the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Black-White Issues Jump the Shark


Recently, there was a lot of arguing going on at Los Angeles talk radio stations about a crime in Long Beach, CA that happened last October, where a gang of thirty youths severely beat three girls. One girl was so battered that she had multiple fractures and required surgery to reposition one of her eyes. The gang consisted of black boys and girls. The victims were all white. The victims were tormented about their “whiteness,” so when the perpetrators were caught, they were charged with an additional hate crime. This caused a big turmoil as some questioned whether blacks could ever be charged with a hate crime against whites. As one commenter in the Huffington Post recently said after an article on this subject:

The fact is that black people in the U.S. represent a distinct minority with a unique history of having been brought here as slaves, against their will. They cannot “pass” into the majority population because of skin color. And they continue to be the objects of constant and often violent racism directed at them by the majority. They are also, in large numbers, segregated into separate housing, schools, places of work, and jobs within any particular business.

Is it fair to say that a violent act against a black person, motivated by race, is equal to a violent act against a white person, motivated by race? No, actually, it’s not at all fair. There is a long history of majority white violence against black people in this country publicly represented by the Klan, but privately supported by millions of white citizens. The effect of that racism is to continue to brutally enforce patterns of racism and segregation.

These three women were beaten to a pulp because they were white. Hate crime laws are on the books. So, what gives? For some, ideological distinctions are more important than justice. Isn’t it time to move to a new level in racial relations where the aim is to protect anyone from being victimized? If we want to have “hate crime” laws, we should at least use them to help all victims. Of course, as in many of these racially-tinged trials, the biggest losers were the three victims. The defendants were given amazingly light sentences.

Four of nine black teenagers convicted in the racially charged beating of three white women on Halloween were sentenced to probation Friday.

Punishment could have ranged up to confinement in a California Youth Authority lockup until age 25. The teens were ordered to serve 250 hours of community service, 60 days house arrest, and take anger management and racial tolerance programs.

Some saw this as a victory for the African-American community. And why is that? The fact remains that these three girls were beaten up by a gang of young criminals, and scarred for life, both emotionally and physically. The criminals will just go back to their community and continue to terrorize innocent people in their own community.

Until college, I attended public school in Queens. I received a pretty good education, mostly because I was shoved into special advanced classes. Sadly, much of the school lived on in chaos. As in any large urban school, there were gangs of kids who would steal your lunch money or worse. In my school, these kids were mostly black. Now that I’m far away in suburban Redondo Beach, it’s easy to remember these poor youths as underprivileged, but at the time, when you heard the term “F**k you, whitey,” you just wondered if you could run as fast as the “Six Million Dollar Man.”

Still, even in the middle of these crime sprees, I never visualized it as a black vs. white issue. These bad kids were black mostly because the school had a large black population of students. There were plenty of smart black kids in our advanced class, and they were picked on as much as the white kids, if not more. In fact, after school, my Jewish friends and I walked one way home, to the “better” neighborhood, while my black friends walked in the same direction as the thugs, getting beaten up twice as badly.

To me, the issue at my junior high school was the same as it was in Long Beach — a criminal element acting against innocents. End of story. I’m sorry, but forty years after Martin Luther King, race issues are beginning to jump the shark for me. Can’t we move onto talking about race in a new way?

Today, I read an article asking another very important racial question — Is Barack Obama black enough?

There are degrees of black political cred in America. Those whose ancestors lived through the harrowing years of slavery, might well take the view that a guy like Obama with a Kenyan father and a white mother hasn’t “lived” the black American experience the hard way.

As far as his professional path is concerned, Obama hasn’t risen through the ranks by taking the route well traveled by many prominent African American leaders. No service as a pastor or as an activist in the NAACP. Some in the black community see him as too fresh, too fast and too slick. A graduate of Harvard who made his own running. A guy with a foot in the white camp.

Am I supposed to care? How black SHOULD he be? This is another example of race-related talk that just seems out-dated. Hey, I grew up in Queens (birthplace of Run DMC). I went to a public school with a large black population.  I’ve been to a rap concert AND, once upon a time, owned an album by the Commodores.  If you really want street cred — I’m more black than Barack Obama.  But that doesn’t make me a better candidate?

When are we going to grow up?


  1. Jazz

    I hadn’t heard about this, but it seems really simple to me. Thugs beat up on 3 helpless victims.

    End of story.

    And it should be treated that way. I understand about the issues facing blacks in North America, but this has nothing to do with being black and everything to do with being a criminal.

  2. Bridgette

    Well said…Thank you.

  3. Allan

    Indeed. When will we grow up?

  4. Not Faint Hearted

    Great post, Neilochka. You’re asking some tough questions these days. I think you’re right. It comes down to a justice issue based on victim/victimizer. But I don’t know if it will be in our lifetime that Dr. King’s dream becomes a reality.

    As for Obama, he did come up through the activist/organizer ranks…just not in the NAACP. Debating whether he’s “black enough” is just another example of how far we all have to go.

  5. Dagny

    OK. Where to start? First of all, your idea of racial equality and all? Sounds nice but it seems rather naive to me. Sorry but I do agree with the Huffington Post. I think it is rather easy for you as a member of the majority (or at least someone who can easily blend into the majority) to sit around and pontificate about the subject. This is the second post of racism I have read in that last few days. The first being BWB’s. I suggest you check it out. Because no matter how much education I get, that is my reality.

    And no, I do not condone violence but I think I have a greater understanding of the root of the violence than perhaps others. Do you have any solutions of how to heal hundreds of years of hurt and anger? And “… this has nothing to do with black and everything to do with being a criminal”? Nope. Sorry. Doesn’t fly. Poverty and lack of opportunities bring about criminal activity. And blacks still do not have the same opportunities as whites. You can delude yourself into thinking otherwise but that is the truth.

    And thanks because now I get to go to work in a pissed off mood.

  6. Neil

    Oops, sorry Dagny. I hope I don’t lose the love of my black women friends.

    First of all, thanks for taking a stand that will probably be unpopular with others here.  It would just be boring to have everyone agree.   I hate when people blab about Jewish issues who don’t know the facts, so I can understand you thinking, “What the hell does this guy know about black issues.  Even that Run DMC reference is thirty years old!”

    I think I only show respect, even if it is naive. We all should get equal pay and equal rights. Why not be under the law the same? I try not to associate being black with being poor and violent. Do you? What if this was the children of black doctors beating up on some white kids? You shouldn’t be pissed. I think I express the world that Martin Luther King would want, not one where we make excuses all the time. I understand that hate crime laws are mostly there to protect the minority, but what if you live in a area where the minority is the majority? And what’s wrong with protecting victims whatever the color?

    I think there could be a strong case for just taking these hate crime laws off the book completely. There is just too much room for abuse and confusion.

  7. V-Grrrl

    I once read a comment that really made me stop and think: “What masquerades as racial issues are really class issues.”

    Black, white, hispanic–poor is poor and lack of opportunity, education, and positive role models leads to a hopelessness that paralyzes communities and creates a subculture that’s ripe for crime, violence, drug and alcohol abuse.

    How to break the cycle? I wish I knew.

    Maybe it will be when we stop pointing fingers and keeping score…

  8. Finn

    What masquerades as racial issues are really class issues.

    How very true this seems to me. And while I know that poverty is what creates situations like this, I also know that there are many (more even) people who live in poverty who never resort to crime and violence.

    It may be the reason, but it’s not an excuse.

  9. Dagny

    Yes, victims of all colors should be protected. However, historically this was not the case. This is the basis of the creation of the hate crime laws — to protect those who in the past had no protection under the law.

    Being black is not synonymous to being poor but it does mean that a black person probably does not have the same opportunities as someone who is white. Add poverty to this and you have someone who feels hopeless and angry. So no, it’s not the income level of the prepetrators. It is about race. And if they come had come from a wealthy background, I would probably feel the same because I also understand what it took to achieve that wealth. The anger is still there. Being angry at not being afforded the same opportunities is not an excuse; it’s reality.

    So now I’m off to work at my school in which 99% of the students, and 100% of my class, are people of color to give them the education that is their hope in making any kind of achievement in this world. They’re not poor but many do not have much as the majority receive free lunch (and breakfast). The hardest part of my day is fostering their dreams while letting them know the reality that the world can be a cruel place. Of course, many of them know this as well. Why else would some of them have such strong anti-white sentiments? And yes, I’m talking about ten-year-olds. Then again I’m that lady “who eats strange things” — sushi, duck, escargot, dim sum. Although they did love the dim sum and have asked me to buy more for them. I haven’t brought any of the other items in.

    So I’m going to go in and work hard because I’ve been told repeatedly that because I am black that I have to work harder than others in order to keep my job. Yes, seriously I have been told this. It’s nothing new. I’ve heard it all my life. At least this time around I know that I will not be told, “Yes, you know everything better than everyone else but you’re still not qualified,” because I’ve heard that before too.

  10. Neil

    Again, thanks for your perspective, Dagny.  I think we all want the same results in society.  But understanding anger is a complicated matter, and can be used to rationalize all sorts of criminal behavior.  I know it sounds cruel to say we should “get the criminal element off the streets,” when there may be reasons for their behavior, but do you really want to live next to some guy who beats up someone so severely that her eye falls out, just because he has an anger problem rooted in historical circumstances?

  11. THE J-Mo

    Great post. Very thought provoking.

  12. Not Faint Hearted

    Dagny, thanks for reminding me of some things I forgot. That no matter what the class or the education level, people of color are still routinely held in suspicion, stopped and made to prove themselves simply because of their skin color.

    There’s no comparison, really, but sometimes I think I feel a faint faint echo of what that might be like when I am told I can’t understand their story because of my lack of skin color. (not to mention all the times I’ve been told those same exact messages of “you must do better” and “even though you are better you’re still not qualified” simply because I don’t have a penis. At least I don’t get stopped and questioned about what I’m doing walking in my own neighborhood.)

    I wonder if there will ever be a day when Dr. King’s dream comes true? When I can say it’s my dream too, and be believed?

  13. Elisabeth

    I will refrain from commenting, because I am not very eloquent – and feel downright ignorant – when it comes to these issues. However, I nodded quite a bit when I read Dagny’s comments. I once wrote a post about racial issues, and was slammed for my naivete by a bunch of commenters who really know about those things. I did not like their condescending tone, but they made very cogent points.

    I am also sure that I can agree with V-Grrrl’s statement that what masquerades as racial issues are really class issues. But it would take too long – and much more knowledge than I have – to tackle this matter.

  14. Elisabeth

    I meant: I am NOT sure that I can agree with V-Grrrl’s comment…
    Sorry about that.

  15. psychomom

    Black and White?

    I’m a brown woman and seem not to fit into either group. I don’t know if that is a good or bad thing but it is the reality I deal with. I’ve had to fight for my rights and sometimes I have to get loud and angry to stop others from treating me like a second class citizen. Does that make me the hater? No, but it sure has hardened me and that isn’t a trait I’m proud of.

  16. Neil

    Elisabeth — I was also a little uneasy writing about race, even nervous about using the term “black” over “African-American,” but as usual, I chose the word that required less typing.

    But I’m not sure why I would be thought of as naive for writing about race issues. I live in America. There are blacks and whites here. I want to see everyone succeed and racism to end. And even if I were totally selfish, I would still be interested in the subject, just so I can feel safe walking around Long Beach without a bunch of black kids attacking me because I am white.

  17. ms. sizzle

    to me, hate is hate and should not be tolerated.

    we’ve got ourselves into quite a mess with all these separations and i can’t see how we’re going to make it right. but i really, really hope we do.

  18. Irina

    I agree with Neil’s every word.

    I thought about this issue a lot. I’ve discussed it a lot – with blacks, whites, and everone in between. It’s NOT just about curing poverty. Quite recently I had a very interesting conversation, about they way they’ve been building magnet schools in the Bronx, in order to provide more opportunities, smaller classes, etc. Unfortunately, however, the pattern of crime and violence has NOT been breaking – because certain patterns of behavior are being reinforced at home. The government can only do so much. Educating children to live in tolerance and learning history is very important – but at some point people themsleves have to will themselves to break out of destructive patterns or no laws on earth will be able to help them.

    I spent my childhood in the Ukraine, and eventually my family fled because of the rampant anti-Semitism. I know pretty well what a minority feels like. I know a thing or two about discrimination, and quotas, and violence against ethnicities. I also know, however, that in my communities, children were encouraged to fight their circumstances, and one’s background of being discriminated against was NOT accepted as an excuse for crime, laziness, or any other regular human vices. No, we never slaves, but it was bad enough for us to leave the country, our homes, jobs, relatives, behind altogether. Having lived here for 11 years, and having had opportunity to learn American history, I can see that although this country is not without its own issues, there can be NO COMPARISON in the way minorities are treated here both under the law and in society and the way that’s happening in so many places. I think we, as a society, have been doing quite well in learning from the past, righting wrongs, and trying our best to heal the communities harmed by the past. Now it’s up to those communities to join us in our efforts – or continuously reject them, and make excuses for crime.

  19. fringes

    Classism is indeed the issue. The microscope is on skin color due to the simplicity of making black or brown poor people America’s permanent underclass. Simply telling a kid who has a tenth of the education opportunities of even a middle-class kid that he can grow up to be whatever he wants to be doesn’t make it true.

    It is always about money, always about power. This is not just an American truism, but a universal and historical one. Every society has its own caste system, and we are so naive to pretend that America is the first to use it to its advantage.

    The less people have opportunities for advancement, the less people there will be to challenge those in power. Revolutions happen in greater rebel force when the army is large and organized. It’s hard to organize when your troops are trying to pay rent and eat and arguing over child support and weekend visititation.

    I agree with Neil. There were victims and there were newly minted criminals involved in the Long Beach incident. The color issue is a divisive plant. It’s purposefully and purposely used by those in power to keep us arguing and fighting amongst ourselves while missing the true point: as long as there are tiny details to distract the powerless and divide the powerless, the status quo is immovable.

    Ridiculous article about Obama. If you’ll read the international papers, his race is not mentioned, if at all, before his policy ideas.

  20. Alison

    Excellent post, Neil. Bravo!

  21. Bre

    Race issues are really tense here on Small Campus. Our “minority population” campus wide represents about 30 percent of our students, however in the residence halls I manage it represents 84% of the population. People refer to all residents but what they mean is “all the black students.”

    Recently, my students asked me if I would be the advisor for the NAACP. They asked me because there are only two staff members on campus who are black, and neither of them wanted to do the job. One student actually said to me “You ain’t afraid of us, like some folks.”

    It’s heartbreaking sometimes.

    On the other hand, I have students who will, after every incident I respond to, insist that I’m “only doing this” because they’re black. Not because they’re having a fist fight in the parking lot or anything.

    I’m trying to find a balance here – and so far my “treat them all the same” strategy seems to be rather surprising to them.

  22. Lux Lisbon

    Everyone needs to be taught NOT to hate and be punished just the same for committing a hate crime. Being racist/prejudice isn’t something the majority has cornered the market on.

  23. buzzgirl

    Oh man. Are you trying to bait me, Neil? I could go on and on – but I think I’ll save it for a blog post of my own!

    Suffice it to say: I agree with Dagny.

  24. sarah

    Heavy post, and kudos to you. I’ll start first with saying; a hate a hate a hate crime. Treat them the same.

    That said.. I agree in the status of class, and cycle. But it also doesnt just stem from being black or from being white. its due to your ‘rep’, which unfortuantely can be ill-formed based on color.

    I grew up ‘bused’, to the city, where I was the minority. While people may say I’m lying and its not true; I don’t regard people according to their color, or immediately walk to the other side of the street because someone of color is approaching..or that someone of any color is approaching who has on some ‘bling’.

    Later I moved, and became the majority in a small town, but still, I didnt notice the discrimination that my black friends told me occurred.

    Now, I work at a safe haven house, for teens and young adults who are stuck in the cycle. Drugs, warfare, and just being stuck in the cracks due to your family etc. These ‘kids’ are all colors, ages, races and disabilities. some do well, some still mess up, but either way, if those of color walk down the street.. they’re more likely to be picked up or accused. Even if they’re innocent.

    The same goes in my small town, but for anyone with a rep. My friends brother can’t walk down the street at night without being arrested. He’s white.

    Its a cycle of prejudice, judgeing and a lack of compassion due to fear and selfishness. When those who are poor, regardless of color, can’t recieve proper health treatment because they lack the funds for the good treatment, or can’t get a job because they appear a threat; its a problem in our society.

    In order to stop the injustice, we, as a society; need to start acting fairly. Treat everyone fairly. Easier said than done, I know. A lot of past hurts, a lot of past baggage is chained to everyone. But if we, as a society, could accept that people change, and actually trust and look out for someone other than ourselves.. those troubled youth would probably have a better chance. Again, it only takes one person, such as Dagny who helps with education.

    So why not start with treating a hate crime as a hate crime, have a precedent..and follow it.

  25. bitchwhoblogs

    I have to say I am with Dagny on this topic… the level of personal and institutional violence and hatred leveraged and sanctified against African Americans by this nation and its peoples does not allow for a ‘level’ playing field when it comes to hate crimes. Quite simply, we are a racist nation that was built, and flourishes, upon the backs of men, women and children of color. There is not equality there- there is economic and cultural apartheid .

    Our nation has systemically and pervasively targeted a group of people using the full weight of its institutions, laws, economics and social norms to perpertrate cultural genocide. What else do you call it when a group of men are so at risk for being victims of crime and murder? If white men were being targeted the way African American men are – by the police, the people and the nation’s institutions- there would be an epic outcry. And it wouldn’t be a cry that blames the very people being targeted!!

    As a person who has all the entitlements of being part of the dominant culture, who readily accesses the power structures set up for white folks – there is not way that I will ever be a target of violence in the same manner a man or woman of color is – even if my skin color were to be a motivating factor. I say this having survived street violence – it isn’t and will never be the same.

    I will stop ranting right now – this issue is huge. I feel like we as white folks have to seriously look at how our access to power colors our interpertations of all things racial. It will never be the same for me as a white person in anything that happens – I have the weight of history and privelage on my side…

  26. Heather

    Ultimately, if you open up the possibility of someone being prosecuted of a hate crime based on race being the motivating factor behind the attack, if they’re attacked ’cause they’re white, it’s a hate crime.

    Also, white people have no right to discuss this issue? I thought the road to healing was everyone being in on the dialogue.

  27. Killer

    I appreciate the opinions to the contrary, but it seems obvious that with the current hate crime laws, it should be equally prosecuted.
    It would set us back a few decades if we need a separate legal system based on race.

  28. deezee

    I appreciate Dagney opening this into a dialogue and Neil for launching the opportunity to do so. I think one of the biggest problems is we don’t have these conversations directly between those of different racial/ethnic groups.

    I love would love to sit down in a multiracial circle and share these perspectives face to face, to discuss the unsayable, to break some barriers, but that seems so difficult to achieve. How do we initiate these conversations when they seem so taboo?

  29. Neil

    Deezee — there is one simple solution to bringing blacks and whites together at the same table. Serve some really good fried chicken.   Here’s a recipe from Sylvia’s in New York.

  30. justrun

    Well said, Neil. Race is no longer the “reason” for behavior or reaction but rather the place people run to when there’s no good reason for their cruel or illegal behavior. It’s almost like it’s merely a hiding place, which shouldn’t be a source of pride for anyone.

  31. Miranda

    I think it a good thing to analyze the social restraints people of color face in the aggregate. I think it is important for white people (particularly middle and upper class white people) to acknowledge their positions of priviledge in mainstream American culture. I grew up as a “minority” in Detroit but my whiteness lets me into positions of trust and authority much more easily than many people of color from a similar background. There is systemic inequity in our culture and race is a factor in that.

    However, crime is crime. By having unequal punishments for the same crimes, we end up causing more problems then we solve. We can improve the socio-economic status for under-represented groups and people of color not by parsing along identity lines, but by mentoring, adequate education, adequate health care, and real dialogue about the differences in opportunity in this country.

    The fixation on race in both the Long Beach CA attacks and on Barrack’s cultural identity only distract from the bigger picture and serve to unnecessarily polarize the discourse.

  32. Paul Martin

    Like you, the hue and cry over this “issue” is hard for me to comprehend. Bottom line is that if racial/ethnic/religious/gender- orientation epithets are hurled, or there’s other evidence to support that bigotry was a cause of the attack, it’s a hate crime. I’ve met white bigots and I’ve met black bigots. Both clearly do exist.

  33. Churlita

    Okay. I grew up in a very poor neighborhood where we were one of the only white families. We had probably less money than anyone there. The people in my neighborhood – Latino, African American or White, for the most part were raised not to tolerate hate in any form. I think you can realize that we can’t just “get over” racism without condoning hate crimes.

    I’m still poor and my daguters are half-Mexican in very White Iowa and get a lot of crap because of it. I try very hard to teach them not to hate on anyone, because it makes them just as bad. I think a hate crime is to protect the victim no matter what their race. I also recognize that things are still very hard for people of color in the country – especially those from lower income levels.

    And I’ve never once heard anyone say that a particular caucasion presidential candidate wasn’t “White” enough to run.

  34. Edgy Mama

    Damn, Neil, this is a hot topic.

    I’m supposed to cover a minority business at least once per month. The newspaper is actually graded by the parent company on numbers of photos per month that include people of color. So I’m overly aware of inclusion and equal coverage. Sometimes, however, I feel like I’ll write about any minority business, regardless of news hook, just to make the quota. Hmmmmmmm….

    I think people who hurt other people are just psychos looking for an excuse to vent. They all suck.

  35. bitchwhoblogs

    Another thought – Don’t we really already have a two-tiered criminal justice system? Aren’t there really two sets of standards in place already- data around enforcement, incacertation, recidivism and sentencing might suggest that despite one set of laws there are two legal realities?

    Aren’t our realities already polarized by racism? I know that I can never know the world my husband lives in, because I see it from the position of privelage and am showered with the benefits rendered by a supremacist society. And I will never experience the personal and instituational violence aimed at my daughter based on her race. Despite many a dialogue, we are polarized already.

    It literally sickens me how at-risk of violence black men and boys are- yet how they are potrayed and percieved by white folks as perpetrators. I worry everyday that my husband is being targeted — and he is. I hate violence against anyone, but it seems to me that we as a culture are pretty tolerant of regular violence against folks of color (have you seen our prisons?, look at the crime stats?)

    Yes, we do need to sit down and talk, but not if its so folks of colors can ‘help us’ bridge the gap. I think we need to listen to hear how and where we can be allies and let go of how and what we think things should look like. Being an ally might mean we need to let go of some our preconcieved ideas of how things will shake out.

    Obviously, a totally provocative post.

  36. Dawn

    I’m of the mind that we’ll always have difficult race relations in the States.

    I’m not saying that things haven’t gotten better, because obviously they have. I’m not saying that Blacks and Whites can’t get along, because obviously we can.

    I’m just saying that it’s always going to be an issue. Hoping for a day when race isn’t a factor in a country with our history is like hoping for a time machine that’ll take you to the year 3020.

  37. Jennifer

    Wow, this makes today’s post on my blog about Sponge Bob valentines seem so shallow…
    I live in the deep south, in the great city of Birmingham Alabama, where the civil rights movement lived and breathed. Birmingham is a city that can’t quite seem to shed its image as a city of intolerant white folks trying to keep black people in their place, which was in the kitchen or out in the fields, or anywhere where white people aren’t. I’m a cynic; I don’t know if we can ever achieve racial harmony. Dagny is right; poverty is the root of it, and access to education and services. I will say we don’t seem to have much hate crime here; a lot of the violence we see is black on black. Until the black community can heal itself and work toward a common vision, I’m not sure there will ever be a comfortable dialogue. But, as opposed to fifty years ago, at least we are trying to have a dialogue!!

  38. Neil

    Thanks, everyone for your thoughtful comments.

    — and Jennifer, I enjoyed your Sponge Bob post!

  39. Dagny

    Whew! I love a lively discussion. Really. I do.

    There is one thing that I would like to point out. I don’t believe in using race as “an excuse” because to do so means that you must be a victim. I am not; I am a survivor. There’s a difference. As a survivor, I also know that it is naive to ignore the institutionalized racism in this country. I also firmly believe that some of the ills of our country can be traced directly to this institutionalized racism. Dr. King’s dream? A beautiful idea but we have a long way to go.

    Also Jennifer, Birmingham is a lovely city. I have family there as well in other areas of Alabama. And here’s a funny thing. I have probably felt less racism when I lived in or visited the South than I do in California. Sometimes Southerners get a bad rap.

    I’m not saying that you have to agree with me but at least now it looks like people are thinking and talking. And it all starts there.

  40. Tendrils

    Awesome post! I was directed to it by Better Safe Than Sorry after she read my post: 2007? from Feb. 12th.

  41. Jennifer

    I think you’re right Dagny; there is less overt racism here. It still exists, but people have learned to live and work together side by side. I am enough of a romantic to believe that one day skin color will cease to matter all together. I am trying to so hard to raise my children to be color blind. I have never referred to anyone as “that black person” or “that Hispanic person”. I call people by name and refer to them by their character, not their characteristics. *cues Whitney Houston singing “i believe the children are our future…lalalala…*
    Have you ever been to the civil rights institute in Birmingham? The first time I walked through the door I was absolutely bowled over by the power of the movement. The first time I went was MLK’s birthday and they had a volunteer in a jail cell reading MLK’s letter from a Birmingham Jail Cell….amazing!!

  42. tamarika

    “Confronting Our Discomfort” right here right now. A courageous post and a courageous discussion, Neil. No one can ever judge the pain of another person, nor can anyone know what it feels like to go through what another person has gone through.

    However, NOTHING justifies hurting others. NOTHING.

    Viktor Frankl lived through Auschwitz and realized that everything can be taken from you – your dignity, rights, your life – but one thing can never be taken from you: your attitude.

    NOTHING justifies hurting others. NOTHING.

  43. 3rdtimesacharm( 3T )

    Grow up? About this emotionally charged issue of racism? (Don’t hold your breath there,Neil.) The fact remains that racism is alive and well here in 2007. Whether it be against the African American community, the Hispanic immigrants, or caucasions. The fact also remains that white priviledge is a state that has not changed much over the decades.
    I know even in my daughter’s Mesa Jr. High School, there still is a segment of the school’s population that remains segregated. In most cases, by choice.
    The fact also remains that there is a good deal of racism directed at the white population in our public schools. Whether it’s due to white priviledge that Hispanic students hate white students is beyond me. I do know that my daughter has been told she is hated for no other reason than the color of her skin. She has been lumped together with the rest of the white students, or in this case, white girls. Again it is not all, but hatred due to race exists, although it may not be as bad as say the 1950’s or 1960’s, there are still groups within each community that hate due to the color of skin.
    In my opinion, a hate crime is a hate crime, whether directed at African Americans, Hispanics, illegal immigrants, or white people. If the crime perpetrated is in direct relations to race then the perpetrators need to receive the same punishment. A gang of kids brutally beating three other kids, is a hate crime. Period. The standard of regarding crimes by ethnic groups as less than the crimes of their white counterparts, is only adding to resentment, and fueling yet more Racism. I don’t see a happy ending anywhere in the near future. Especially with the trends being set within our own Justice system.
    Just my two cents worth. Great topic Neil.

  44. Dagny

    *sigh* I’m just curious. Have folks looked at the numbers lately? Do you realize that the numbers of African American males in prison is disproportionate to the total number in our society? This says to me that there is already something wrong with the system. I am not saying that these kids do not deserve to be punished but I also know that they will probably never escape the system at this time. They are lost. And it breaks my heart.

    Our criminal justice system has never had a problem with punishing African Americans for their crimes against others. It has had problems with punishing those who commit crimes against African Americans though. When first civil rights laws like Unruh in California and then later hate crime laws were passed, it gave some us of hope that perhaps now we would be heard. Applying them to everyone seems like more of the old status quo if you ask me. And that world? Sorry but I don’t really want to be a part of that one. From what I’ve been told by family members, it really wasn’t that good for my type.

  45. Jack

    This is the kind of conversation that can go all over the place. I am tired of the argument that I can’t understand something because I don’t look like someone.

    Truth is, I can understand a lot of things. We all have our own cross to bear. We all have our history. Some of us have had more challenges than others.

    But the bottom line is that you can choose to be someone or to be a victim. If you want to say that circumstances beyond your control prevent you from success you are giving up.

    I don’t need to provide my credentials for why I understand suffering. To a large part that kind of comment is bullshit. It is a mask that we use to hide from some of the issues.

    In this day and age I agree that it has become more of a class issue than anything else. There are plenty of examples of educated minorites, many of whom are successful.

    And in terms of success it is not a matter of saying that the only successful Black people are athletes or performers.Not by a long shot.

    There are Black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Not just one or two, but many. Opportunities exist, but you have to work for them.

    The you in that last sentence is not directed at any one person/race/color/religion etc.

    Life is hard. Deal with it.

    IMO, one of the best and most important things this country can do is find a way to make a good education affordable to everyone.

    A good public education should be available everywhere, urban and suburban.

    Make that available to more people and more things will turn around.

  46. Dagny

    I whole-heartedly agree with you on that one, Jack. Then again, I may be a bit biased since I am a public school teacher. I happen to be blessed to work in an urban district that has a great deal of resources. I wish I could say the same for other urban districts.

  47. Mariana

    That’s interesting… You don’t hear about women ganging up and beating other women very often. I guess you are interested in racial issues here, but there may be more to the story than just that (like gender issues mixed with racial issues)

  48. eclectic

    I look forward to meeting you at TC’07 in a couple of weeks, Neil. Moreso after reading this post. It isn’t that race isn’t an issue, it’s just that as a society we need to reframe it now. The old refrains really have jumped the shark, as you said. Hate for its own sake is not to be tolerated anymore in our post-modern society. Generations ago, when survival dictated an “us vs. them” clannishness, perhaps it had purpose. If so, it doesn’t anymore. Hate has no useful place or function in today’s world, whatever its premise, whether race, gender, sexual orientation, age, intelligence, physical ability, etc. It’s time to move ahead now.

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