Just Stopping Doesn’t Stop It
It was John F. Kennedy that said, victory has a thousand fathers but defeat is an orphan. A lot of people are patting President Barack Obama on his back for achieving that which never happened after two terms with the previous administration. Despite all the rhetoric dripping with bravado and promises to chase the man to the fiery gates of hell, despite all the torture that wasn’t torture because somebody said it wasn’t, and banners covering aircraft carriers proclaiming mission accomplished, Osama bin Laden was able to evade capture by President George Bush, Jr.’s administration. But barely twenty five months into his successor’s turn at the wheel, Mr. bin Laden has finally met what many might consider his just desserts.
However, this doesn’t mean Mr. Bush’s supporters, who coincidentally serve double duty as Mr. Obama’s most fervent detractors, don’t have something to crow about. Some of these people insist that it was only the continuation of policies and procedures initiated by Mr. Bush and continued under Mr. Obama that led to Mr. bin Laden’s demise. The baseless assumption, as if any of their perceptions have a foundation of logic, is that Mr. Obama couldn’t or didn’t or wouldn’t think of changing anything because he felt that the policies that couldn’t find the master of disasters for just about eight years were working just fine. Why mess with failure?
But to be honest, it is quite possible that the Bush supporters might have somewhat of a point. After all, the people that were looking for Osama bin Laden under Mr. Obama’s watch could have started their search right where the people who did the same job under Mr. Bush left off. It’s possible that they could discount a lot of leads that have already been discounted. It’s possible that they could have operated off of tips obtained after that one hundred eightieth trip to the water-boarding lounge by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed at the hotel Guantanamo.
It’s a safe bet that the people who successfully found the world’s most wanted man didn’t start at ground zero when Mr. Obama took office. And it’s a safe bet that although there were a number of policies and procedures that were rejected, a totally different set of policies and procedures did survive. In essence, just because Mr. Bush didn’t have the follow through to see the job done doesn’t mean he didn’t influence the people who continued the job. Just because Mr. Bush stopped doesn’t mean his policies stopped as well. It would be impossible to separate what from what. There is little doubt that what happened in the beginning had an impact on the outcome.
This is a wonderfully appropriate analogy for the institutionalized racism that has become part and parcel of America’s history, of America’s current existence, and of America’s foreseeable future and beyond. The most complete and most encompassing affirmative action program ever known to this country, America’s enslavement of the descendents from Africa in order to give white people every undeserved advantage, the programs designed to give black people a sense of inferiority as only 3/5ths human as written in the United States Constitution, the laws of segregation that allowed blatant and open racial discrimination and hostility in the black community, did much to set the tone for race relations here in America.
We’ve made changes in the laws. The Constitution no longer says that black people are only sixty percent the value of a white person. We’ve passed laws that say discrimination is illegal and that racism is wrong. For a while there, this country was able to use the courts to correct the damage done by America’s pervasive “white only” affirmative action program.
But the racial discrimination that this country was founded on didn’t stop just because somebody passed a law. Yes, President Lincoln freed the slaves, but that did little to correct the fact that black people worked in this country for generations without compensation or without humanity. Black people were still denied an education, justice, government representation, and protection under the law. Black people fought hard for the legal right to vote. But that didn’t mean some white bureaucrat could not implement nonsensical regulations to deny black people their legal right at the voting booth. Yes we passed civil rights laws, but black people are still being discriminated against to this day. How else could one explain why with every single measure of our social performance, as a group black people continue to lag behind white people?
The answer is that just like almost any and everything else, just because a person stops doesn’t mean the policies and procedures that were initially instituted stopped along with it. America’s institutionalized racial discrimination didn’t stop simply because somebody stopped their blatant racism. America’s racism runs deep and it runs long. It permeates our social arrangement like the stars permeate the milky way. So after so many generations of black people being discriminated against as if white people simply had the right to have every advantage, who really thinks that thinking, that way of life, simply stopped one day because somebody stopped? If we really want to stop racial discrimination, we will have to work on it. We will have to work hard and we will have to work for a very long time. But that’s only if we could change the thinking that has become the foundation of who we are ever since the Africans were brought to America against their will.
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