Sadly, and to no one’s benefit, we have arrived at a point, and have been at a point for too long, where a black person, or black group of any kind, can NEVER be wrong, can NEVER be criticized, can NEVER even be asked if their behavior has in fact contributed anything to situations like the Michael Brown tragedy—or if in fact there is anything constructive which they, either individually, or collectively, could or should be doing to improve their condition.
With regard to the “Black Lives Matter” movement, there are many questions and even suggestions I would have asked or made—but anyone outside the Black community (especially white men) cannot do that. Period. It’s worse, they are not allowed to even broach the subject. And such suggestions or brainstorming do not have to be racist, or nasty, or accusatory. For example, my questions as eluded to above, are constructive : Is there anything that the Black community could be doing to a) reduce these horrible incidents, and b) improve relations between themselves and the police. Is there anything which they could be doing, either as a community or as parents and individuals that might be helpful. Cannot ask that question. I’ve been called a racist for even bringing this up in conversation. This must stop.
Those seem like fair questions. To shed further light on my position, I can tell you about a video I recently saw. It’s on YouTube and you can probably find it. I did not save the link. It was a panel discussion with Black Lives Matter representatives and Ben Shapiro. Sounds like an odd combination, but it’s true, and it was an interesting, polite, and well-considered exchange.
Ben Shapiro asked the question, directed to members of the Black community, whether or not anyone from the community thought that Blacks had made any advancements since 40 years ago, with regard to their civil rights and general advancement in the society. I’m paraphrasing the question, but that was the gist of it. A woman on the panel, representing the Black community, said “No, we have not. Not at all“. Others agreed with her. Shapiro asked why she believed that to be true.
What she said and the example she gave was quite revealing. She supported her belief that things were still very bad for Blacks, especially with regards to their treatment by law enforcement officers. Her argument for that was due to the following lesson which she feels OBLIGATED to teach to her son: She feels obliged to tell him that he has to behave in a certain, careful and highly respectful way, when or if he is stopped by a policeman—that he needs to do what the officer tells him to do, that he needs to ask the officer’s OK before making any unusual motion, that he needs to answer all questions, and to address the officer very politely.
Shock on the part of this writer.
That’s evidence of the society having made no progress for Blacks? I was staggered. Those behaviors which she described as being so extreme, and as constituting such a special burden on Blacks, are the precise behaviors that I was taught both in school, and by my family, when I was 10 years old, or younger. We were taught all of that and more. We were ALL taught to answer an officer’s questions with a simple, “Yes Officer”, or “No, Officer”. Or, “Yes, Sir,” or “No sir” were alternatives to that. We were taught these things, and we practiced them, both in the classroom and AT HOME. And my father didn’t stop teaching this until we got it right—the same for our elementary school teachers. And guess what? We’re white people and we came from Middle Class, or Lower Middle Class neighborhoods. No one was rolling in money. On the other hand, we did not live in poverty either. But, none of us ever felt that we were being burdened, or were in any way being “put upon” for having to teach and learn these behaviors at any early age. It was simply part of the package of “social norms” which adults imparted to younger people.
So, back to my original contention that it is bad form, and basically taboo to ask the Black community if there is anything that they might be doing differently or better, with regards to their interactions (and results) with police. In ALL of the media coverage of Ferguson and others, I never once heard any commentator, or interviewers even get close to this question. And my commentary and questions are not a ploy to place blame on the Black community—far from it.
As Gandhi once so aptly put it, “Poverty is the worst violence”, and there’s plenty of both in our inner cities.