Also posted on www.rogerbburtphd.com.
How are we doing in our relations with minorities? I contend, not as well as we would like to think.
First, let me talk about the black community. It would be hard to miss the furor about the Trayvon Martin murder. I won’t even try to go into the details of this “incident”. It is being extensively covered from many sides.
Trayvon Martin - The murdered African-American youth, in Sanford, Fla.
It can only be hoped that the white community may have been brought back to reality. It is no secret to the members of the black community that young black men, in particular, are at risk. In this instance, the risk was of murder, but daily, it also involves arrest and lengthy incarceration for arguably minor offenses. Recently, on Rt. 50, I passed a vehicle stopped by the side of the road with two sheriff’s deputies rooting through the trunk. I knew full well what was happening and the high probability that a young black man would shortly be heading to jail.
But even these examples only begin to scratch the surface. Even in the urgency of the campaign season, we have the opportunity to do things differently. During the past two campaign seasons, I went into black communities and had great experiences. The looks on the faces of some people were rewarding, when a white man came to their doors, asking for their votes.
But, since then, I felt I needed to adopt a different viewpoint and approach. Too often, we come to them (the black community) and tell them they need to get out to vote. Perhaps, this time, instead of telling them what they should do, it might be better to spend a little time and ask them in greater detail how things are, what they are experiencing and what they need. In short, work for a dialogue from which we might both learn. It could lead to action steps as well as closer relations.
I will never forget coming to work in Baltimore the morning after the murder of Dr. King. Because of the strength of our relationships, our bi-racial staff was able to come together and not let the tragedy divide us. At least, in our little corner of the city. But the division between our races is deep and has a long history. The work to bring us together must continue.
It seems that every time there is a tragedy, such as occurred with Trayvon Martin, we are in danger of having to start over. We, in the white community, may have become complacent. The racial portrayal, and supposed harmony, on television, among other things, has lulled us into this complacency. We often ask, “Haven’t we made gains? How bad can it be?”
Yes, we have made gains, but relations remain strained. It is essential that we listen to the ‘baying’ of the right-wing mob. It is clear that racism lives, and that they do not want a black man in the WHITE House. Yes, it comes down to just that level. Racism
Listening to the needs of the black community is going to be essential to moving race relations forward.
is back on the streets, alleys and even parlors, where we can see it. But knowing racism is alive and well is not enough.
We must continually renew the relationships between progressives and the black community. And so, now it is time again to go into black communities and create a new dialogue. Certainly, they have things to say to us that need to be said and that need to be heard. It is not just about racism; it is about what is going on in their communities, and how their hopes and dreams need support from us. But first, we must understand what those hopes and dreams are. Then, we may broach the issue of voting for someone who can be of help.