There is indeed another side to the Gates arrest issue (is this an official cultural event now? Do we call it 'Gates-gate'?!). And it can cut against what has become the popular take on the incident.
Suppose, just suppose, the predominant factor in the whole episode isn't race. What if it is something that is much more subtle in the national political and social fabric. What if this is more a matter of class than race?
The second-grader was questioned and tearfully identified the other youths who attempted to steal the wagon with him. The police handcuffed all three boys and took them to a juvenile detention center.
Sherrilyn Iffill, in a compelling call for us to put the unwarranted arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates in some perspective she provides us with an chilling account of a recent Baltimore, Maryland incident...
Dr. Satter's father Mark was a Chicago attorney who fought against the practice of white real estate entrepreneurs 'invested' in purchasing properties in transitioning communities buying them at low prices and selling them 'on contract' to African-Americans at exorbitant prices while holding the title. The new homeowners were responsible for maintenance and insurance, for the most part, just barely able to afford the inflated mortgage costs, most often unable to afford maintenance costs or insurance. In the meantime, the person holding the contract, could sell the paper to another investor, thereby making a profit.
There are some controversies I've decided to stay away from for the time being - Michael Jackson, for instance (way too complex and way too much coverage for the time being). And I was going to put Harvard University's Henry Gates imbroglio in the same category, but let's just say I can't help it...
There is a sense in which its hard for me to describe the whole incident as sad.
In the first place, Gates' arrest is in his own home. Now, don't get me wrong, people are arrested at home everyday - usually because they are suspected of a crime, and most often a warrant of some sort is involved. Dr. Gates' arrest doesn't even involve the crime that the police were investigating - he was arrested for 'disorderly conduct' because he was evidently incensed that the police officer followed him into his house, was provided information that proved that he was the owner of the house and the investigating officer would not provide Dr. Gates' with his identification. I have a hard time imagining anyone not getting irate at this point. Gates' at that time 'plays the race card'. And I can't blame him.
KERA the local PBS affiliate has an laudable and excellent effort going on to help people deal with the recession. Its called 'KERA the Economy'. This initiative is designed to arm viewers with information and possible solutions in grappling with facing home foreclosure, job loss, health care issues and other challenges resulting from the current downturn in the economy.
I caught what I believe to have been the first installment of the series recently entitled 'Facing the Mortgage Crisis' and it was incredibly good. The story of Jesus and Milagro Irizarry who faced loss of their home by sale at auction, is a poignant, cautionary tale for those who have fallen behind on their mortgage through job loss, health care issues, or inflated mortgage payments, to seek help and to do it quickly!
Last year, CNN's Soledad O'Brien brought a rather intimate and important look at the promise and the problems of African-Americans in the news series, 'Black in America'.
This year she brings us 'Black in America 2', (July 22-23, 7pm Central) which explores the subject further in light of America's first African-American president.
There are those who saw Barack Obama's election as the closing chapter on race relations in this country. 'Post-racial' was a phrase that was thrown around frequently - as if wishing would make it so. The fact is, seven months into the term of the nations first black president, he has no more been able to solve the racial problem than he has been able to solve the economic crisis. Why? Because the roots of both run deep and tap the bedrock of the soul of our country.
I'd like to invite you to check out my column in yesterday's Dallas Morning News. It's about how Dallas struggles to recognize the contributions of African-Americans and Hispanics with street name changes.
Now admittedly, this is pretty low grade stuff when it comes to the fight for justice and equal rights. I don't know of any one group of people for whom such an honor can said to be 'owed'. But as a society we do it because of the significance we attribute to the lives, the history and heritage of peoples and individuals. Dallas struggles with that.
We have gone through a protracted debate on whether or not to name a street for migrant worker rights activist Cesar Chavez. To me that's amazing! You would think that the city would come to a screeching halt if a major street were named for a Hispanic historic figure. I could understand controversy if we were talking about Che' Guevara - but this is Cesar Chavez, for goodness sake.
Two very significant observations from over the weekend and carrying on into today.
First the passing of Walter Cronkite (1916 -2009). I grew up watching this man masterfully relay the news of the day from behind his desk and with his authoritative voice talk bring the most important events of the world into our living room. Of course it was only as I got older that I really began to understand the breadth of his contributions and influence - and to be honest, its hard to understand any journalist today having that kind of influence, not to mention national respect. His integrity was so well regarded, some of you may have read or remember, that when Cronkite opined that the Viet Nam War was a mistake, Lyndon Johnson said, 'If we've lost Cronkite, we've lost middle America.' No one says that about even Rush Limbaugh (sorry, couldn't help it...)!
Shawn Williams and Trey Garrison have both written Viewpoints columns addressing the issue of 'black on black violence'. I appreciate both their efforts to provide perspectives on a problem that has reached crisis proportions. When Dallas Morning News' Sharon Grigsby sent me an email regarding her anguish with a recent story and statistics on violence in southern Dallas, I had to confess my challenge in coming up with solutions to the problem.
Trey's take on the matter has to do with a perspective which places the blame on the absence of black fathers in black families. Shawn approaches this scourge from the point of view that the black community must acknowledge the problem and have the courageous determination to deal with it, individually and organizationally. Both have valid points. But both adherents to both perspectives must take into account larger issues that contribute to a culture and a pathology so pervasive that it frustrates any work to help these communities achieve health.
"We've got to say to our children, yes, if you're African American, the odds of growing up amid crime and gangs are higher. Yes, if you live in a poor neighborhood, you will face challenges that somebody in a wealthy suburb does not have to face. But that's not a reason to get bad grades ---- that's not a reason to cut class ---- that's not a reason to give up on your education and drop out of school. No one has written your destiny for you. Your destiny is in your hands -- you cannot forget that. That's what we have to teach all of our children. No excuses. No excuses. "You get that education, all those hardships will just make you stronger, better able to compete. Yes we can."
I've been hearing about Barack Obama's speech before the NAACP's 100th Convention in New York City. I finally got a chance to hear it and I agree, it is inspiring and challenging - to all of us!
I think all too often we - all of us - don't remember that the challenges of overcoming poverty, injustice and inequality in our country is the responsibility of every American. We all have influence; we all have resources; we all have capacity.
The Richmond Times Dispatch is now joining the list of institutions offering apologies for past complicity in racism. The join the American Medical Association (here), as well as Bob Jones University (here) in admitting that they have been guilty in perpetuating bigotry.
The RTD is confessing their role in and apologizing for supporting 'Massive Resistance' to the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling...
When I became aware of the issue of exonerees last year, I was convinced initially that it was an isolated incident. As a matter of fact, the story of Charles Chatman, the first exoneree of whom I became aware, was 'white noise' for me on the newscast the day of his release.
Of course now we know that Chatman is one of 20 in Dallas county and more than 200 nationwide, who through DNA evidence or some other discovery has been found innocent. The 200 across the nation means that Texas, although it leads the nation in exonerated prisoners, is not by itself.
Sunday evening's 60 Minutes profiled yet another DNA case which helps us to know that this kind of thing happens all too often for any of us to be comfortable.
If there was ever a reason to remain vigilant about race relations in our country, this is it!
We all want this type of thing to be over. But racism doesn't end without vigilance and vigorous reaction when it occurs. When we say 'we've learned our lesson' let it mean that we've made making room for everyone a priority in public policy and in public life...
News of Karl Malden's death on July 1, was, eclipsed by that of Michael Jackson. But Malden is so worth remembering! "Streetcar Named Desire", "On the Waterfront", "Gypsy" and my favorite, the, television series, "Streets of San Francisco".
Remembering Karl Malden also gives me a chance to share his memorable guest spot on my all time favorite TV show. I don't think I need to tell you what it is...
With the election of Barack Obama as the nation's first Black President, almost immediately came the question: do we still need Black History Month? There was this assumption on the part of some, that there were 'aims' associated with the recognition of African-American presence and achievement that were somehow achieved with his election. While there are some black and white, who dangerously question whether or not such a designation was ever needed - the fact is for decades plus, African-Americans (and other ethnicities and minorities), have had their historic contributions to this country as well as their historic journeys 'white washed' by both the traditional myths and legends with America's History and the 'official' record.
If history is written by the 'winners', African-Americans, as well as Hispanics, Native Americans and to some degree Italian Americans and the Irish, have been the de facto if not designated 'losers' when it has come to the American story.
All of this is important because of statements made by evangelical minister Peter Marshall who is one of six 'experts' advising the state as it develops new social studies curriculum for Texas. Marshall's report to the Board of Education says, in part, "To have Cesar Chavez listed next to Ben Franklin is ludicrous," says Marshall.
Tod Robberson, editorial writer for the Dallas Morning News' Gapblog, called me out on yesterday's post regarding Star Parker's defense (or rant if you prefer), on the moral decline in our society represented by South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford's affair and pursuant scandal.
My frustration (irritation really), is with what I consider the logic she uses in analyzing the source of the moral declension of which Sanford is guilty somehow reaching back to the Kennedy presidency and his sexual indiscretions. It doesn't take into account patterns of immorality and unethical behavior that have nothing to do with sex and cycles the 'upholding family values' argument by suggesting that sexual purity is proof positive one's integrity. At least that, as I see it, is implication of her argument. I see it that way because she, along with countless other conservatives have the habit of explaining away other morally and ethically transgressions in public policy initiatives and sometimes indictable, if not criminal activities, that have little and in most cases nothing to do with sex. These too, eat away and the fabric of our culture and constitute public 'sin' for which there also needs to be accountability and atonement.
This is the larger reason why Tod calls me out. Don Hill, one of Dallas' former city councilmen is caught up in an ethics scandal allegedly involving bribery of wealthy developers of low income properties throughout the poorest sections of our city. It is a complex and controversial case and it is fraught with implications regarding racial politics and the integrity of African-American politicians.
The columnist, conservative thinker and evangelical has grounds to be proud of her achievements in life and I can definitely applaud her support of Christian values which, she testifies, were key to her overcoming poverty and discovering self sufficiency.
That being said, she sometimes reminds me of the comedian on late night television who was discussing his recovering alcoholic friend's admonitions to stop drinking. 'You know', he said, 'There's nothing worse than a reformed anything!'
In a recent column, Ms. Parker is seeking to explain the 'fall' of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford.
The way we allow stereotypes to drive our perceptions of one another can be funny - and embarrassing. We do it with age, gender and, of course race.
Carl T. Rowan, was probably the first African-American nationally known columnist that I ever read. He told a story that reflected how pervasive and how ridiculous our presumptions about race can be.
Rowan and his wife, bought a house in a previously all white suburb. One weekend he was mowing his yard when a white man drove by. Obviously impressed with the work Rowan was doing, the man called him to his car.
I've always liked 'The Twilight Zone' (few people would be surprised!). Rod Serling was one of the most creative television writers of the 50's and 60's. His creation of this television series and genre showed that T.V. could be more than mindless escapism; he was one of a number of writers who demonstrated that this new medium could be something challenging and thought provoking. As an adult, watching these reruns, I began to see these programs as morality plays that gave more and more insight into the human psyche and soul.
This particular episode, 'Monsters are Due on Maple Street', says much about the fear and paranoia of American society at the height of the Cold War and as our country was 'recovering' from the McCarthy Era. But I think it speaks volumes to us today as we have become comfortable with fear and suspicion of one another.
Feet that need to rest and to dance; backs that need support; shoulders that need arms, strong arms I’m telling you. And oh my people, out yonder, hear me, they do not love your neck unnoosed and straight. So love your neck; put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it, and hold it up.
There are few more powerful scenes in literature, than that of 'Baby Suggs', the woman preacher in Toni Morrison's 'Beloved', sermon preached in a place called 'the clearing'. It is an exhortation to victorious self love, communal affirmation and the spirituality of personhood.
Both in personal response and on Facebook, I've gotten impressive reaction as to whether or not Paul Quinn College is worth saving. Maybe it wasn't clear from the previous post, but I'm in the camp that believes it is.
The real question is just how many others believe so as well?
I think questions regarding the legitimacy of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) are generally asked in accusatory fashion or from some with a total lack of understanding regarding what these institutions provide.
Paul Quinn College's loss of accreditation, is for many, a death knell for the school. For some it is an opportunity to review whether or not the commitment of Dallas to support the presence of a historically black college is real. But, at the end of the day, it is not really Dallas per se, that must prove its commitment, as much as it is African-Americans who live in Dallas. To be honest, if its not important to us, then it shouldn't be here.
Michael Sorrell, who for the past two years has an extremely impressive job of leading the troubled school, now needs the help of alumni and black Dallasites to rally to support Paul Quinn. Dallas area pastors Frederick Haynes of Friendship West Baptist Church, Denny Davis of St. John Baptist Church in Grand Prairie and Kerry Wesley of Antioch Fellowship Baptist Church, are among those who have, annually, for years, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars annually and more in other fundraisers to sustain Paul Quinn. Ironically, all are alumni of Bishop College. Bishop, also the school I attended, suffered the fate which Paul Quinn currently endures and eventually closed in 1988.
Want to read more pieces written by Gerald Britt? We have more here!
This page you are on right now is an archive of entries written by Gerald Britt in July 2009.
This author's preceding monthly archive is Gerald Britt: June 2009.
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