Thursday, June 29, 2017

How blind we are to the racism around us

I don't know when I've been madder!

Of course I've come pretty close with the trauma brought to our country by the campaign and election of a person totally ill equipped to be our president. But an article that has gotten me so riled up in today's Washington Post is just another clear indication of the long-standing problem we have faced in our country - racism and the belief that we Eurocentric whites are superior to everyone else in the world. It was of course first manifest when our forebears stole a vast portion of a continent from an indigenous population which we saw as inferior. And then African-Americans were enslaved not only to build the first edifices of our our capital that "express freedom" and also built the rich economy of the South. Yet for the past eight years we were misled as we felt that the election of a black president had overcoming all of that. And now, a simple story, fortunately not as traumatic as "police murders," shows us how far we have yet to go in realizing that Black Lives Matter

My horror was all occasioned by today's article by Petula Dvorak's in today's issue of The Washington Post, June 27, 2017, entitled:
"On the mall selling cold drinks can get a black youth into hot water"
with the subtitle
"On the mall, fear of young black men armed with bottles of water"

Having lost out on other summer jobs, three young African-Americans, ages 16 and 17, thought they could make some money and be of help to people by selling water on the National Mall on an extremely hot day for $1.00.

"Selling Water While Black was enough to get the teens… handcuffed and humiliated by
Park Police working a undercover sting targeting illegal vendors.
The three youth were dumping the melting ice out of their bins, about to head home,
when they were surrounded by three undercover officers
who pulled out their badges and cuffed the boys
before questioning or conversation even began…
There they were, hands behind their backs,
one splayed on a sidewalk, as tourists walked by and gawked…
It was embarrassing. All these people watching us thinking we”re just criminals.
He'd never been in handcuffs before. He said they hurt."

So that's the basic story. There's really no more I can add. You must read the rest of the article to get the flavor of its totality. One of the youth was fearful that his mother would be mad at him – when she finally picked him up, after about an hour and a half in 90° heat. His answer was heartbreaking. "She was happy that I was alive," he said.

It is infuriating to me the double standard by which so many of us make judgments. Perhaps this comes at a particular time when I was again sensitized to our countries racism by one of my former students, a large, heavy–set African-American. This gentle, extremely pleasant young man wrote on Facebook about the embarrassment he experiences time and again when clerks check his $20 bill to see if it is counterfeit!

In my 91 year of life I have been heartened to see – and be a modest part of – the positive direction I thought had brought us beyond the divisiveness that surrounds us. The task before us is greater than ever in arousing a “true moral majority" that seeks equality and justice for all.

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