The Color of Character

Whose Streets are Safer Might Depend on Your Color

Finding A Place To Jump In

There is so much vitriol going back and forth from both sides of the far right and far left, that I haven’t been sure where to grab onto it to discuss. My personal experience is that there is absolutely no reasoning with either extreme. They are so sure of their beliefs, so vested in them, and often unaware of how much more emotion than reason is at the root, that any effort to cross divides is best spent with the more rational middle-ground.

So here is some middle ground that perhaps we can work with. Recently, I heard from John Q. Whiteman, the man I interviewed in an earlier blog. The far left might see him as an icon of racism since he is a white, male, adult, Christian and he votes independently. The far right might see him as a liberal because of his voting record. His varied positions would fail to satisfy the purity tests of the rabid members of either side of the divide.

One Family’s Perspective

He just sent me an article from the Dallas News, along with his comments. At the end of this blog, I will provide the link to the news story. In addition, the article generated a story on Minnesota Public Radio. I will provide a link to that too, particularly because the comment section indicates that the discussion has begun.

The article examines a black family by the name of Waters in suburban Dallas that has achieved an enviable measure of success by any standards: education, profession, income, housing, children. The point of the article is that in spite of having achieved The American Dream, the family still deals with racism at various levels every single day. Although they appear to have done everything right when held up to generally accepted rules of conduct in our society, they remain suspect because of their race.

Reasonable examples are given. The primary example is that when a black man murdered Dallas police officers last summer, Mrs. Waters worried about her husband leaving his office at his powerful law firm at the end of the day. It was a tense time on the streets of Dallas, and outside the office where he is known and respected, Mr. Waters becomes just another black man on the street. And based on events frequently reported in the media, Mr. and Mrs. Waters feel that any black man is at risk of becoming the victim of a police force with itchy trigger fingers. I think I might feel the same way under certain circumstances if I were Mr. or Mrs. Waters.

John Q. Whiteman Raises Questions

John Q. Whiteman does not disagree with Mrs. Waters’s premise. However, he wants to make a specific point about racism. Mr. Whiteman feels he is frequently a potential target for blacks.

“Just as the black family in the article has followed all the rules of civil conduct, so have I. My wife and I work hard and have raised nice kids, although I haven’t achieved as much as the black family in the article. I have never uttered nor tolerated anything or anyone I perceived to be a racist. I’ve tried to judge people by their character. And yet, should I venture into any of several neighborhoods in my city, I would not be safe because of my skin color. I am immediately suspect and categorized as the oppressor who has no business on that particular block, street, or neighborhood. In fact, I think the life of a black man is much safer from harm in my white majority neighborhood, than mine would be in many of the black majority neighborhoods in the area – at least from the residents. Would he be suspect? Probably. Would that be fair? Racist? What if I told you that we have had two hold ups in our neighborhood in the past year, both committed by a group of blacks, at gunpoint. Would it still be racist to be uneasy? I’ll let you decide, but I think it’s worth having a discussion with the family in question. Maybe they, and other black families who would be the envy of many, will discover that we are both trying to do the right thing while facing perceived threats and uncomfortable facts. And maybe with that realization, there will be some steps we can each take to dispel the fear and suspicion. It won’t come from either extreme, but it could come from reasonable people in the middle.”

Here are the links. Feel free to offer your perspective.

Dallas News link.     MPR story link.


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