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When Will the Healing Start?

(For the sake of honest and clarity, don’t read just part of this article without reading it in its entirety.  Thank you.)

The reaction of liberals to the appointment of Tim Scott, an African-American, to replace Jim DeMint who is leaving the U. S. Senate deserves an equally vociferous pushback from conservatives—indeed, from all Americans.  It is clear that racism is no longer about skin color, culture, or even race itself.  It is pure ideology.  A person can meet all the criteria necessary to be a bona fide, black to the core, African-American, and still be rejected by black minority leaders.  Why?  Because he is not getting down with “the brothers.”  Because he’s not sympathetic with the hardships of being black in America.  Because he is running with “whitey.”  Because he is allowing himself to be used.  Because he is just a “token” black for the conservatives.  These are some of the purported, superficial reasons why Tim Scott is meeting such strong resistance from the liberal establishment, both white and black. 

Blackness is not a function of skin pigmentation in twenty-first century America.  To be a true black, you must align yourself with the three hundred year plus struggle of blacks with whites.  If you make that alliance, you can be white, red, yellow or brown. No matter.  You would still be considered black.  Remember, Bill Clinton was the first black president, not Barack Obama.  And, if you don’t identify with this cause, you can be as black as the nineteenth century blackface minstrels, and still be denounced as pretending to be authentic.  

The foregoing statements are not merely opinions.  You can check it out yourself by doing some online research on conservative African-Americans like Herman Cain, Condoleezza Rice, Clarence Thomas, Thomas Sowell, Mia Love, J. C. Watts, Walter Williams, Michael Steele, Ken Blackwell and many others.  Most of them have more black blood in them than President Obama, yet they are opposed, ridiculed and trashed by the African-American community headed by Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and the like.  The criteria, then, is clearly not race.  It is politics. 

If the problem is politics, then there is no solution short of changing sides.  If you are a white conservative, you are white.  If you are a black conservative, you are white.  It you are a white liberal, you are black.  If you are a black liberal, you are black.  Forget specific issues.  Forget overtures of niceness and negotiation.  If Al Sharpton’s America stands for black solidarity, no political diversity can be tolerated.  “Here is what we believe.  If you don’t believe this, get out.  Don’t even think about calling yourself black!” 

This sounds unreasonable to the uneducated mind.  Not educated in the sense of formal degrees and accreditation, but educated about the mindset of Sharpton’s minions.  Familiarize yourself with the Black Liberation Theology of James Cone and Jeremiah Wright.  You will come to understand that they preach a gospel of grievance.  Jesus Christ and the cross were highlights in the war against the rich, white oppressors.  Whiteness is evil, not because of lack of darker skin pigmentation, and not even because of the race of an individual.  Whiteness is evil because of what it represents.   A white person can never be acceptable in a just world, because he symbolizes evil and oppression to the black race.  Ironically, neither can a black person be acceptable on any individualistic scale for the same reason!  If a black person can trace his ancestry back to Africa with no intermingling with white blood, and yet does not have the “correct” political philosophy, he is just a white man in black skin.  No one is judged on the basis of individual merit.

Let’s give some anecdotal context to these assertions.  Currently, a black ESPN contributor, Rob Parker has been suspended for comments he made about Robert Griffin III, the sensational black quarterback for the Washington Redskins.  

“Is he a brother or a cornball brother?  I’m just trying to dig deeper as to why he has an issue. Because we did find out with Tiger Woods, Tiger Woods was like, I’ve got black skin, but don’t call me black. So people got to wondering about Tiger Woods early on.” 

Later, Parker issued an apology which I’m sure will be acceptable to ESPN so he can have his job back, but one has to wonder if the political position that spawned the comments have changed.  Personally, I doubt it.  

Remember Gabby Douglas?  She was the sixteen year old gold medalist in the Olympics that was criticized by members of her race for wearing a “white” hairdo.  Tiger Woods, as mentioned by Parker, was criticized for dating white women.  In the early 2000’s, Bill Cosby voiced harsh criticism of black culture, especially that of the youth.  For this, he was excoriated in a blistering comeback book, “Was Cosby Right? (Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind?)”, by Michael Eric Dyson.  In it, Dyson does everything but call Cosby an Uncle Tom.  He basically says the famous black entertainer and celebrity was articulating the bigotry and racism of the white and elite black communities. 

“Usually the sort of bile that Cosby spilled is more expertly contained, or at least poured on its targets in ways that escape white notice. Cosby’s remarks betray seething class warfare in black America that has finally boiled over to the general public. It is that general public, especially white social critics and other prophets of black ethical erosion, that has been eager for Cosby’s dispatches from the tortured front of black class war. Cosby’s comments let many of these whites off the hook. If what Cosby says is true, then critics who have said the same, but who courted charges of racism, are vindicated. There’s nothing like a formerly poor black multimillionaire bashing poor blacks to lend credence to the ancient assaults they’ve endured from the dominant culture.” 

On and on it goes.  I am not oblivious to the enormity of the racial problem that exists in America.  I do maintain, however, that Dyson, Sharpton, Jackson, Cone, Wright and other leaders, defenders and apologists for black racism do little more than exacerbate the animosity and tension that already exists.  Much of what they say is absolutely correct, especially when they define prevalent attitudes of the races.  But their solutions only urge the black race to dig in, to become more entrenched in their hatred of the white race, to strengthen their ties with their cultural past, and to continue to focus on the racial problem as a function of huge social forces which can neither be forgiven nor changed.  Their diatribes contain no conciliatory tone, no glimmer of hope, no admission that progress has been made and no concrete plans or even suggestions as to how true solutions can be forged. 

My voice is tainted.  I am an old white pastor who grew up in the fifties and sixties, and so I am sure most blacks read my background into everything I say.  I know enough not to talk about all my black friends.  I know enough not to brag about the opportunities I have given to black ministers and leaders in ministry by virtue of my various positions.  I may not know enough to keep from saying a few things, though, like establishing and maintaining a parochial school for thirty-four years that has enrolled 40-50% black students.  In fact, Apostolic Christian Academy services the community at large with a higher percentage of students who are non-members of the church, and again, a large majority of them blacks and minorities.  We are a multi-racial church, although the congregation does not represent nearly the percentage of minorities that it should.  Before the bussing ministry was hit with debilitating regulations and expense, we literally bussed in hundreds of black children and teenagers from all neighborhoods in Toledo.  Many of them, now grown, meet us on the streets and in the stores today and thank us for reaching out to them.  

But, Dyson says Cosby let whites “off the hook.”  Evidently, we should still be on the hook.  What does that mean?  How can that be rationalized, codified and implemented?  Diversity initiatives, affirmative action, social programs, including the War on Poverty have all been tried.  The Cato Institute released a study this year stating that our government spends over $1,000,000,000,000 (one trillion) each year on poverty.  Of course, many whites and other minorities benefitted from much of these funds, but a disproportionate slice of the pie went to black Americans living in poverty.  

The poverty rate for all persons masks considerable variation between racial/ethnic subgroups. Poverty rates for blacks and Hispanics greatly exceed the national average. In 2010, 27.4 percent of blacks and 26.6 percent of Hispanics were poor, compared to 9.9 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 12.1 percent of Asians.  Poverty rates are highest for families headed by single women, particularly if they are black or Hispanic. In 2010, 31.6 percent of households headed by single women were poor, while 15.8 percent of households headed by single men and 6.2 percent of married-couple households lived in poverty. 

Here is my problem:  None of us can undo the past.  I am deeply sorry for the gross injustices done to people of color, especially black people, by white people.  I am ashamed to learn about the lynchings, torturings, kidnappings, and all other forms of cruelty in the name of and by the hands of people who called themselves Christians.  I am sure that I am not the only one who has expressed this shame and has asked for forgiveness.  Is this enough?  Again, I cannot undo it.  It happened.  It should not have happened.  Neither can I undo all the suffering these despicable acts caused to the descendents of those who endured the pain first hand.  

If there is no forgiveness for these acts done by my forebears, then what?  Getting even?  Retribution?  The subjugation of the white race to the black race?  Should the same treatment now be meted out to white people?  Are white people to be lynched, tortured, kidnapped and made just as miserable as were the blacks a hundred and fifty years ago?  I doubt that most blacks want these things to happen, yet the animosity persists.  Discrimination has become institutionalized and both blacks and whites now define themselves by the stereotypes and hyperboles of hatred on steroids.   

Is it money?  Are the current leaders of the black community trying to get repayment through reparations?  I’ve done the math on that and it cannot be done without the end of the United States of America.  If you pull all the white owned or controlled money out of all the banks in the country and give it to black America, this nation would sink into chaos and anarchy in a week’s time.  You would suddenly have two hundred and fifty million Americans without jobs, without any means to live.  And, if America collapses, the world collapses.  

My further problem is that we can’t talk about racism without being branded as racist.  Certain leaders of the black community have injected such hypersensitivity into the conversation that nearly every word has a double entendre.  This article is extremely risky for me to write.  I am not a brave person.  This is far more indicative of stupidity, ignorance or naiveté than courage.  I am only one person looking at the world through a pitifully small window.  I understand that.  What I am hoping for is to extend an olive branch for peace, for forgiveness, for some kind of collaborative effort to lay down our swords and talk to each other.  All of this must be done in good faith or it will be worthless.  

For example, Rob Parker should not have been suspended.  ESPN should have staged a debate (no, discussion) with people, both black and white, reasoning with him and showing him and the world that inflammatory remarks do not serve blacks or whites well.  Our president should have seized this opportunity to make something like this happen.  Instead of being a polarizing event, it could have been (as of this writing, it could still be) a fabulous teaching moment for the country.  The Gabby Douglas and Tiger Woods episodes should be center stage of a national forum instead of fodder for right and left wing groups to spew out hatred and bigotry.  Without exposure, the status quo will never evolve into something better than racial warfare. 

But, I’m just and old white guy.  I am an old white guy, however, who was alive to hear Martin Luther King, Jr. give his speech on “I have a dream.”  I am an old white guy who memorized parts of that speech as an oratorical declamation in high school.  I am an old white guy who mourned his assassination like so many millions of others in 1968.  Unfortunately, his influence which tended towards reconciliation has been eclipsed by the more militant elements of the civil rights movement like that espoused by Malcom X and Louis Farrakhan.  Had Dr. King lived, I am confident that race relations in this country would be a thousand times better than they are today.  

For what it’s worth, we share this country.  Some may say it’s a white man’s world.  Others may say it is becoming a nation where color is king.  I say it belongs to all of us, in the sense that we are here, living in close proximity to each other and trying to live peaceably.  

I am reminded of the response of Jesus to the Jews who caught a woman in the act of adultery.  “So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” John 8:7-11 (NKJV)

In our race to condemnation, we have rushed past forgiveness.  It’s not everything, but it is the only place we can really start to heal.

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Reader Comments (1)

I read the excerpt quoted by the link provided on the NY Times opinion piece, and I am puzzled as how the rest of your article, which does have some excellent points about the unfortunate , relates to the op-ed piece, because it does not read at all like the vitriol that the commentator portrays. The op-ed piece just correctly points out the FACT that the actual votes of African Americans don't align with the color of the skin of the candidate, but rather the politics. It could justifiably be read as an insult by African Americans that they are by implication mere pawns of the left's alleged smear campaign -- does it not stand to reason that the GOP has itself simply not appealed to a large majority of African Americans (this is fact) because their policies aren't appealing to a large majority of African Americans? It is not necessary, either, to believe that the GOP has any racial animus at all against blacks to accept the reality that they simply aren't appealing to black voters.

Thus, it is also reasonable to point out the huge disconnect between GOP leaders eager to show off racial diversity in the selection of Tim Scott, and the huge gap that they suffer at the polls when it comes to actually electing candidates to national office. It is not unreasonable to criticize the GOP for failing to understand that it is insufficient to have a few faces of color in a few positions, but that they must also appeal to rank and file voters of color as well.

December 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTim Garcia

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