Thursday, December 04, 2014

The Air of Progress

[Image via the NY Daily News cartoonist Bill Bramhall]

I remain deeply disturbed and deeply saddened by how we values lives, particularly black lives, in this country. First Mike Brown and now Eric Garner. That the grand juries in bother these American cities chose not to indict – which is not judging innocence or guilt, but just whether a trial should be held to determine innocence or guilt – boggles the mind. That wasn’t even asking for justice, that was asking for the chance to have justice.

What strikes me, too, is how insignificant these supposed “crimes” were to warrant what turned out in both cases to be lethal force. Stealing some Swisher Sweets. Selling a few loose cigarettes. How can we say we value all lives when this is the kind of infraction required to take one?

As much as we pat ourselves on the back for all of our “progress,” it’s beyond obvious that it is still not nearly enough. And interestingly just as it took a comedian to put the Bill Cosby rape allegations into perspective, it took another comedian to put our illusion of progress into perspective.

Chris Rock truly said it best in his New York magazine interview:

When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before. So, to say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. That’s not black progress. That’s white progress. There’s been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years. If you saw Tina Turner and Ike having a lovely breakfast over there, would you say their relationship’s improved? Some people would. But a smart person would go, “Oh, he stopped punching her in the face.” It’s not up to her. Ike and Tina Turner’s relationship has nothing to do with Tina Turner. Nothing. It just doesn’t. The question is, you know, my kids are smart, educated, beautiful, polite children. There have been smart, educated, beautiful, polite black children for hundreds of years. The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let’s hope America keeps producing nicer white people.
The majority in our culture will always determine our “progress.” The majority controls how any subjugated group, be it racial minorities or LGBT people, fare in society. Certainly, black people and gay people and others have rightfully risen up and demanded their rights. We have protested, we have rallied, we have educated. We will continue to do all of those things. Still, those rights are fundamentally not ours to take. They must be given by the majority which has progressed to a point where they are no longer frightened, angry, disgusted, confused and generally wrong about us. In this world, there should only be folks. But whether we like to admit it or not, we tend to see our differences before we see our similarities.

The question is not, have black people progressed. The question is, when will the majority look at itself and realize it hasn’t progressed, not nearly enough.


Anonymous said...

Very well said.

Helena said...

This is so true and not only of Americans but of the whole human race. Can only hope we will all evolve into more tolerant beings.

Anonymous said...

This was a very potent article and I plan on passing this around for others to read. Unfortunately - or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, I have no interest in social media, no FB acct, no twitter, but I will email it to friends who hopefully will spread the word.

In case no one knows, there is a new hashtag out called #criming while white. It seems a lot of white men are coming forward who have had encounters with cops where they broke the law and describe how civil they were treated by the cops, never brutalized, never killed. I hope this starts some kind of change to happen with our overly excessive para military police force who clearly have a pattern of targeting black men as dangerous, while not doing the same to white perpetrators.

Anonymous said...

Bravo, Dorothy! Bravo!

Anonymous said...

I suspect we are in general agreement about this, but I cannot abide discussion of whatever crimes these two dead men might have committed. I do not care of they were "one of the good ones" or "a gentle giant" as I've read. I do not care if they were gang-bangers.

They were men killed while unarmed and not in violent confrontation with police. That is wrong (again, I am sure we agree) and whatever else we might say let's keep the focus on what's wrong, not on details of the victims' lives.

voltairesmistress said...

I think you do Mr. Garner an injustice grouping him with Mr. Brown. Mr. Garner in no way attacked the police officers, while Mr. Brown, fresh from his strong armed robbery of a smaller man, probably assaulted Officer Wilson. We will never know exactly what happened in either case, but I have little sympathy for Brown, even as I feel deeply angry about Garner's treatment. I am committed to helping end police over reaction to any suspects, particularly black male suspects. Ferguson and other places need a lot of change. But the person of Michael Brown is no hero, not even a good person, and I think we should all separate him and his case from the very necessary reforms we need to champion.

Carmen SanDiego said...

Chris Rock is on a roll with all of these Top Five interviews

Anonymous said...

This isn't about white or black.. this about those in a position of power abusing it and there being no checks and balances. There are plenty of cases of unarmed white men also being murdered by cops and the cops aren't indicted. Why aren't those cases also news? They don't fit the storyline the media is trying to spin. And while the overall US population is still a majority white non-hispanic, there are plenty of cities and towns where that is not the case.