I was watching a New York Times video presentation on the subject of what it is like to be black in America, a series of observations from several young black men, who looked to range in age from pre-teen to teenagers. All were very articulate and came off as being extremely well mannered.
It was heart rendering and troubling. They cited the usual litany: being stopped by police for no other reason than being black. Having people move to the other side of the street when they see you out of fear. One kid said that he was the only black student in a class and they were discussing Huck Finn and then the magic word came up, the one that begins with n. And everyone looks at him — what will he say or do or feel? I noticed in saying this he reverted to the black slang way of talking: “I be”.
Of course we all use slang or informal speech patterns, and maybe that was a good way to describe the feeling, the moment.
One or more of them assured viewers that they were not a threat to anyone.
It seems to me the black community is hampered by the actions of those who do mean harm. But that is not the only problem. It is true that racism has a long history in the United States. But the U.S. is not the only place on earth where racism persists. Racism is part of human nature I think.
You are only as good as the company you keep, they say. Sometimes people are forced by circumstances beyond their control to live with or keep company with the less desirable element of society. That less desirable element comes in all colors and races. It just happens to be easier to spot when there is such a distinct difference in skin tone, black vs. white.
In the original colonies there were essentially both white and black slaves and even free black people. The white slaves were indentured servants who had no more rights than black slaves, at least during their indenture (which sometimes they could never get out of). But I think the convenience of having a race that stood apart by skin color seemed attractive as a captive labor force by those who imported slaves into America. It was the most shameful part of our past, the time of slavery. We’ve yet to overcome it.
I have few answers in all of this really, mostly just observations.
But I think the bad element, who like I say includes those of all colors or races, needs to somehow have its control over large parts of our cities taken away. It seems to thrive where people have nothing to do and where people feel hopeless and not part of our democracy, not part of the wider society.
That element seems to thrive in blighted areas. So we need to clean up the blight. We need more grocery stores and fewer liquor stores. We need more jobs, but our leaders over the past decades have done about everything that can be done to ship those jobs overseas in the name of free trade.
I don’t really know what community policing is, except I have heard that term used over the years. It seems that it has been tried many times but always runs out of funding. I think it means having the cops have better relations with the people they serve, going out on the street and talking to them, getting to know them and helping where they can when appropriate. But I guess that takes more officers and time and that means money. But the cruising down the street like an occupying army is counter productive, as we have seen lately.
In the meantime, however, it does not matter what color you are. You will be judged by the way you comport yourself, by the way you dress. If you act and look like a hoodlum what do you expect? (This admittedly not withstanding the situation when one is black and neither looks nor acts like a hoodlum and still meets grief with the police.)
I realize the problem is that if you are black you are more easily identified by the non-black and for that reason you may well be put to an unfair higher standard.
In earlier posts I stated that it is my observation that people have a better chance if they can somehow move out of the ghetto. I guess, however, some of these young black men are saying somehow that the ghetto follows them.
In that respect I have to agree that it must be indeed challenging to be black in America.