Time to Reset, White Folks | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Time to Reset, White Folks

photo

Growing up in the 1960s and '70s, I was taught that black men were dangerous and to be avoided. Don't ever go on that side of the tracks into the n*gger quarters. Cross the street if you see a scary black man walking toward you. Those people are violent, feral, lazy and will rape white women if they get a chance. I don't remember my parents saying those things, but about everybody else did. That included teachers, coaches, relatives, business leaders, politicians, you name it.

I've encountered this blatant racism every place I've lived, including New York City, Colorado, and Washington, D.C. It was in D.C. in the early 1980s when I had to face that my state didn't hold the patent for race hatred. I worked as a club DJ and in almost every gig, the owner would walk up and tell me not to "play that n*gger music" because it would attract too many of "them."

I always figured they thought it was OK to say this stuff to me because I was female, blonde and from the South. Thus, I was a member of a club I've never wanted to join.

I'd so love to say all this is behind us and that we can just hit reset, stop talking about race, declare everything equal and move forward without ever noticing skin tone again. But let's put on our logic hats here: We cannot do that until things really are equal and public-policy, and trigger fingers, aren't driven by the fear of someone darker, based on our fearful upbringing and socialization.

If we hit reset without tackling unresolved trauma, it can't work. Such a reset would freeze false beliefs and inherited fears into our culture that, in turn, drive our decisions and policy with folks telling us we can't discuss race any more—like many do now.

Before you white folk start accusing me of "white guilt," whatever that is, please stop and think about it. Many of you like to blame "the family" for any problem involving a black person. Meantime, policies instilled by our (white) leaders—from rape-infested slavery to the violent drug war—have done everything possible since our founding as a nation and state to break up black families, not to mention take away reproductive choices from poor women, starting with slavery and moving to access to safe birth control and even "adequate" public education.

It's OK with many white people that black children grow up in neighborhoods their families were ghettoized to in our darker days when they weren't allowed to live elsewhere; where they couldn't escape because banks and lenders "redlined" them out of better homes and loans to help build wealth; where they are surrounded by rat-infested abandoned houses often owned by whites in "good" neighborhoods or other states; where they don't have access to fresh food or grocery stores or sidewalks or transportation; where drugs shipped in by white suppliers can feel like the only way to make money especially if you're a young, black man who is already picked on by police and told by your society that you're likely to go to jail some day.

Most whites don't seem to care that guns are made readily available to vulnerable children by an industry that also gets rich off the white people who want to protect themselves from those children who are more often killing each other than whites—and over acquiring and selling illegal drugs.

Too many fellow whites (and increasingly middle-class blacks) will take the easy way out, throw their hands in the air and blame "the family" in a flash—the same families they don't want to have decent schooling, birth control, equitable access to voting or to live in their neighborhoods.

Most sadly, due to this mess of societal psychosis, too many children grow up without hope, with parent(s) in prison longer for more minor drug charges than whites who did the same thing, or strung out on the drugs that enrich people far away.

Or they never see themselves depicted in most media for positive efforts (other than sports and sometimes music, if they're not rappers). They're called "thugs" for the clothing they choose, or because they sass somebody, or because they shoplift or smoke a joint. Their schools are dotted with police officers and metal detectors, telling them they're expected to be criminals.

Too many heed that call. At least they can belong somewhere. They then are crowded into private prisons that enrich guess-who or into a brutal, public one where they are used as slave labor, as their own kids grow up without a father in the same cycle.

The culture still tries to tell the adult-me that black people are more dangerous and live in poverty ... because they're black people. Don't believe me? Question yourself: If you believe that "those" families aren't doing enough for their kids, why do you think "those" particular families aren't? It's hard to arrive at any conclusion other than their common skin tone if you refuse to acknowledge lingering effects of racism. If their skin tone is your common denominator, then it's racist, whether you intend it to be or not.

Of course the common thread is an American culture that intentionally pushed African Americans out of strong family life, quality education, voting rights and public equality for so long—and that now refuses to reverse that legacy to the point that we actually can hit reset and it work.

What's happening in Ferguson isn't pretty, but it had to happen: Police and everyday people cannot keep killing black people for minor, or no, crimes and expect our citizens of color to just keep taking it. That practice came to a violent head 50 years ago this summer, and it is again now.

Polls this week show that only 37 percent of white Americans believe the Ferguson situation has anything to do with race. That means another 63 percent is either willfully racist or naive about how people of color live in the U.S. It may be that half of those are hardened racists we will never change. But I pray the other half just haven't bothered to look at race issues in a holistic way, whether from socialization or just not knowing you could or should. I've met plenty of those folks since starting the JFP, of all ages. And to a person, they are happier, more engaged people once they face racism in our society and decide to be part of the solution.

Yes, America, we need to reset on the race question. But resetting without serious examination, deep listening and actions to repair the devastating effect of historic racism isn't an option, and will only prolong race tension and inequities. We tried that, and Michael Brown is dead—for committing a much lesser sin than many whites who've done much worse and still get to breathe, eat, vote, and love their mamas and daddies.

Now, it's time to listen to the voice that the protesters are trying to collectively raise. It's a voice full of pain, urgency, truth—and, if we allow it to be, a roadmap out of this mess our ancestors created for us. It will take us all, though, and it won't be comfortable.

Make no mistake: White people created this problem long ago, and we must help fix it. It doesn't take guilt; it requires empathy, love and a whole lot of action.

See the JFP's full archive of Ferguson coverage here.

Comments

margeryfreeman 3 years, 12 months ago

0utstanding editorial, as usual. interested readers may want to read IAN Haney Lopez' "Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class." (2014) Thank you for your truth-telling! From one white person to another, Margery Freeman McComb, Ms

1

donnaladd 3 years, 12 months ago

It tickles me a bit to see Tea Partiers complain about the Ferguson protesters looting and destroying property. They, after all, named themselves after a group of protesters who dressed up as American Indians and destroyed a whole boat load of tea belonging to the East India Tea Company. Because they were mad at the government for mistreating them. Just sayin'.

2

donnaladd 3 years, 12 months ago

Not to mention, there are SO many destructive "white" riots/looting/destruction incidents we could list, including Ole Miss when Mr. Meredith enrolled.

Does everyone reading this know about Rosewood? Vital history.

Or the Tulsa riot against blacks?

In fact, here's a pretty good list of race-related riots. Note the U.S. list.

Let's just say that African Americans didn't come up with the practice of riots, looting or property destruction.

1

Knowledge06 3 years, 12 months ago

I don't remember reading about ANY of these in my Mississippi History Books!

MERIDIAN RIOTS - MARCH 1871 "The Meridian race riot of 1871, also called the Meridian Riot, was a race riot in Meridian, Mississippi in March 1871. It followed the arrest of freedmen accused of inciting riot in a downtown fire, and blacks' organizing for self-defense. Although the local Ku Klux Klan (KKK) chapter had attacked freedmen since the end of the Civil War, generally without punishment, the first local arrest under the 1870 act to suppress the Klan was of a freedman. This angered the black community. During the trial of black leaders, the presiding judge was shot in the courtroom, and a gunfight erupted that killed several people. In the ensuing mob violence, whites killed as many as 30 blacks over the next few days. Whites drove the Republican mayor from office, and no person was charged or tried in the freedmen's deaths."

VICKSBURG RIOTS - JULY 29, 1874 "The city of Vicksburg in 1874 set the precedent for the Mississippi Plan. White armed patrols prevented blacks from voting and succeeded in defeating all Republican city officials in August. By December the emboldened party forced the black sheriff, Crosby, to flee to the state capital. Blacks who rallied to the city to aid the sheriff also had to flee in the face of superior white forces. Over the next few days, armed gangs may have murdered up to 30 blacks in the city's vicinity. President Ulysses S. Grant sent a company of troops to Vicksburg in January 1875 to quell the violence and allow the sheriff's safe return. The sheriff was shot in the head on June 7, 1875, by his white deputy, A. Gilmer."

CLINTON, MS RIOTS - September 4, 1875 In September 1875 during the election campaign, a Republican political rally was held in downtown Clinton, where 3000 people were gathered and expecting Governor Adelbert Ames and other prominent speakers. It was disrupted by white insurgents. Their attack resulted in what was called the "Clinton Riot," and the deaths of several white men and an estimated 50 blacks later that night and over the next few days, when armed whites arrived by train and widely attacked blacks. Among the black victims were schoolteachers, church leaders and local Republican organizers.

CARROLTON, MS MASSACRE - March 17, 1886 The 1886 Carroll County Courthouse Massacre took place in Carrollton, Mississippi. Twenty-three black Mississippians were gun downed on March 17 while attending a trial at the local courthouse. None of the armed men who launched the attack were ever brought to justice, and the county, state, and federal government never pursued an investigation into the murders. Other than several newspaper articles published in 1886, no official state record exists of the massacre. It remains a little-known cold case in Mississippi’s state history.

0

MarcSanders 3 years, 12 months ago

Ms Ladd,

Couple questions/thoughts:

  • You stated "What's happening in Ferguson isn't pretty, but it had to happen: Police and everyday people cannot keep killing black people for minor, or no, crimes and expect our citizens of color to just keep taking it."

First, what do you mean "it had to happen?" Second, it seems premature to tie those tragic events (as opposed to the events that have followed) in with the racial problems that persist in this country. To elude that Mr. Brown was killed for "minor, or no, crimes" is certainly premature. We don't even know what happened. All media outlets can seem to agree about is that he didn't have a weapon. There are reports of a struggle ferocious enough to leave the officer an orbital fracture. If Mr. Brown fought with Officer Wilson and if Officer Wilson believed his life was in jeopardy, the shoot could have easily been justifiable. We just don't know the facts at this time.

  • You stated "Polls this week show that only 37 percent of white Americans believe the Ferguson situation has anything to do with race. That means another 63 percent is either willfully racist or naive about how people of color live in the U.S."

Respectfully, you left out a big chunk of the population. You left no room for the folks who know we don't have all the facts and won't rush to judge a situation. What we do know is that one kid is dead, one man is undoubtedly changed forever and their two families will never be the same.

We've got ground to cover before we hit that "reset" button. I would contend that ground is as much on one side as the other. v/r

1

blackwatch 3 years, 12 months ago

Great column as always Donna. It is just too simple to explain the inequities on the backs of the Black "Family" or "Culture". Also, it is easy for someone like Marc Sanders to call for Black folk to suffer oppression and injustice with some sort of , what he would consider "restraint" and not riot . While rioting maybe dangerous and not as effective as other responses, to oppress and injur systemically is immoral. Indeed, what is happening in Ferguson is not just about Mike Brown, but about the long standing sytemic denials of full citizenship being practiced by local elites. This article outlines this very convincingly http://www.kfbk.com/articles/national-news-104668/ferguson-feeds-off-the-poor-three-warrants-a-year-per-household-12696668

I often wonder, how do would people who beneftit from an oppressive and exploitative system like for the oppressed and exploited to respond?

1

js1976 3 years, 11 months ago

"We tried that, and Michael Brown is dead—for committing a much lesser sin than many whites who've done much worse and still get to breathe, eat, vote, and love their mamas and daddies."

An unarmed 20 year old white kid was shot in Utah two days after Michael Brown. He will never get to breath, eat, vote, or love his mama and daddy. Yet, no one seem to care about this incident. Is it because the protest in Salt Lake City have been peaceful? Is it because it isn't percieved as racial? As a journalist please give me your opinion as to why the only media outlets covering this event are local.

I'm not attempting to direct this conversation away from the Michael Brown shooting, because I firmly believe that the officers actions were unjustified. However, when you speak of racial disparities it's hard not to notice the major differences in the reporting of these two identical incidents.

0

Pilgrim3 3 years, 11 months ago

Name? Site with a news story?

0

js1976 3 years, 11 months ago

Here is another: http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/58313255-78/burbank-police-taylor-officer.html.csp

Notice they are both from the Salt Lake City Tribune. Search Dillon Taylor's name on any major news network and you won't get a hit. Search Ferguson, or Michael Brown and you are bombarded with stories. Yet they were both unarmed young men shot by police officers of different ethnicities.

0

donnaladd 3 years, 11 months ago

Those answers are easy, Marc, even if the bigger ones aren’t. First, an uprising like that in Ferguson had to happen, considering the insane statistics of how many black Americans police kill every year, many of them unarmed, and not to mention that civilians are doing the same thing. My point isn’t that Mr. Brown did nothing wrong; we don’t know all the details, yet (although the “orbital fracture” rumor is being roundly discredited by CNN and others, even if right-wingers like Ann Coulter spread it, including here in The Clarion-Ledger). Mr. Brown’s shooting, and the fact that police left him lying in the street for four hours for already-abused neighbors to look at, provided the spark that lit the fire of outcry. As I say in the column, black people are rightfully tired of being treated like animals and gunned down, even when they’re unarmed. And, yes, that 63 percent of white Americans simply ignore and discount these concerns of most blacks exactly proves that those who aren’t outright racist are choosing to be willfully ignorant and uncaring about the threat stalking non-whites every day.

0

js1976 3 years, 11 months ago

"And, yes, that 63 percent of white Americans simply ignore and discount these concerns of most blacks exactly proves that those who aren’t outright racist are choosing to be willfully ignorant and uncaring about the threat stalking non-whites every day."

Sorry, but I have to agree with Marc regarding the 63%. Just because I personally wouldn't state on a poll that I believe the Ferguson shooting has anything to do with race does not make me willfully ignorant and uncaring. That's absured to even make such a claim.

Do I believe it could be a racially motivated shooting, of course I do. However, I would fall into the 63% because I have not been presented all of the facts surrounding this case to make a firm decision. So far CNN is citing an anonymous source stating that he only suffered a swollen face, so no one has been discredited yet. If CNN's source is indeed correct, it would still confirm physical contact to the officers face. Which in my opinion discredits the witness statments claiming he was just standing there with his hands raised.

1

donnaladd 3 years, 11 months ago

js, it not uncommon for a problem to be bad for people of all communities and/or ethnicities, and much worse for a particular one. It's not a binary problem.

Militarization of police is similar to the problems of zero-tolerance discipline in the schools. For decades, children of color were treated much more harshly than whites in schools for the same or lesser transgressions, and whites turned their heads. It wasn't until schools had to start equalizing those policies, and expelling more white kids, that white people noticed, and then started complaining that it happens to them, too, so it can't be about race.

That's not even logical. Of course, something can be done more often to one group of people due to racism or other biases. And that doesn't make it being done to a white kid any better, but it also doesn't mean we can just ignore the racist tendencies and statistics because it happens to whites, too.

As I had to explain repeatedly when I had a fellowship to study the discriminatory effects of zero tolerance on kids of color, it can be bad for all kids and even worse for others. The either-or paradigm (or excuses) is only for the foolish. It's remarkable how often I've heard usually-intelligent people fall into that dumb trap. And in the hands of a willfully ignorant person or outright racist, it's particularly onerous.

0

js1976 3 years, 11 months ago

"And that doesn't make it being done to a white kid any better, but it also doesn't mean we can just ignore the racist tendencies and statistics because it happens to whites, too."

No one is ignoring the racist tendencies and statistics, that's my point. The only one being ignored is the white kid that isn't considered racially motivated or falls into the statistics you speak of.

0

SDSmith 3 years, 11 months ago

Most statistics I've seen are what we typically refer to as "surface" just showing that there are more blacks vs whites and other racial groups experiencing a negative consequense than those comparison races.

Those are poor statistics as it doesn't correlate at a gross level to an indication of racism. For example, black smoke marijuana at about the same rate as whites but are arrested statistically more often. Some see that gross disparity as an issue. But if you look deeper at those statistics you also see that the black arrested were arrested in high crime areas where there is naturally a much higher police prescence to being with. Also, they were noted as largely being more public about their use. On street corners or parked cars. White kids get arrested more during routine traffic stops in suburban areas but if you smoke a joint while cutting your lawn in the suburbs...you have about zero chance of even seeing a police officer.

The point being that there's a lot more to the equation than race and it isn't just about race. The media tends to rush to that conclusion though.

0

donnaladd 3 years, 11 months ago

js1976, my column above is about Ferguson, the uprising more so than the shooting itself that instigated it. But for years, I've written about how poor treatment of young people hurts all of them, and some of them worse in frequency and severity due to their ethnicity. We have also pointed out regularly that this isn't just a "white" practice, such as in the case of various African Americans in power not investigating the Quardious Thomas shooting -- by a homeowner who went outside and unloaded into an unarmed young man allegedly breaking into his car.

None of that, though, takes away from a very serious race problem that plagues America--and the very reaction of many whites in these cases when they jump to defend the shooter no matter what proves it. We must shine a light on that WHILE we shine a light on all police militarization and demonization of young people of all races. So I applaud you for bringing up that case. Just don't use it to try to negate the important of what happened in Ferguson and other places. When we resort to such binary thinking, the assholes win.

And tsmith, there is no reason to be ashamed to be white. I'm certainly not. It's what people do and don't do that matters, and while it hurts my heart that so many white people want to turn their heads away from what white people created in our country, I do believe in human potential, and I see examples nearly every day of people getting educated on the issues and starting to be part of the solution rather than finger-pointing. And that's lovely and, frankly, makes me very proud.

0

js1976 3 years, 11 months ago

"Just don't use it to try to negate the important of what happened in Ferguson and other places."

That was never my intent.

0

tomhead1978 3 years, 11 months ago

js1976, I want you to think about something: three eyewitnesses and a live tweeter describe Michael Brown being shot in the hands-up-don't-shoot scenario, while an anonymous police source describes the self-defense scenario, which is difficult to reconcile with the autopsy and purported audio recording (and which is not reinforced by the incident report, as there—astonishingly—was no incident report). Most whites within earshot believe the latter, even though they've seen Ferguson PD lie several times in recent weeks (regarding the tear gas, to name one example). You're a reasonably intelligent white person. You think there's any chance nine whites on a jury would convict Darren Wilson beyond a reasonable doubt, no matter what he did?

What we're seeing here—and with the Zimmerman and Dunn trials—is that Southern juries of 2014 really aren't much different from Southern juries of 1964. It's great that Beckwith, Killen, et. al. were finally convicted decades after the fact, but if they shot black folks today and showed a little more discretion re: their white supremacist views, they'd get away with it now just as much as they did 50 years ago. The problem has not been solved. The problem has not even been fully acknowledged.

0

js1976 3 years, 11 months ago

First Tom, I would like to thank you for the "reasonably intelligent" comment. I'm flattered you think so highly of me!

Most of the major new outlets are using anonymous sources in order to bring us the lastest "breaking news". Personally I think it's reckless reporting to use such information because some people don't have the ability to think for themselves. Whatever Fox, CNN, or MSNBC tells them has got to be true. Hence the reason I was questioning Donna on her opinion as to why the almost identical shooting is recieving no coverage.

In regards to your question concerning a jury conviction. I do think it's possible nine whites would convict Darren Wilson if presented with the proper evidence. However, this is where the media's "reckless reporting' comes into play. Many of these jurors will have already made up their minds before walking into the courtroom. So I don't think it would be easy.

We have debated many times in the past regarding the trials of Zimmerman and Dunn. I actually believe they will get the conviction against Michael Dunn, but we will just have to see. Florida jurors let Zimmerman and Casey Anthony walk, so nothing would suprise me.

0

tomhead1978 3 years, 11 months ago

Here's the thing, though: only the police "sources" (which were never documented) are anonymous. Three eyewitnesses appeared on camera, under their own names, to corroborate the "hands up, don't shoot" account; the only side of the story that relies entirely on anonymous testimony is that of Darren Wilson.

2

js1976 3 years, 11 months ago

I'm aware of that, but it would be impossible to select jury members that have not been saturated with this possible misinformation prior to sitting in on this trial.

0

donnaladd 3 years, 11 months ago

Right, Tom. But many people kneejerk to believe it and not the eyewitnesses. I really wish they'd start to question themselves on why they do that. I've certainly had to fight the socialization of my upbringing. We can't help what they taught up; we can strive to move past it.

1

tomhead1978 3 years, 11 months ago

Right. I wish there was a way to convey the fact that not that long ago ordinary white Southerners, who "don't care if you're chartreuse" and "don't have a racist bone in their bodies," showed up to smile in those lynching photographs. Because it happened—for more-or-less the same reasons white folks have supported Zimmerman, Dunn, and Wilson—and honestly, fighting it is an ongoing, day-to-day process. People keep wanting to do things that prove once and for all that they're not racist, which is kind of like eating so much in one sitting that you're never hungry again. It just doesn't work that way.

0

donnaladd 3 years, 11 months ago

Right, Tom. I cringe everytime I hear a fellow white person say "I don't care if they're green or purple"; often they're about to say something offensive. It's a terrible phrase, almost coded at this point, and folks should know it even if they're not using those words in a bad way. Too many do. Along with phrases like "making it racial" and "not a black/white thing."

Of course, someone called me a "liberalist" not too long ago, and I'm still amused by that one. ;-)

1

tomhead1978 3 years, 11 months ago

Lord, yes—"I don't care if they're..." is such an eye-roller. And I've found that a random "Why does everything have to be about race?" usually telegraphs that a white person is tired of having to think about the experiences of people who aren't white, and is about to simplify their lives by going off the rails. It's just not a question that I've ever heard anyone ask in good faith.

0

Turtleread 3 years, 11 months ago

Mississippi is one weird state. I never experienced racism against myself or others until I moved here in 1999. I grew up in a state that has three cultures, White or they sometimes called us Greigos, Hispanic, and Native American. All official documents, education, and court proceedings may constitutionally be in English, Spanish, or Native American languages. We had less than 1/2 of 1% black of the approximately 1 million people in the state at the time.

Rich or poor, or white or black, what really matters is whether the person is decent, has a conscience, and treats others nicely. I find that a lot of angry blacks here seem to think they can use the excuse of racism to take out their anger on everyone, including other blacks. I have even heard the phrase, "Oh, he/she is not black enough!" What? Gee, when we sweat do we all have to drip oil for you?

Not black enough? Every single person on Earth probably has African DNA. I look white, but I carry West African DNA, because Africa is the Cradle of Humanity. You've got feet, you've got vehicles, get some education, move, get a government job, do the military thing, get elected, but whatever. it is a waste of time to stay where conditions are inhospitable (whether in Ferguson or Jackson).

1
comments powered by Disqus