Sunday, October 16, 2005
The more I think about what happened in Toledo, the more it bothers me. I'm not only shocked by the actions of both the cops and the crowd, but also by the sheer deafening silence. Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no race-related issues whatsoever even if race is a major part of the story.
After Katrina there was some hand-wringing by conservatives like John Leo and Jonah Goldberg essentially saying the race issue was a "canard" or a worse yet, tool used by liberals. Meanwhile the National Report's highlighting some outspoken black leaders saying things like:
Rev. Al Sharpton. "I think Kanye said what a lot of us have been saying and he should be supported and protected for having the nerve to say it."
Sharpton adds that race was a reason for the slow response. "I do not think for one minute if this had been a city or region that the populous was White to the degree that this region is Black that George Bush would have sat two days on vacation and then flew the other way to San Diego and not been personally involved."
The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. "We were long on warning and slow on preparation. We knew way before this the storm was coming. The most able got out of the city. The least able remained and they knew who the least able were without trying to rescue them."
Race factored into the slow response, said Princeton University scholar/author Dr. Cornel West. "I think brother Kanye West hit the nail on the head that we've got an administration whose priorities do not include the well-being of poor people in general and poor Black people in particular. That's how you can end up herding these precious human beings into a Superdome with no plan, no food, no water, nothing. And then after a few days when people get upset and want to take some food, they become looters, but on the White side of town they are just looking for food. You can see the naked truth."
Dean even came out strong on the issue, but let it pass and is now seemingly more interested in strong PR messages for the Democratic Party and new techniques to "beat" the repugs rather than truly focusing the Party on discussing something filled with landmines like race and class.
Of course there were a few black leaders like Bishop T.D. Jakes who says, Many questions deserve to be answered, and it is a conversation that should and will happen in due time. Right now, we must focus on saving lives, and caring for the survivors who lost everything." To me this sounded very much like the 8 well-meaning clergymen who wrote to Martin Luther King prompting his seminal response "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" because ultimately if we wait, we will forget and nothing will change.
Though there are other leaders like Nagin and Congresswoman Maxine Waters who question whether race had anything to do with it, but have no problem focusing on class. Remember "anything but race."
This is eerily similar to Ford's comments that race did not play a part in these riots. Instead it was gangs or outside elements that were airing grievances, although he would delve into what those grievances may be.
So what's up with this "it's not race" canard? Even Robert Davis came out and said race wasn't a factor. Watch the unedited version and you tell me. That line sounded more like a lawyer telling his client they'll get more money if they don't make this a race issue. You can imagine the discussion: look, Robert, people are tired of the race thing and if you pull that issue into the courtroom, the jury will see some black guy just trying to get rich -- this is Louisiana afterall." And if anyone wants to tell me that race is not an issue I have a story to tell. Back in 90-92 I worked for a lobbyist in Baton Rouge. I was an editor for the trade publication and also helped out during legislative session by serving food/drinks to legislators who would walk across the street from the statehouse to my boss's residence in Spanish Town. While there, I heard a number of these men say the term "bluegum" while working on the state's business. I had never heard the term before and since I've moved, I haven't heard it since.
Now here is the situation. 60 people were arrested yesterday and not one was a nazi. As one resident is quoted in the Blade today:
By 11:15 a.m., police had already reported rocks flying. Along Stickney Avenue, as mounted patrol officers pushed back the crowd off the sidewalk, angry residents screamed at passing police.
ÂWhich side are you on?Â shrieked one woman. ÂI donÂt see you pushing any Nazis back!Â
The animosity and past injustices are boiling and if anyone wants to pretend these are "just" gangs or anarchists or whatever, then they are missing the bigger picture. Katrina brought it to the forefront. Bennet's comments poured some salt in the wound. Nazis in a black neighborhood, without permit, being protected by cops is a slap in the face.
The city could have given them a permit away from the neighborhood, but they didn't. They sent cops in to let them egg on the crowd. They allowedNazisnazis to scream their bile at the family's in the neighborhood including young kids, of course there's going to be a reaction. I wouldn't let some jerk yell crap in front of my house at my kids either.
Here's the thing though, we won't talk about the anger over profiling, the anger over poverty, the anger over the outright attacks on affirmative action (cause we know after 40 years everything is fixed), the anger over taking so many of the men to prison for non-violent offenses, the anger over lack of healthcare, the anger over racist assholes on TV like Coulter, Bennet, Hume, and their ilk who are not publicly disowned or punished for their ridiculous comments (even the WSJ still touts that idiot "Bell Curve", but instead pretend that they are all disparate elements and brush them aside.
For my kids' sakes, for our country's sake, we better stop "waiting for the right time" to start talking about this.
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I have read through one history
Each of you has your personal story; it is your history. Keeping a diary or writing your feelings in a special notebook is a wonderful way to learn how to think and write about who you are -- to develop your own identity and voice.
People of all ages are able to do this. Your own history is special because of your circumstances: your cultural, racial, religious or ethnic background. Your story is also part of human history, a part of the story of the dignity and worth of all human beings. By putting opinions and thoughts into words, you, too, can give voice to your inner self and strivings.
A long entry by Anne Frank on April 5, 1944, written after more than a year and a half of hiding from the Nazis, describes the range of emotions 14-year-old Anne is experiencing:
". . . but the moment I was alone I knew I was going to cry my eyes out. I slid to the floor in my nightgown and began by saying my prayers, very fervently. Then I drew my knees to my chest, lay my head on my arms and cried, all huddled up on the bare floor. A loud sob brought me back down to earth, and I choked back my tears, since I didn't want anyone next door to hear me . . .
"And now it's really over. I finally realized that I must do my school work to keep from being ignorant, to get on in life, to become a journalist, because that's what I want! I know I can write. A few of my stories are good, my descriptions of the Secret Annex are humorous, much of my diary is vivid and alive, but . . . it remains to be seen whether I really have talent . . .
"When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived! But, and that's a big question, will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer? I hope so, oh, I hope so very much, because writing allows me to record everything, all my thoughts, ideals and fantasies.
"I haven't worked on Cady's Life for ages. In my mind I've worked out exactly what happens next, but the story doesn't seem to be coming along very well. I might never finish it, and it'll wind up in the wastepaper basket or the stove. That's a horrible thought, but then I say to myself, "At the age of 14 and with so little experience, you can't write about philosophy.' So onward and upward, with renewed spirits. It'll all work out, because I'm determined to write! Yours, Anne M. Frank
For those of you interested in reading some of Anne Frank's first stories and essays, including a version of Cady's Life, see Tales From the Secret Annex (Doubleday, 1996). Next: Reviewing and revising your writing