Friday, February 20

Did anyone actually LISTEN to what Eric Holder said about Racial Cowardice?

Attorney General Eric Holder's recent comments have generated a firestorm of reaction - particularly in this now famous exchange between Pat Buchannan and Dr. Michael Eric Dyson.

In this both Buchanan and the host attempt to dictate the terms in which Holder should have been speaking. He can't talk about Racial problems without first attacking the black community for it's own problems, as if those problems exist in complete isolation and just appeared magically on their own in no relation to anything else in America. Dr Dyson attempted to respond amid technical problems.

But what has any of this got to do with what Holder was actually talking about?

His text of his actual remarks are Here.

Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards. Though race related issues continue to occupy a significant portion of our political discussion, and though there remain many unresolved racial issues in this nation, we, average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race. It is an issue we have never been at ease with and given our nation’s history this is in some ways understandable. And yet, if we are to make progress in this area we must feel comfortable enough with one another, and tolerant enough of each other, to have frank conversations about the racial matters that continue to divide us. But we must do more- and we in this room bear a special responsibility. Through its work and through its example this Department of Justice, as long as I am here, must - and will - lead the nation to the "new birth of freedom" so long ago promised by our greatest President. This is our duty and our solemn obligation.

He is not addressing Black on Black Crime here, and there is no law or requirement - despite what Buchanan believes - that any discussion of race must begin as Black people taking a huge mea culpa as Bill Cosby has recently done, partcularly when he's not just talking about black people and white people.

He is not addressing White Guilt.

He doesn't say here, the it's all White people's Fault or Responsibility - he's simply pointing out that we DON'T SERIOUSLY TALK ABOUT THESE THINGS, certainly not without getting into finger pointing and defensiveness, which is exactly what happened on Hardball.

His point was, that we continue - 50 years after Brown v Board of Ed. - to voluntarily segregate ourselves.

As a nation we have done a pretty good job in melding the races in the workplace. We work with one another, lunch together and, when the event is at the workplace during work hours or shortly thereafter, we socialize with one another fairly well, irrespective of race. And yet even this interaction operates within certain limitations. We know, by "American instinct" and by learned behavior, that certain subjects are off limits and that to explore them risks, at best embarrassment, and, at worst, the questioning of one’s character. And outside the workplace the situation is even more bleak in that there is almost no significant interaction between us. On Saturdays and Sundays America in the year 2009 does not, in some ways, differ significantly from the country that existed some fifty years ago. This is truly sad. Given all that we as a nation went through during the civil rights struggle it is hard for me to accept that the result of those efforts was to create an America that is more prosperous, more positively race conscious and yet is voluntarily socially segregated.

He didn't specifically say here whether he was speaking about white people or black people - because he was speaking to BOTH!

Let me take a second to paraphrase at least from my own perspective

White People : DO NOT BE AFRAID to speak your mind. Even if you think you might be accused of bigotry, it's better to get it out there and let it be addressed and responded to. Doing so takes Courage as well as trust.

Black people : Don't just LIVE IN YOUR OWN WORLD, get out and mingle. Not just as a way to advance your career and finances, but just to see what everyone else is really about and what they're truly like. Doing so takes Courage, to take the risk that some of your worries and fears about residual racism and covert bigotry might be true - and they might not!.

This is test they we have to take each and everyday, with each and every person - One At A Time - that is where we have been cowards.

In this I speak from personal experience, I'm a black musician who is a fan and performer of Hard Rock Music - and trust me, there are NOT a lot of other black people out their voluntarily getting involved in what many people perceive as "White Culture", particularly Rock. (I know rock isn't "White" Music, but that really is the perception) It takes courage to go out amongst people you have almost nothing in common with and take the risk of facing ridicule and ostrazation for being different - particularly when you are in the vast minority. Just like with anti-trust situations, the Majority always has an advantage even if they don't always recognize it - and that's freedom from fear!.

Eric's point and he was absolutely correct is that outside of work or school we all retreated from each other, into our own comfort zones, into generalities or into statistics as Buchanan has done.

As Pat says, the numbers tell us that young Black men are Seven Times more Violent and Criminal than young White men.

Those figures come from the Bureau of Justice Statistics and I know them well.

# Lifetime chances of a person going to prison are higher for

-- men (11.3%) than for women (1.8%)
-- blacks (18.6%) and Hispanics (10%) than for whites (3.4%)

# Based on current rates of first incarceration, an estimated 32% of black males will enter State or Federal prison during their lifetime, compared to 17% of Hispanic males and 5.9% of white males.

The funny part is the Pat is getting it wrong. (Update:: In fact, most of his numbers came right out of his ass particularly the bit about 45% of black crime being against whites. The FBI Uniform Crime Report doesn't include cross-racial incidents unless it's Murder or a Hate Crime - which is just another name for Domestic Terrorism - and black people are proportionally BY FAR on the receiving end of both... but I digress)

18.6% divided by 3.4% is not 7 - it's only 5.47 to 1, not 7 to 1. (Even if Pat is exaggerating, that's still a significant difference)

But what does that mean really, because if you use the same figures for men and women you get a ratio of 6.2 to 1 - so should Men be more like Women in their criminality as Pat suggests Black's should be more like Whites? Should we walk around in constant fear of men? Should we bash them to "straighten out their act!?"

The thing is, this the per capita number of people who've are likely to be arrested, convicted and imprisoned - not necessarily the accurate number of criminals. The thing that Pat leaves out, is that fact that Law Enforcement continues to specifically Target Black people (believing as does Pat, that they are more likely to be "criminals" is an act of Cowardice!)

The numbers, in general, say one thing: It's takes a personal act of Courage to find out if the generalization is true on a case by case, individual by individual basis.

America has been lacking in that courage.

Pat also ignores the gross disparity in sentencing laws which send black defendants to jail for as much as 100 Times for essentially the same crime, so in many ways we aren't talking about more criminals - we're talking about people being held in prison much, much longer.

Few people have been able to accurately quantify the impact on both profiling and sentencing disparities, but simple logic tells you that if you acknowledge either these factors the simplistic "Blacks are Seven Times more Criminal" argument doesn't pass the smell test.

Let's just go on to point out that it's pretty hard to hold down a job when you've been in prison. It's pretty hard to keep a family together when you can't keep a job. Yes, Black people have a disproportionate number of out-of-wedlock birth's, maybe that's because so many black women have had to learned - the hard way - that their man may not being around all the time, voluntarily or not. Maybe a lot of Black men, knowing the figures and the odds as they are so often drilled into our heads - have for so long simply given up all hope!

"Hope" can be folly of fools when all reality tells you something completely different. Maybe the acendency of Barack Obama to the Presidency will rekindle that "Hope", maybe it will "Keep Hope Alive" and maybe not. We'll see - it's only been a month.

Now, the mistake that black people (and others) make is automatically assuming that anyone who brings up these problems with criminality or other issues - has to be a Racist as has been thrown quite a bit at Pat lately.

That isn't necessarily the case.

Well, ok, it might be the case for Pat and maybe some of the people at the New York Post who can't even apologize without insulting people again - but there are a lot of other people who look at these figures, they look at the poverty, the alcoholism, drug addiction rates and go "Why should I care about these people if they don't care about themselves?"

It's a legitimate question, and deserves a legitimate answer beyond simply saying "White People Did It To US!" (Well ok, maybe some of them did but those white people are largely gone - what about the people that are here now?)

Sometimes white people just honestly don't understand where black people are coming from with all this (i think legitimate) anger and angst over these GENERATIONAL problems, and we (black people, if you forgot, I'm one of y'all) need to give them an honest chance to let their frustrations out. They're tired of being BLAMED for everything that's wrong in Black America. We have to understand that, we have to have the Courage to trust that simply dealing with that guilt doesn't make someone a "Closet Racist" (They have to ACT on it for that!)

It's not all their fault.

Really, it's not. And the finger-pointing contest is not helping.

Many white people, and frankly most immigrants don't see what Black people's problem is. "Just get over it! My parents/grand-parents had to suffer too" Why can't you just be like us!?. Well the simple answer to that is something that Dr. Dyson was trying to say - but was cut-off by the technical problems. Black people didn't just decide to have seperate schools, and seperate colleges and seperate churches and seperate music and a seperate distinct and unique culture - THEY HAD TO! Everything they did have as Africans, was taken from them by Force - their language, their families and culture. All gone. All destroyed.

Take a second and really think about that.

Now, imagine several dozen generations - literally it has been 400 years since Virginia instituted Race-Based Slavery - and realize we've had a completely seperate a parallel nation going for that entire time.
And now, many of you, just want us to just Chuck it all!? simply because that's pretty much what most immigrants do, tamped down their native culture in order to fit more comfortably into the melting pot?

Yeah, but what if 80-90% of your culture - CAME FROM AMERICA? Fact is: We already are Americans. We're supposed to have Freedom Of choice. Think about what's really being asked here when people suggest Black people's real problem - is that they Act Too Black!

If you or your family has immigrated from somewhere else voluntarily, you've already volunteered to join the existing American cultural structure - you already made that choice. Black people didn't. Demanding them to do that now is nothing short of Culture-cide. It's despicable.

But again, this isn't about blame, it's about the future.

Yes, Black people have suffered through both Slavery, Jim Crow and segregation. I'm old enough that is has touch me in my lifetime, some younger people not so much - but they've know there parents did and as most parent do - they tend to pass on down. Everyone needs to understand that this multi-generational trauma does have a lasting impact even today. When you apply pressure to any object it reacts in one of two ways, either it collapses or it explodes into action. Like a leak in a dam or a firehose, the kind of pressure that Jim Crow applied on Black people drove many of them forward to achieve - to excel as did the the Buffalo Soldiers, the Tuskegee Airmen, Benjamin Carver and hundreds of other Black inventors, athletes, musicians and artists from Jackie Robinson, Little Richard, Ray Charles to Jimi Hendrix and yes, even Bill Cosby.

These people burst forward, but not everyone is capable of that. Not Everyone can or will react that way. Many of us were crushed by the experience emotionality, spiritually and mentally and we've continue to pass that on to our children, and to their children. That's not caused by "racism", that's just inertia - like a perpetual motion engine of self-destruction.

It's therefore not that surprising that the cultural artists and musicians who originally inspired us to find alternatives to urban despair have now become immersed in it themselves. We went from Afrika Bambatta and Grand Master Flash giving us "The Message" to T.I., Left Eye (Burning down the House!), the Esst/West Rap Wars and embarassment of R. Kelly and Michael Jackson.

We don't need White people to tear us down anymore, we learned a long time ago to exactly how to do it to ourselves. We do need to face that and change it.

Black culture - as separate as it has been by necessity - has included both the light and the dark, the destroyed and the super-energized. It's going to take more than a single generation to reconcile it's two distinct, and often internally feuding, halves.

Also it's too simple to say either that "White People Made Us this Way" or that "Black people need to clean up their own house".

We made this mess together. America did it. Not just White America, not just Black America - AMERICA! We need to address urban crime, we also need to address profiling and serious sentencing problems. We need to address the meaning of modern day "blackness" and what it means to be An American (Terrorist Fist Bump? Stokeley Carmichael in a Dress?!) and we need to not let our History become an albatross, clouding our future in perpetual guilt, shame and blame.

The way out of it is together. With Courage. Eric Holder knows this - we should try a little harder to listen:

As a nation we should use Black History month as a means to deal with this continuing problem. By creating what will admittedly be, at first, artificial opportunities to engage one another we can hasten the day when the dream of individual, character based, acceptance can actually be realized. To respect one another we must have a basic understanding of one another. And so we should use events such as this to not only learn more about the facts of black history but also to learn more about each other. This will be, at first, a process that is both awkward and painful but the rewards are potentially great. The alternative is to allow to continue the polite, restrained mixing that now passes as meaningful interaction but that accomplishes little. Imagine if you will situations where people- regardless of their skin color- could confront racial issues freely and without fear. The potential of this country, that is becoming increasingly diverse, would be greatly enhanced. I fear however, that we are taking steps that, rather than advancing us as a nation are actually dividing us even further. We still speak too much of "them" and not "us". There can, for instance, be very legitimate debate about the question of affirmative action. This debate can, and should, be nuanced, principled and spirited. But the conversation that we now engage in as a nation on this and other racial subjects is too often simplistic and left to those on the extremes who are not hesitant to use these issues to advance nothing more than their own, narrow self interest.

LOOK at what he's saying here - LOOK - it's not about "Us vs Them" - it's not going to be simple or easy, the process may be "akward and painful" (Ya got that right bruthah!)- but we can't afford to turn away and retreat into neutral (seperate and still unequal) corners.

We have to engage each other, not just when we circumstances and proximity force us, but because we want to - we need to.


You, love you're "kind" so much
And try to pretend, they're all so grand
But if you were to travel back "home"
Would they kick your ass
Back to this "this land"?


Gonna take all I can get now
For the best life
(just) Haven't found it yet

(You're) Nothing but a Refugee in Paradise

From the song "Refugee" - by Me!

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