An unplanned dialogue on race and violence in America

March 22nd, 2006

A young man from Washington, viagra sale medical D.C. left a long comment on the post I made about the shallowness of Gregory Stanford‘s focus on racism as the main cause of the plight of young black men in America.

I started to respond with a comment of my own, pharm but then I realized this discussion deserved a more prominent position on the site.

So I’m going to repeat his comment and my response below.

WARNING: This post is exceedingly long. (Ironic considering my reluctance to read other people’s posts of a similar nature.) Feel free to skip this one.

Unai said:

“That is a cop-out for you to say.

You will not justify racism, fascism, and police brutality with the sarcastic undertones of some statistical information that you really haven’t investigated anymore than from the driver’s seat of your damn car.

Milwaukee does not even have a significant black population, and that is why police brutality and racism perpetuated by law enforcement exists so heavily.

It is always so interesting how people are so quick to bitch and moan about the violent and combative behaviors they observe in minorities but fail to bitch and moan about the violent and combative nature of the culture of this country.

It is written in the soil of the south, it is written in the “Right to Bear Arms”, it is written on the nooses, written on our dinner plates marking the anniversary of the extermination of Native AMericans (thanksgiving), it is written in our love for hunting, it is written in the billions of dollars we spend on weapons, it is written in the American presence in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Angola, Argentina, Mexico… IT is written in the Civil Rights movement, an otherwise peaceful movement from which all of the violence came from militant white americans… the brutal, criminal, imperialistic attacks, extermination, rape, and assaults on people of color over a course of 500 years has so modestly resulted in the violent energy that the media intensifies to be the villified embodiment of the black man.

But you and every other liberal racist in America are nervous, and scared; and you run out into your socially constructed suburbs while all your phones have 911 on speed dial hoping that the angyr niggers dont get you. And deep inside you feel relief every time you hear about black on black crime because that means that they aren’t killing you.

And if the instiutional racism of police brutality keeps them from shooting off the pale ass head of a white guy then you support it and call it “doing their job”. If you stared into the apathetic eyes of an angry, desperate black man holding a gun at your face, the first thing you are going to do is offer him everything that you can think of that you have in order to save your life… And You will do that because your survival insticnt will kick in…Will consider this… He’s already done that… and he doesn’t have anything because its been stolen, raped, and snatched from him just because of how he looks…

And maybe there is something more to this violence than just anger… MAybe there is something more to this violence than just revenge… and lack of education… maybe it is about need… Or more importantly may be it is just a simple reflection of what Americans do to themselves and each other… Maybe this violence is a wake-up call for Americans do look at themselves…? Maybe this violence is the result of what American Society is doing to them? And before youget all snuggled up in your bed at night maybe this violence that you are just oh so sure is being brought on by blacks is a modest warning of what is to come and what is going to happen to the rest of us?”

Hi Unai, welcome to From Where I Sit.

I’m not sure where to start.

Racism is wrong. Period. It also exists. No argument.

But focusing on the racism they experience as the sole, or even majority cause, of the problems of inner city youth is distracting and disingenous.

Personally, having grown up in government housing, I see the problems of the inner city being mostly ones of poverty and powerlessness.

But I also think the self-destructive culture that holds sway on the streets is one that the African Americans in those neighborhoods have to acknowledge.

I escaped the class I was born into through hard work and a belief in the power of education.

But that’s not an escape route that’s available in a culture where being educated is less valued than being respected.

Your example of a moment of violence between a black man and a white man is interesting… not because things like that happen, but because they happen so rarely.

Most inner-city violence in Milwaukee is young black men killing other young black men for reasons that aren’t worth a punch in the face let alone a bullet in the head.

Do you really believe it is white racism that is causing young African Americans to prey on each other?

If black kids were killing whites in the street, your theory would make more sense to me. But mostly they are not.

(I have to pause for a moment and recognize a friend of mine who lost his son in the Riverwest area of Milwaukee. That young white man who wanted to live among people of a different color and a different perspective was shot and killed in a senseless robbery. Black-on-white violence does happen. And often when it does, it makes no more sense politically or personally than black-on-black violence.)

It seems to me that everything you said boils down to this: America was born from a history of violence. We still embrace violence. We still export violence. Why should we be surprised that inner-city blacks resort to violence?

But if we are all mere prisoners of history, where is the hope for change?

How does the violence stop?

The street outside my door doesn’t ring with gunshots.

And the history that created my world is the same one you described. I live in the same country you do. I drive the same streets. Why do young black men feel compelled to settle their disputes with death, but the vast majority of whites, asians, and hispanics do not?

Why do you assert that the black community is uniquely unable to escape our shared past?

I’d like to end with an alternative observation. Last night, the love of my life and I went to a buffet-style restaurant called The Golden Corral.

One of the reasons we like going there is that the clientele is even more diverse than the food.

Blacks, whites, asians, latinos all sit side-by-side at tables enjoying a meal with their families and loved ones.

When you see people of all races laughing, and smiling, and enjoying a moment of peace with their families, it reminds you that we’re not as different from each other as we sometimes like to pretend.

I admire your passion. I just hope one day you realize that railing about the way things have been will not help you begin to change the way things are.

A note to my regular readers: l want you to express your own thoughts on both our posts, but – as always – I’m asking everyone to respond with respect and a little bit of restraint. (I know, what the hell am I thinking? ;)

Entry Filed under: Milwaukee,Politics

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Melinda Omdahl  |  March 22nd, 2006 at 10:18 pm

    Very long post. But, I made it through.

    First- let me just say that I think more dialogue like this needs to occur in our society.

    With that said, here’s my two cents. Bad things happened to black people in this country. We cannot forget that. But, bad things also happened to Indians, Asians, Irish, Latinos, and basically everyone who was not Anglo-Saxon. That is not the debate or even a question.

    The real question is… Now what do we do?

    We’re not going to solve any of today’s problems by yelling about the past or finding someone to blame. We need to work together to move on and make a better tomorrow… not perfect, but better.

  • 2. Melinda Omdahl  |  March 22nd, 2006 at 10:21 pm

    Sorry- one last note.

    If someone knocks you down, it’s terrible, unfair, and just wrong.

    However, if you choose to stay on the ground, that was your choice.

    Further, if you choose to get up and, in turn, knock someone else down because you got knocked down — are you any better than the person who originally knocked you down?

  • 3. Peter  |  March 23rd, 2006 at 8:11 am

    It seems to me that nothing will change as long as everyone identifies with their first name. African, asian, liberal, conservative, democrat, republican ad nauseum. Why do we all forget our family name? Americans. Even though we all live in the same house, we all stay in our rooms with the door closed and a big “Do not Enter” sign taped to the outside. We have lost the art of the family dinner. Where everyone sits down and converses about the day’s events and problems. We prefer to point fingers and call each other names. did that get you anywhere when you were a kid? It still doesn’t work.

  • 4. Tim  |  March 23rd, 2006 at 8:31 am

    I can’t think of a thing to say suddenly … a first I think.
    I posted this is the wrong place initially.

    Well … The African-American experience is centuries too long and way too ugly to simply regard it from a drive by.

    On the other hand, where does victimhood stop and responsibility begin?

    I don’t have a clue. I am white and I will never know what it is like to be black (I use those terms intentionally).

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Being in a wheelchair gives you a unique perspective on the world. This blog features many of my views on politics, art, science, and entertainment. My name is Elliot Stearns. More...

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