Burn the race card


My recent column, “Coddling children in Ferguson, Mo.” touched a few nerves. Some didn’t like my advice to my hypothetical black son about not dressing or acting like a thug, taking the implication that I believe all young black men are thugs.

Quite the contrary, but I would want my hypothetical son’s appearance, for his own safety, to be completely unlike those young black men who are genuine thugs, the ones who make their crime rate astronomical.

Why would a well-behaved young black man worry about being confused with thugs? Because even a police officer that is faithfully obedient to anti-profiling policies doesn’t erase from his mind the image of most likely criminals. I’d want my son to present a different image.

My real kids are a different race, and I tell them race doesn’t matter, but behavior does.

In July the Atlanta Journal Constitution ran a column by Christine Ristaino titled “Challenge white silence over race.” She teaches Italian language and culture, and leads diversity discussions at Emory University. Ms. Ristaino’s column laments that whites avoid honest discussions about race, and makes the point that white silence enables them to keep the power of white privilege.

I think we duck the race conversation for much different reasons.

First, I think the vast majority of whites are, like me, wanting very much for American blacks to succeed economically and socially, and we are weary of having the racist finger pointed our way.

We want the entire black community to succeed, not just the half that have already taken advantage of what this country offers.

Why wouldn’t we celebrate if the poverty-and-crime-ridden half of black Americans could rise up out of that despair to be self-sufficient, peaceful and successful?

Second, racism isn’t the problem and has not been for a long time. The problem is a culture of failure and excuses, exacerbated by a national media that is willfully blind.

They fail to take advantage of opportunities available to determined people, fail to develop themselves into productive members of society and make excuses that their plight is due to racism. An honest discussion on race is doubtful amidst so much denial.

Is it any wonder poor black families fail when four out of five births are to single mothers, part of a cycle of poor young women trapped in poverty without an education or the help of absent fathers to add strength to the family and teach self-discipline to the kids?

How many of the kids will rise above these disadvantages after they are taught to shun academics as “acting white” and learn to wear their trouser waists around their thighs to imitate prison garb? What employer wants to hire a young man with an attitude and appearance of a thug?

But political correctness means supporting the popular narrative, refraining from saying these uncomfortable truths out loud and risk hurting someone’s feelings, so nobody wants to talk about the failure and excuses of America’s poor black culture.

Bill Cosby took a lot of grief when he made these observations and encouraged poor blacks to take control of positive change in their lives, like learning to speak properly, pulling up your pants, meeting your responsibilities as a father and so on.

For the single mom stuck in that cycle of poverty and failure, maybe for generations, how much easier must it be for her and the kids to believe the fiction that their misery is caused by white oppression?

When an event like Ferguson happens and opportunists like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton show up to sympathize and blame whites as soon as the cameras are rolling, how much easier must it be to believe it is someone else’s fault?

How hard must it be to admit I am ruining my own life and it is up to me to do the hard things to bring about change?

Have you called me a racist yet? Maybe fear of that label in these politically correct times is why speaking the truth on these issues is so rare, even among reporters whose job it is to uncover the truth. But their sympathetic bent to minorities seems to render the media blind.

For example, a national study last year showed black kids were far more likely to be disciplined in pre-school for behavior issues than white kids, and the report’s tone suggested mostly white administrators must be intentionally or subconsciously applying racist favoritism.

A couple of weeks after this story in the AJC, black columnist Leonard Pitts wrote a blistering column about racism against innocent little black kids as demonstrated by this study.

Neither the study, the reporter nor Pitts seemed the least bit curious whether this pattern might be revealing that black kids raised without the stabilizing influence of fathers might result in behavior issues. Personally, I am curious.

Racism is too often the knee-jerk accusation, and it has become a lame excuse for dodging hard truths, which is ironic since President Barak Obama claimed to be a post-racial president, and that he would bring racial harmony. Instead, he has made the racial divide far worse.

Before Ferguson came along to feed the media’s appetite for frenzy, two East Point police officers had chased 24-year-old Gregory Lewis Towns, a 281-pound black man, and found him after less than a mile, sitting on the ground and trying to catch his breath.

Towns died after being tasered at least 14 times by the two officers pressing their taser prongs against his skin over a 29-minute period even though there is no claim that Towns resisted.

The officers were apparently trying to make him stand on his own while he asked more than 10 times to be allowed to catch his breath. Investigation, prosecution and civil suits are afoot, but you might wonder why you missed the media frenzy, or marches, or appearances by Jesse and Al.

None of that happened, maybe because this case did not fit the racist narrative, since both police officers were also black. If the officers had been white, the nation might know the name of East Point as well as they now know Ferguson.

Ms. Ristaino’s wish for an honest discussion of race might be a hurdle too high.

One can forgive a new president’s blunder when President Obama clumsily intervened in a Massachusetts incident, calling police “stupid” from a White House podium after they arrested a black Harvard professor in his own home. As more details became known, Obama had to backpedal with a photo-op beer summit at the White House with the professor and police officer. Presidents should not weigh in on local law enforcement matters.

That didn’t stop Obama from jumping to the aid of the Trayvon Martin family in the middle of that case and applying federal resources in support of prosecution.

Ferguson is just one more case in which the news media, the Obama Administration and activists leaped to create an immediate narrative without waiting for the facts to unfold.

What did white folks like me want? How about waiting calmly, without tearing your own town apart, for an investigation, and if the police officer abused his authority, then prosecute him. Is that so hard?

The race card has been wrongly played way too many times since Obama took office. We need to burn that worn-out race card.

When will we know we have made progress on race? How about when I can call our black president an idiot without being called racist?

When I can say the unkind things I am thinking about President Barak Obama, like that he is a well-tailored empty suit; a panty-waist masquerading as a tough guy in his weekly do-nothing denouncement of Putin while the Russians ignore his words and take even more ground; a world-class narcissist that replaced the deterrent power of the U.S. with timid weakness and thereby encouraged the cockroaches of the world to crawl out from under their rock to cause trouble; an empty head that has spread recessionary postponed business plans with his dimwitted anti-business and class warfare policies and rhetoric; a weenie deserving a beanie – with a propeller of course – stumbling through his first job.

When I can say these things I believe to be true but have nothing to do with the color of his skin, without being called a racist, then I will know we will have made progress on race.

Until then, I can only tell you that, like everyone else I know, when I go for coffee or lunch, the race of the person I’m breaking bread with is not relevant to me. But just like a president, their behavior matters quite a lot.

[Terry Garlock of Peachtree City occasionally contributes a column to The Citizen. His email is terry@garlock1.com.]