Shame on All of Us.

I heard an interview on NPR this morning that reminded me why race relations in this country haven’t changed in the last 400 years. That’s right, NPR, my favorite radio station, so all the rest of you can stop reading now. The interview was with an African-American Mother aged 50 and her two sons, ages 24 and 26, called “The Talk.” They live in Los Angeles and have lots of white friends that they hang with in Beverly Hills. The 2 boys were articulate and “clean” as Joe Biden would say, and their Mother was explaining the necessity of having “The Talk when each of the boys turned 12.

The purpose of “The Talk” was to explain the necessity to behave in public in a certain way beginning in their pre-teens, so that White people will not interpret her boys’ behavior as a threat and not confuse them with aggressive “Black” males who may be “armed and dangerous.” “The Talk” was conceived after their Mother had lost her favorite brother to a bullet in the chest by a white shooter who thought he was threatening to him, because he was sauntering down the street, at night, wearing baggy, over-sized jeans, Nike’s and a dark Hoodie. He was holding his prison jeans up with one hand and drinking a can of coke with the other. It was dark. He walked right toward the shooter. The shooter pulled a 9mm Beretta out of his jacket pocket and shot him in the chest. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The shooter told the police that he felt threatened and saw him reaching for a weapon. There was no weapon found on Darrel’s body. The Mother worshiped Darrell. She named her oldest son after him.

This crime happened in New Augusta, Perry County, Mississippi. The investigating police officers were white. No arrest was ever made.

The now dead Darrell was an A student, had never been arrested or committed a crime and was one of the most popular guys in his high school. His friends all said he was the funniest, gentlest and kindest kid they knew.

Some of the rules are: Don’t wear Hoodies … ever. Don’t wear any clothing that is associated with Gangsta dress. Wear your ball cap with the bill facing forward. Never wear prison jeans. Always walk in a straight line and have a big smile on your face, but don’t make eye contact with white people. Dress conservatively. Never swagger. Always be polite, deferential and obedient with the police.

Now, imagine for a minute that you have to have “The Talk” with your children. Imagine being 12 and hearing that. And, imagine that Travon Martin would probably be alive today, if his Mother had known to have had “The Talk.” with Travon.

The 26 year-old Darrell says in the interview this morning that, “There has been so much change and so much of it for the better, yet nothing has really changed at all.” No, Darrell. Nothing has changed:

When Darrell is riding around Beverly Hills with his white friend, and they are pulled over by the police, his friend is openly aggressive with the officer while Darrell sits in the passenger seat and cringes, thinking, “Dude, don’t press this – yes sir, no sir, leave it alone”. “If I spoke to a white cop the way he did, my ass would be in jail right now,” says Darrell.

If you haven’t read any History of race relations in this country and/or don’t want to because you find history books boring, you might check out James Lee Burke or Greg Isles. Most of their fiction is set in Mississippi and Louisiana, and they tell really great stories, but mingled in with the story are historical and philosophical musings about race and culture. While the civil rights movement took about 30 years to really get consciousness lifted about the equality of races, it really only pushed the deep seated racism in the U.S. down behind the trap door of political correctness, and even today, most liberals have a “not in my back yard” view of racial equality, similar to their insistence that they have friends who are black, but when pushed about how they would feel if their daughter wanted to marry a (fill in the blank), well, not so much, thank you.

And, while I am not happy about the natural anger and aggressiveness of this video, I cannot blame the hopelessness and emasculation that this African-American male feels. It’s 6 minutes. Watch the whole thing.

I don’t have much hope. Because, while we will continue to push social consciousness through education and stupid social programs that maybe cause more resentment and bitterness than they help, we actually broke down and elected a black man to the highest office in the land, yet we were also pissed-off that his wife, in a moment of excruciating authenticity at Obama’s election, said, “This is the first time in my adult life, I’m really proud of my country.” Why would she not feel that way? And, more importantly, why would we find that so insulting? Can we be so ignorant and so unable to empathize with the feelings of a black woman, whose environment was created by our own hands, that we get pissed off when she tells the truth? Is this the old, “Give the n-words an inch and they take a mile.”?

The African-American is one of two races/cultures that did not make a conscious decision or choice to either come to this country or surrender their land to marauding white guys. The Irish, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Italians, Germans, Koreans, East Indians, etc., all chose to come here and try to compete for the American dream. In so doing, they brought their culture, families and history with them and they defined themselves by those things. It was part of the energy that contributed to their self-esteem. They fought with each other over old tribal prejudices, like I am sure the African immigrants might have done, had they been allowed to come to the promised land in the same way that, say Bulgarians were.

But they weren’t. They were hunted in the jungles of Africa, chained, separated from their families, forced to learn a new language and then were sold into slavery, where they saw a future only as flat as the fields in which they labored to pick cotton and soy beans. When they rebelled, they were beaten, tortured, burned alive, shot, chain dragged behind mules and hanged. The American Indians had a reverse experience. Their land was stolen from them and they were forced into concentration camps known as Indian Reservations where they could continue to honor their cultural history and try to assimilate into a growing American culture that they couldn’t understand and had no basis to relate to. Not integrate. Assimilate. Their were lots of slaves. Not so many Indians. To square our national shame, we gave them gambling licenses and let them (encouraged them to) drink whiskey. The more they drank, the better they felt about themselves, and the easier they were to control.

So, when The Civil Rights act was signed in 1964, it took only 4 more years to kill their leader, then that “N-word Lover”, Bobby Kennedy and with those assassinations, snuff out any sense of national hope for the African-American. The Blacks who could, found a way to migrate to the Northern cities and try to establish some semblance of normalcy, raising a family where one child might have a shot at getting to where a guy named Barack got. But for every Harold Ford, Jr., there are a hundred thousand angry black men who have no voice and probably never will. And, we can thank ourselves for it. If you have any doubts about this, spend a weekend in Natchez, Mississippi or Lafayette, Louisiana or almost anywhere in east Texas. And, try to feel what it must be like for Travon Martin’s mother. Or, the guy in that video.


About Steve King

iPeopleFINANCE™ Chief Operating Officer. Former CEO of Endymion Systems, Inc. a $36m Information Systems Services company. Co-founder of the Cambridge Systems Group, the creator of ACF2, the leading IBM Mainframe Data Center Security product; acquired by Computer Associates. IBM, seeCommerce, marchFIRST, Connectandsell alumni. UC Berkeley alumni. View all posts by Steve King

One response to “Shame on All of Us.

  • Tim S Handley

    The darkest and most shameful parts of our lives we are loathe to reexamine when they are comfortably contained by the carpet thrown over them.

    But only the through the light of consciousness will we ever be rid of the darkness. Until then we are doomed to keep tripping over the giant lump on the floor.

    Glad you are pulling the carpet back on this one Steve.

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