The Color of Character

Dishonoring the Noble

Intergrating Arkansas, Elizabeth Eckford of the Little Rock Nine

Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Little Rock Nine students.

Three black female students at the State University of New York (SUNY) in Albany  created a maelstrom, when they claimed they were the victims of a racist attack by white men and women on a bus on January 30th. Soon, the well-meaning community at SUNY held a rally in defense of the black women. The president of the university issued a letter to students expressing his sadness and concern over the incident. The hashtag #DefendBlackGirlsUAlbany quickly appeared on social media. Yet another example of white racism. Call it the result of insitutional racsim, the original sin of the USA, the stain that we cannot erase, the unredemable soul of the white race; you choose which cause you want to pull from white America’s ponderous bag of racist tricks. But before you do – not so fast.

After an extensive investigation, authorities have learned that there was no crime – at least none committed by the white passengers on the bus. It was the three black students who perpetrated a crime against a white passenger, including racial epithets, and a beating that could not be stopped by the attempts of others. This assault on a white person by three blacks is not considered a hate crime, but it is a crime none the less. Read here for what the investigation uncovered.

The three black students face criminal charges including assault in the third degree, falsely reporting an incident in the third degree, attempted assault in the third degree and attempted criminal mischief in the fourth degree. But I accuse them of yet another crime. They have belittled and stepped upon the sacrifices and accomplishments of those who experienced and fought real racsim. I think of the brave black youth who sat at forbidden lunch counters, or walked through a gauntlet of hate to enter an all white high school in the 1950s. They risked their lives so that these three girls, a few generations removed from boldface discrimination, could count on going to SUNY Albany, and all the other schools, colleges, and universities that any black can now expect to attend based on meritorious achievement or lacking that, affirmative action that did not exist when the first intrepid black youth stood up and faced blind hatred. These three girls take for granted their ancestors’ sacrifices and risks, and use it as a tool to squeeze more out of a system that already grants them equal rights and special privileges.

There won’t be any rallies for the white victims of their crime. There won’t be any rallies at all. But there should be. The black community should rise up and rally against those three girls who use the serious burden of racism on our society, and manipulate it to their advantage for nothing better than an excuse to do nothing productive, other than make more demands. They should shame them in the name of all those, black and white, who fought and continue to fight nobly against any form of discrimination. And they should remind them that if they want to get ahead in America, they should stop making themselves victims, and take advantage of the doors that were opened for them by an earlier generation who faced real racism in the eye, with a tangible goal of being granted their legitimate claim to equal opportunity, which is the birthright of all Americans.

I’m sad when I think of those who courageously fought against tremendous odds to open doors for this generation, only to see those doors pulled closed ironically by black youth, rather than slammed shut by a now defunct white legal system of restrictions. I feel it when I see black youth turn schools and neighborhoods into killing zones against each other; when I see what should be young men taking advantage of the hard won opportunities to learn, instead fluanting their underwear down city streets, threatening any and all. I feel sad and angry when I see black leaders exhorting their youth to cry victim, and demand more without explaining what good they will do if all these demands were met.

I wrote a novel based on the reality of a white youth who attended a top school, openly integrated without resistance, who saw many of his black classmates looking for reasons why they couldn’t learn, and turning the school into a violent camp of daily racial tension, when none need have existed. Other black peers and their families quietly recgonzied their opportunities, and set themselves to work like any other student and family, regardless of race, that wants to get ahead in America – and they did. From today’s headlines, it seems their classmates who chose to trample on this opportunity, and play the victim have only multiplied. On the quads of universities that their ancestors could only enter as workers; universities laden with diversity sensitivity training for faculty and students, and a plethora of classes offered in minority studies, sadly, they have found a sympathetic and enabling audience too willing to roll over and say, “kick me if it will make you feel better, because surely I deserve it.” And maybe it does make them feel better. But it won’t get them the better life their ancestors envisioned.

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