty minute investigation, give or take about five minutes, by the Sanford police and other Florida authorities who failed to give the crime its due consideration. Initially, the police claimed there was no evidence to contradict Zimmerman’s claim that he murdered the black teenager in self defense. The police bought the story and sent the shooter home with the gun he used to kill Trayvon in hand. It wasn’t until the people protested did the higher ups in Florida realized that a high profile travesty of justice was happening in their backyard and reopened the investigation and Zimmerman was finally charged with a crime and held in police custody.
The protest that brought Zimmerman to justice was led primarily by people in the black community. People all around the world gave their support. But the mass of thirty thousand people that descended onto Sanford, Florida was disproportionately black, outraged over another example of white on black crime compounded by a police department with a history of contributing to racial tension that appeared reluctant to take the murder of an unarmed black teenager seriously. President Barack Obama was asked his opinion of the Trayvon Martin case. Along with an expression of sympathy to Trayvon’s family, Mr. Obama said that if he had a son he would look like Trayvon.
Mr. Obama’s sentiment only added fuel to the fire people used to justify the shooting and subsequent lack of an investigation of the boy’s murder. People already dismissed Trayvon as unworthy of justice simply because he was black, kind of like Zimmerman denied Trayvon the right to walk down the street without being harassed because he was black. But when Mr. Obama made his statement saying that he could identify with Trayvon, some people took their racial animosity to the stratosphere. It was wrong for Mr. Obama to insert race into a situation that had race written all over it. Newt Gingrich went so far as to interpret Mr. Obama’s statement as an endorsement that it would have been acceptable of Zimmerman had murdered a white kid. Only a race baiter would attempt such a colossal and irrational leap of logic and few people outside the seriously ravenous hatemonger took Mr. Gingrich seriously. Nevertheless, the fact that race was playing a part in this whole ugly ordeal could not be ignored.
The news was filled about how once again we should be opening up a nationwide dialog about race. Did race play a part in the murder of Trayvon? Did race play a part in the initial lack of an investigation by the Sanford police? How did race factor in the response by the black community? What role did race play in the response by so many people who were saying that black people were rushing to judgment? What role did race play in America’s history of racial intolerance? You get the point.
Many television news programs asked the question is it time for America to have an honest talk about race. I saw it on many of the programs on MSNBC including Morning Joe, Up with Chris Hayes, Now featuring Alex Wagner, Political Nation with Al Sharpton, and quite a few others. Many people were talking about whether or not the shooting of Trayvon was an opportunity to talk about race. But few of these shows took the opportunity to actually talk about race.
Instead of asking a question if now is a good time or talking about racism from a perspective that only adds ambiguity and confusion to the issue in order to spare somebody’s feelings, why can’t we have an honest discussion about America’s racial disparity. How is it possible that even in twenty first century America an unarmed black teenager can be murdered by a man who, if rumors of his compulsion to call the police at the site of an unknown black person holds true, obviously has a problem with black people and can walk away from the scene of his crime with the murder weapon? How does that not bring to mind the history of pre civil rights era of a place like Mississippi or Alabama when racism was so rampant? Why don’t we talk about the fact that something like half of the white population were tired of hearing about the Trayvon case just weeks after the boy was shot and Zimmerman remained free while more than eighty percent of the black community felt otherwise?
If we are going to ever have a conversation about racism then let’s have a conversation about racism. Talking about why we should talk about racism just doesn’t cut it. That ranks right up there with talking about arresting somebody who killed an unarmed teenager and yet the police told him to have a good day as he walked away. People need to want that conversation about race instead of pretending that racism is just a ghost story from our unenlightened past. It’s nothing to fear. And the longer we put it off the longer it will take for America to heal the wounds that we have suffered all in the name of racism and the continued subjugation of people of color.
Comedian Bill Cosby says that the debate over the killing of Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman should be focused on guns and not race. In Mr. Cosby’s opinion, saying that the unprovoked shooting that took the life of an unarmed black teenager walking home from the convenience store and minding his own business was racially motivated doesn’t solve anything. In an interview with CNN’s State of the Union that aired this past Sunday, Mr. Cosby says that the bigger question is what was George Zimmerman doing with a gun and who taught him how to behave with it.
This is a stark contrast to Mr. Cosby’s reputation for criticism of people in the black community and how black people are not willing to do their fair share to help lift the black community out of its perpetual second class condition with higher than average instances of poverty, crime, and everything else that’s socially unacceptable. For example Mr. Cosby didn’t hesitate to stand in front of his well to do peers and tell them that they’ve done enough and now underprivileged black people need to step up to the plate of responsibility and quit purchasing five hundred dollar running shoes.
Mr. Cosby gave a speech to the NAACP back in May 2004 in which he was highly critical of black people. He ridiculed poor black people’s speech, poor black people’s dress, poor black people’s goals, and other stereotypical aspects of black people that are often portrayed in various media. The speech is referred to as the pound cake speech. And Mr. Cosby had no problem with his criticism even though his criticism didn’t solve a goddamn thing.
In fairness to Mr. Cosby, maybe he has learned a thing or two since he took his criticism of black people on a high profile nationwide tour to try and shame the black community into some kind of action. Maybe he’s learned that just saying black people aren’t doing enough isn’t enough and now Mr. Cosby is operating from a theory that not saying anything about anybody’s behavior is the better route to go. Maybe Mr. Cosby has figured that people aren’t the problem but the things people used to manifest what they feel are the problem. Ergo, if somebody gets shot the problem isn’t the shooter but the shooter’s gun. Therefore, if we just eliminate the guns utopia will fall into place.
In more fairness to Mr. Cosby, the man is almost seventy five years old and just might be suffering from some form of dementia that keeps him from thinking straight. That’s the only thing I can think of to explain his head up his ass philosophy that prevents him from taking a more encompassing look at the social issues that confronts the black community as a whole and individual black people like Trayvon Martin who lost his life to a man who had so deeply embraced the social programming that has taught us to quickly condemn black people as unworthy and inferior.
George Zimmerman was taught a subconscious suspicion of black people. His mistrust of black people was so deeply ingrained that he was willing to bet that if he killed a black person under the most dubious of circumstances he would be vindicated once the true nature of the unfortunate black person comes to light. If Mr. Zimmerman encountered a young white male under the same circumstances, it’s a fair bet that nothing suspicious would have registered on his consciousness.
The Sanford, Florida authorities that were responsible for investigating the shooting of Trayvon saw that the victim was a teenaged black male and quickly wrapped their investigation up in less than eight hours confident that the dead boy was nothing but another young black gang banger who got his comeuppance. Authorities across the country have been programmed to see black people as more trouble than they are worth. Therefore, if a black person gets shot, it’s a fair bet that the shooting was justified and so no thorough investigation, no true opportunity for justice, is necessary.
It is this same programming that has influenced the behavior of Mr. Cosby. The man can turn a blind eye to the social stigma that has been placed squarely on the backs of black people. Like a lot of people who look down their nose at black people, Mr. Cosby has shown that he holds black people responsible for what happens to black people and continues to absolve everybody else of any responsibility. To this day, Mr. Cosby gives lectures in black communities expressing his frustration with the problems that seem so endemic in the black community such as illegal drugs, teenage pregnancy, crime, offensive clothing, single mothers, and all the other problems that impact every social economic subgroup. Even though everyone is impacted by these problems, only the culture of the black community is defined by these problems.
What if George Zimmerman didn’t have a gun? What if he used a knife to kill Trayvon Martin? Would guns be off the hook and knives be declared the source of our problems? What if it wasn’t a knife and George Zimmerman used his fist to beat Trayvon to death? What if he used his feet to kick Trayvon when the boy was on the ground? Would hands be the problem and the easy solution would be to amputate everybody? That just sounds stupid. It sounds about as stupid as saying that the real problem we suffer as a collective is the tolerance of guns.
The real problem we suffer is the tolerance of racism and social discrimination based on race. It wasn’t the gun that was responsible for the killing of Trayvon. What killed that young black man that night was an irrational suspicion that black people are criminals. This idea was planted and nurtured by a culture that not only tolerates racism but perpetuates it. It is perpetuated by people driving down the street who see a black man walking on the sidewalk. It is perpetuated by authorities who fail to take the murder of a black teenager seriously. It is even perpetuated by old black comedians who bend over backwards to dismiss any notion of motivation due to race.
The more I see of Mr. Cosby the more I am convinced that he is a black man who suffers from willful ignorance about the black community. Instead of adding something meaningful to the conversation, he offers an out for everybody that applies responsibility to nobody. And if Mr. Cosby really felt that way would he be willing to give a speech and go on tour saying that black people have done enough to reverse the ills of the black community and that black people have done enough? Somehow that sounds very doubtful.
Mr. Cosby says that it’s the gun that’s our major problem and not our psychosis of perpetual racial disparity against black people that allows somebody to kill a black teenager and then allows that same person to walk away with his gun in hand. But that’s just not true. The gun is just the tool that helps manifests our social collective’s desire to punish black people for the offense of being black.
Black people have been programmed to think that it is some kind of virtue for us to always take the higher ground when we’ve been wronged. You see it a lot when some poor soul who has spent the last twenty years behind bars convicted of a crime they didn’t commit. When evidence is uncovered that their DNA didn’t match the DNA sample that was recovered from the crime scene after years of legal hurdles put up by the prosecutor’s office to keep the truth from seeing light, the poor guy who has had his life stolen from him will say something virtuous like he’s not mad at anybody and just gives thanks to Jesus for never losing his faith that one day he would be set free.
While people want to point to this guy as a model of civil behavior and the epitome of understanding, our larger society is never so forgiving and understanding to black people. It’s pretty rare to hear somebody say that they forgive the black man they believed has committed a crime against them. Hello No! Black people are more likely the scapegoat for somebody else’s crime. How many times have we heard some white woman claim that a black man stole her children from the back of her car only to realize that the woman killed her children herself? I might be wrong so I won’t say it’s a fact, but I’ve never heard anyone say that the black man did me wrong but I forgive him because somebody has so much faith in Jesus. The black man is rarely forgiven or given a break. It is standard procedure to come down on black people with the heaviest hand available, whether they or guilty or not, which explains why so many innocent black people get released from jail.
So it wasn’t much of a surprise to see Trayvon Martin’s mother offer a few words of understanding to killer man Zimmerman. After weeks of freedom after he murdered Trayvon under very suspicious and dubious circumstances, George Zimmerman was finally charged with second degree murder and was finally in police custody. Zimmerman says that he killed the young black teenager in self defense because after Zimmerman got out of his SUV to run after Trayvon on foot armed with his nine millimeter pistol, Trayvon decided to attack Zimmerman with a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea. Zimmerman said that Trayvon knocked him down with a punch that broke his nose and then jumped on top of him to bash the back of his head into the sidewalk. And then Zimmerman claimed that while he was on the verge of blacking out from Trayvon’s attack, he remained conscious enough to scream for somebody to help as he maneuvered his hand to his concealed weapon and killed Trayvon with a single shot to the chest.
At least that was one of the stories that were told. Another one has Trayvon coming out of the shadows and telling Zimmerman that he was about to die. After he made his announcement like some over the top bad guy from a Dolemite movie, Trayvon then went after Zimmerman’s concealed weapon because even though Zimmerman never pulled the weapon out, somehow Trayvon knew it was there. There was a struggle between the two men that wound up with Trayvon being accidentally shot.
Regardless of what story or stories or combination of stories he told to the police, the authorities quickly wrapped up their investigation and declared the incident an open and shut case of self defense based on Florida’s stand your ground law. Zimmerman went home and Trayvon’s body went to the morgue for three days before his parents were allowed to claim him.
Now I’m a parent. In about a dozen years my son will be Trayvon’s age. What in the world would possess me to forgive somebody who would shoot my defenseless son as he walked home from the convenience store minding his own business? Not a goddamn thing is the answer that comes quickly to my mind. Why would I want to offer compassion to a man that started stalking my son as he walked home because he looked suspicious, a man that looked down on my son because he was black and wearing a hooded sweatshirt with the hood up because of the light rain that was coming down? What could possibly motivate me to show sympathy to the man that had no sympathy for my son?
Then after he slaughtered my son, why would I forgive the man that would then slander my boy? The man with the smoking gun tells the police that my son attacked him. I hear the 9-1-1 tapes of my son screaming for help. I recognize my son’s voice. But the man that murdered my son says that the voice on the tape wasn’t my boy screaming for help. Zimmerman claims it was his voice screaming at the top of his lungs as he took aim at my son’s chest and pulled the trigger.
I don’t know Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s mother. I don’t know why she would say that she believed that the shooting of her son was an accident. Maybe she misspoke. Maybe she meant something totally different. But when I saw her say that she believed that the shooting of Trayvon was an accident and all she wanted was an apology, I could’ve reached through my television and slapped her out of her delusion to appear as upright and moral as possible. She probably didn’t want to look like just another angry black woman because that’s a racist and sexist stereotype against black women that has all kinds of connotations.
But the truth of the matter is that Ms. Fulton has lost her son because of the actions of a single individual with delusions of grandeur. She has every right to be angry and to focus that anger on the man that took her son’s life. She doesn’t have to forgive him and she doesn’t have to wait for George Zimmerman to apologize to her. Mr. Zimmerman has already exercised too much control of her life. Sever that link and be done. If that was my son, Zimmerman could apologize until he was blue in the face and I’d still want him to rot in hell for the rest of his life and the rest of his unnatural life.
Me show compassion for my son’s killer if I was in this situation? Fuck that shit!
Forty five days after seventeen year old Trayvon Martin was shot dead for the crime of looking suspicious as he was walking home with a can of iced tea and a bag of Skittles by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, the long and painfully slow arthritic arm of the law finally has reached out to apprehend his murderer. Special prosecutor Angela Corey has finally charged the twenty eight year old Mr. Zimmerman with second degree murder. Mr. Zimmerman has turned himself into the custody of Florida law enforcement.
From the very moment that Mr. Zimmerman called the police to report a suspicious character in his neighborhood this case was suspiciously bizarre. Within minutes Trayvon would be dead from a single gunshot wound to the chest. Although we were told that there were no eyewitnesses who saw what happened, there were plenty of people who heard what was going on between Trayvon and Zimmerman. People heard the pleas for help and called the police to report trouble. Police were on the scene within minutes. But after less than eight hours of investigation, the Sanford police closed the file with the assumption that it was an open and shut case of self defense. Less than eight hours after he killed Trayvon, Mr. Zimmerman was a free man.
For weeks the police dragged their feet, stone walling while Trayvon’s parents searched for answers to the question of what happened to their son. They were told that he attacked somebody and that person defended himself. It wasn’t until the 9-1-1 tapes of Mr. Zimmerman’s call to the police were released did people understand the depth of the perversion that was trying to pass itself off as justice in Sanford, Florida. It was revealed that the bias of the local authorities caused them to actively defend the actions on behalf of Mr. Zimmerman. Bill Lee, he captain of the Sanford police, stood in front of a podium and told everyone that there wasn’t enough evidence to contradict Mr. Zimmerman’s story that he was attacked. But that was before it became so obvious that he was working hard to sweep the whole affair under the rug. Mr. Lee was forced to step aside and Governor Rick Scott appointed Ms. Corey to take over the case.
Suspecting yet another case of a young black man being deprived of his life based on nothing but the prejudice against black people, the community protested on Trayvon’s behalf. No justice, no peace. Tens of thousands of people descended onto Sanford to show their support for Trayvon and his family. The President of the United States had to take a moment to acknowledge his disappointment. People from around the world protested on behalf of Trayvon.
Everyone was advised to be patient and to stop trying to rush to judgment. But forty five days to charge a man for the murder of an unarmed teenager isn’t rushing. In fact, forty five days to charge and arrest a man who was at the scene with a smoking gun in his hand and who confessed on the spot that he had killed somebody that he was stalking just minutes before is agonizingly slow. If Mr. Zimmerman was black, he would have been charged, arrested, and in custody behind bars well within forty five seconds after the police were on the scene. And that’s only if they could restrain themselves from killing him as soon as they arrived.
If anything, the rush to judgment was made back when somebody decided to let Quick Draw McGraw go before Trayvon’s body had sufficient time to grow cold. The rush to judgment was made by George Zimmerman when he jumped out of his car with his gun making a clear choice to create a situation that would result in the loss of somebody’s life. And since he was the only one armed it was a foregone conclusion that the young black man that caught Mr. Zimmerman’s eye would be the one that would lose his life.
It took twenty days from the time she was assigned to the case for the special prosecutor and her team to gather enough evidence and information to put together a case they felt was strong enough to bring charges against Mr. Zimmerman. If nothing else, it sounds like they took their time to uncover all the particulars of what happened that night. It sounds like they were a lot more thorough than the keystone cops that spent less time than the number of hours in a normal workday investigating the death of a black teenager that night back in February.
All of the protest that was made that others try to dismiss as a simplistic rush for judgment was anything but. The protests were pleas for somebody to step in and make the corrections necessary to put the train that wrecked the night Trayvon was murdered back on track. And now that the train is back it looks like justice will actually get a chance to put right what went horribly wrong.
A few days ago I read Tyler Perry’s account of his encounter with the police after he made an illegal left turn from the right lane on his way to the airport. Mr. Perry wrote that he was taught by his security team to drive in an erratic manner to throw off people who might be trying to follow him. A man of Mr. Perry’s prominence can’t be too careful. Anybody could be trying to hijack him for whatever reason. Mr. Perry would be an attractive target for anybody looking to kidnap somebody with deep pockets for ransom. Mr. Perry’s problem was that he did his trick traffic maneuver in front of a police car.
When he was pulled over the police were suspicious of him and his behavior. A black guy driving along is already a suspect. A black guy driving like shit is more than enough reason to pull the car over and investigate what’s going on. When the police walked up to Mr. Perry’s car to find out what’s going on, Mr. Perry replied that he drives the way he does to make sure he’s not being followed. At that point the hairs on the back of the two police officer’s neck must have risen up. Their hands may have already been on their service pieces in their holsters. But I’m quite sure at that point they disengaged the safety and whatever straps were used to keep their piece in check. A black man talking about he’s being followed must be a drug dealer or something else criminally oriented.
It’s one of the most vicious stereotypes about black people, especially black men, which have been used to justify the mistrust and suspicion of black people since day one. Black people are violent and so you have to be prepared for anything. And Mr. Perry is more guilty than just about anybody else in the perpetuation of these stereotypes with his minstrel heavy persona that has helped to make Mr. Perry a very wealthy man. For people who are familiar with his work, obviously not the cops that pulled him over, you cannot help but think of Madea when you think of Tyler Perry.
Mabel Simmons, highly more recognizable as Madea, is a character portrayed by Mr. Perry as an extremely tall black elderly woman. She is about seventy five years old, very argumentative, and will threaten people with the gun she keeps with her regardless the occasion. She has a criminal record that goes back to when she was nine years old when she was arrested for shoplifting. She has been charged with illegal gambling, check fraud, identity theft, insurance fraud, assault, attempted murder, and car theft. She has a history of running from the police. In the movie “Diary of a Mad Black Woman”, Madea was charged with criminal trespassing, reckless endangerment, criminal possession of a handgun, assault with a deadly weapon, driving with a suspended license, driving a vehicle with an expired registration, and reckless driving.
Considering Madea’s reputation maybe the police that pulled Mr. Perry over really did know who he was. If this is Tyler Perry and he writes about that kind of shit, he might know a little something about that shit, so he might be in the middle of doing that kind of shit at that very moment. You just can’t take a chance with black people like that.
Mr. Perry’s more notable work revolves around his Madea character for which he has been praised to a large extent. But less well known is the criticism that condemns his work as buffoonery at a time when a lot of black people are struggling for respect and equal treatment. Black people love his movies and Mr. Perry is more than ready to give his audience what it wants. But if his chickens are rooted in comic stereotypes that help reinforce every negative stereotype about black people, should Mr. Perry be surprised when those chickens come home to roost and the police approach him the way that they would approach his Madea character? What else has Mr. Perry given people to consider about black people?
To be fair to Mr. Perry he has done a great deal for black people. When most people in Hollywood were employing black people as if they were only trying to meet a quota, Mr. Perry was employing black people for a predominantly black cast in his predominantly black film. And those films have done extremely well. But enough of the type of juvenile comedy that only makes people think that black people are only up to no good. It’s time to do something that black people can be proud of and promotes the idea that black people should be respected as contributors to our communities and not just users.
Hopefully Mr. Perry will come away from his brush with the long arm of the law with an awareness that he needs to do more to help people understand that black people are more than just foul mouthed characters always toting a gun. Maybe he can do something to promote the idea that black people are people too. He’s done well with his minstrel show. Maybe it’s time to do something a little more sophisticated that can help undo some of the damage characters like Madea have already done.