There’s all this drama related to Hillary and Barack that is worth addressing. I’m still not over Hillary evoking the memory of Bobby Kennedy’s assignation to validate her right to stay in the hunt. Sorry Hillary, the big talk among many black people is the fear that Barack will be killed if he wins the election. How stupid can you get?
I could have written about Rev. Michael Pfleger mocking Hillary Clinton at Obama’s Church. There’s so much to write about, but I stepped back long enough to allow my readers to respond to my last post-an attack of a column written by Kristen Butler in the Chronicle, Duke University’s student newspaper.
I’m amused by the responses to that blog. Before reacting, I wanted to give my critics more time to speak. To give them a chance to let us know how they feel before bringing to their attention that many of the assumptions they made related to what I wrote, or what they felt I wrote, have more to do with their own suppositions and less to do with my own position on the subject.
What this all teaches us, sadly, is that America isn’t ready for a real discussion about race. It’s difficult for white people to hear a person state the obvious-that being white concedes a level of privilege denied those who are black. It is implicit in being white, like it or not, that you are innocent until proven guilty. That you deserve another chance, and that any effort to minimize your right as a white person provides you the right to destroy those who came against you.
Some of my readers don’t get that. Butler’s column was racist at its core. Why? Because Butler made assumptions about an institution that is loving and forgiving enough to give a person like Crystal Mangum a second chance. What Mangum did was wrong. Does that mean that we, as a society, should take from her the right to make amends? Should we punish her for the rest of her life, while rewarding others for their involvement in all that happened?
Mistakes were made by all involved. Mangum made a mistake. Members of the lacrosse team made mistakes as well. My hope is that all of the wrongs be exposed-not just a few. The comments made at the party are offensive. Does it serve us well, as a society, to forget those words? Do you remember them, or have we discounted them completely after proving that the other claims were false.
We can’t do that. Black people are hurt by words like “thank your grandfather for picking the cotton for this shirt.” We can’t forget the email message that was sent out by a member of the team afterwards indicating their desire to hire a black stripper for the purpose of abusing her. We can’t forget the broomstick reference.
What happens in this conversation is the negation of it all based on the severe nature of the lie told by Mangum. There is no doubt that these young men have been hurt. Yes, they deserve an apology, but so do we. Who is we-the black residents of Durham who are hurting as a result of the way Duke students, protectors of the integrity of members of the team, and all the mad people who want heads on silver platters, have failed to consider the deeper issue at hand.
Race is hard to talk about. It is harder when people refuse to understand how their words and actions rekindle old thoughts. Race relations in Durham, NC have taken a major hit over all of this. Butler hasn’t helped by attacking NCCU. Those who have responded to my blog need to step back long enough to see how their words, and their feelings around this issue, is hindering are ability to move forward.
The assumption of privilege is an issue. That’s what Rev. Michael Pfleger meant when he spoke at Barack Obama’s church. Although it may be hard for white people to hear it, it is something assumed by black people. What is difficult for many to contemplate is why we feel this way. The bottom line is you can’t understand how it feels to be black until you have walked in those shoes. The reverse is also true. You can’t understand what it means to be white until you walked in those shoes.
Get this white people. I have been stopped on numerous occasions for driving while black. I have been stopped for walking in my own neighborhood. I have been followed by sales clerks to assure I won’t steal their precious goods. I have been denied work because I’m black. I’ve dealt with being told one thing over the phone and another when I show up due to the assumption made by the person on the other end of the phone-that I must be white. I have received a lower grade than white students despite doing better work. How do I know this? Because they have told me so.
This is the burden we carry as black people. The feeling that whites get more, while we get less, is a load to disprove. My readers say get over it. Many have concluded that blacks are cry babies. We need to pull our heads out of the old rhetoric and accept that all white people love black people, and that America is over its legacy of racism. If that was all true, we would not be having this conversation.
How do we make America a better place? Why not celebrate that Crystal Mangum graduated from NCCU. Shouldn’t we all be happy that she is working to change her life? Why bring up Solomon Burnette’s past troubles with the law? Why not celebrate that he found his way, got a degree and is taking classes at Duke. It’s called being reformed. Why can’t we celebrate that?
Would it be different if Mangum and Burnete had committed crimes were the victims were students at NCCU? Would it be easier for people to celebrate the commitment to change if white people hadn’t been impacted by their former ways? Open your eyes people. Race is at the heart of this discussion, and an apology is in order. For all who have failed to comprehend how the way we respond hinders our progress-shame on you.
With all of that being said, get this. Not all students at Duke are privileged. Not all students are racist. What we have here are groups of hurting people. The problem is no one will pull back from their own pain long enough to listen to those on the other side.
Wake up. We have to learn to love one another.