I was trying to compose in my mind what I was feeling this Black History Month. Then the Weekly Sift guy hit on it. There are some issues in America that wear me down.
He mentioned mass shootings, which I have commented on at least 20 times in less than 18 years.
“Police killing innocent people of color… is another issue that wears me down. Last week I mentioned Tyre Nichols’ death but didn’t give it the attention it deserved.” And I had not explicitly mentioned him at all, though I had written about Keith Lamont Scott and Philando Castile and several others.
I suppose I’m still wrapping my head around the fact that five cops beating Nichols to death were black. Often, when I have heard black cops speak, from the former chief in Dallas to the current chief in Albany, NY, the narrative has been that they got into law enforcement to change its culture. Evidently, the culture changed the alleged assailants.
(Slightly off-topic: How does Memphis find 12 people who haven’t heard about the situation, seen the video, and haven’t developed an opinion about the case?)
“NYT columnist Jamelle Bouie put his finger on what I think is the core issue: “the institution of American policing lies outside any meaningful democratic control.” Also, Out of Balance: Lack of diversity taints Louisiana criminal justice system
The above cartoon Weekly Sift used points to another issue. After a long battle to highlight black accomplishments while pointing out some less-than-favorable parts of American history Tulsa, OK; Wilmington, NC; redlining et al), it feels as though America is going backward.
Some articles wore me down
“The Republican Party’s latest wave of attacks against anyone who threatens the white supremacist patriarchy is couched in false concern for health and well-being.
The College Board Strips Down Its A.P. Curriculum for African American Studies
Ohio couple ran neo-Nazi home school group on Telegram
Alan Singer wrote: “For Dr. King, the ‘pernicious’ ideology was white racism, and he was not concerned with the possible averse psychological impact of DEI [Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion] on whites. Instead, King focused on the legal benefits of DEI for African Americans. Opponents of Civil Rights laws claimed ‘legislation is not effective in bringing about the changes that we need in human relations. According to Dr. King, ‘This argument says that you’ve got to change the heart in order to solve the problem; that you can’t change the heart through legislation.’
“King acknowledged. ‘It may be true that you can’t legislate integration, but you can legislate desegregation. It may be true that morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated… And so while the law may not change the hearts of men, it does change the habits of men.'”
Scott Stossel, National Editor of The Atlantic, recalls: “In 2013, Ta-Nehisi Coates, then an Atlantic staff writer, pitched what seemed an unlikely story idea: He wanted to make the case for paying substantial reparations to Black Americans, as moral and practical recompense for the compounding damage from two centuries of slavery, and from decades of Jim Crow, lynchings, discrimination, segregation, and systemic racism.
“It worked. Coates’s 15,000-word cover story, which I edited, traced 400 years of Black experience in America, and it galvanized a national conversation about how governments and citizens should confront systemic injustice, both past and present. It generated as much productive discussion as any article the magazine has published in the past 50 years. The Carter Journalism Institute at NYU ranked it as the most important piece of journalism in any format (book, newspaper article, magazine feature) published between 2010 and 2020.”
At the Friends and Foundation of the Albany Public Library’s talk on a recent Tuesday. Tom Ellis reviewed The White Wall: How Big Finance Bankrupts Black America by Emily Flitter. She is no lefty agitator but a writer for the Wall Street Journal. Yet she uncovered “the shocking yet normalized corruption in our financial institutions.”
One of the solutions she recommended was for big banks to embrace reparations. “Look good by doing good,” she was quoted in a recent area appearance covered by Ellis. She believes banks can increase their bottom line by being equitable.
What might this look like? California commissioned a task force looking at this, with a report coming out in the summer of 2023. CBS presented a story about a black family enslaved in California, freed after statehood in 1850, who was part of a black community that was wiped out by eminent domain.
After I saw the episode of Finding Your Roots featuring S. Epatha Merkerson, it seemed reasonable to me that she and other descendants of enslaved people sold to keep what is now Georgetown University from economic collapse should be entitled to free tuition.
In some peculiar way, it often feels that America is moving backward in terms of racial equality. For every Derek Chauvin convicted of killing George Floyd – only because a teenager had a cellphone at the right time – I see regression in voting rights, disinformation about books that threaten schools and libraries, and a host of other concerns.
Optimism doesn’t come quickly to me in the best of situations. Still, I’m crossing my fingers, my toes, and any other body parts that things will improve, eventually.