Beyond Tea-Party Somnambulism!

Posts tagged ‘race relations’

Minority Relations, Part 2

Also posted on www.rogerbburtphd.com.


And now, the focus turns to the Latino community. In talking with them on the streets, in previous campaigns, I learned that most of them preferred the term Latino, rather than Hispanic.  Hispanic seems to have a broader connotation, reflecting Spanish descent.  My particular focus is on the people who compose the newest wave of immigration, and they are from Latin America.

We Americans have a great deal in common with Latinos.  That may seem odd to say, but it is true.  The Latinos who have come to America are people with a crucial similar characteristic to many Americans, in one particular way.  It is reflected in our national character. 

The people in my mother’s family came to this country over 300 years ago, from southwestern Germany.  They had been through the Thirty Years War, followed by a little Ice Age.  It was time to leave Germany; enough was enough.

They did not have the benefit of the internet or a telephone or any of the communication systems we now take for granted. Bravely, with determination, on faith, they came across the Atlantic Ocean.  One family brought their twelve children.  These people came from the Mosel and Rhine River Valleys, and by sheer good fortune, settled in the Hudson River Valley, which must have seemed like a homecoming.

What is it that we, as Americans have in common?  It is the boldness, the risk taking, the guts and determination to set out to work for a better future, for ourselves and our families.  We share these traits with Latinos, who are the latest wave of immigrants.

Latinos are often victimized by “coyotes” as they make their own risky trek or “voyage.”  It may be through a desert, where they are victimized or simply die from the clash with a harsh environment.  The story of risk is multi-faceted.  And once they achieve relative “safety”, they still often face the life of someone in the shadows.  On the Shore, we know there are people in virtual economic slavery, actual sexual slavery, and those being victimized by people traffickers.

I’ll keep this focused.  Their story is a large one and deserving of attention, and reform, of our immigration system, which is broken.  But we, who are politically oriented and active, can help.  We can help by finding ways to bring them out of the shadows and making contact with them.

And the shadows are not just figurative.  Two summers ago, my wife and I went to a concert on Aurora Street, in Easton.  The band was Colombian and they set up shop in the middle of the street.  People came with their lawn chairs and there were families who, by their appearance, had Hispanic or Latino descent.  But, there were other people in the shadows of trees and buildings. Perhaps, a small gathering in a nearby parking lot, or young men peering around the corner of a building..

At one point the band stopped playing and, in Spanish, invited the people in the shadows to join us.  A very few accepted the offer.  Most did not.

The point here is that we have so much work to do, hand-in-hand, with Latinos.  As noted with the black community, we must do something other than just exhorting them to register, and to vote.  We need to reach out and listen.  There are two things we can do: we can engage them with questions about their situation, their hopes and their dreams, and we can make them an offer. 

In fact, there are two offers we can make to Latinos.  One offer comes in the form of questions we should ask.  What is your life like here?  What do you need?  What are the issues and how do you view them?  Questions will help us establish trust.  Then, we can make another offer: we can offer them a pipeline for information, to help them find what they need.  When there is a problem, we can get the information for them, since they may be afraid to ask, for a variety of reasons.  We need to ask them to please come to us.  After trust, can come inclusion and support for their dreams.

Only then do we suggest they register and ask for them to vote for our candidate who may then, in turn, be in a position to support and help them.

Minority Relations, Part 1

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.

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