BEGINNING TO SEE

Overheard at a rural restaurant one morning the other day, at a weekly breakfast of old gentlemen as they sat pondering their menus.

“Well, that’ll finally teach them!”

“What?”

“You can’t just go around breaking the law and expect to get away with it because you’re black.”

“Who does?”

“The blacks do. You can’t hire them, they don’t want to work, they’re happy to collect from Uncle Sam. You can’t fire them if they do work, because they’re black and need special treatment. Damned one way or the other.”

“So, what are they finally being taught?”

“That guy in New York was breaking the law. He never expected anything to happen to him. He was black. He was big. Too big to be arrested. But not anymore.”

“You think that’s the lesson people get from all this?”

“Yep. Watch those crime rates fall.”

“You’re crazy. What this teaches them, coming right on top of Ferguson, is that black lives mean nothing.”

“They’re not worth any more than ours are.”

“But will you agree they are worth the same?”

“No, sir. They aren’t. They know they’ve got the country by the balls. We can’t touch’em.”

“So we just shoot?”

“Might as well. Saves everybody a lot of time and money.”

That, folks, ain’t funny.

The dialogue, which is real, ain’t funny, either.

But what’s happened in just hours is healthy, believe it or not. Whites across the country are finally beginning to understand how blacks view the police, view big business, view their neighbors. And most importantly how blacks view themselves.

Many see themselves certainly as an under-class, destined for little if any advancement in education, in jobs, in income. And unless the nation begins to turn about and make some realistic and meaningful changes, they are cemented in place, unable to move. And they can’t stop being targets, either.

Whites see blacks as threats. As criminals, rioters, spoiled social parasites. They, the whites, aren’t going to make meaningful change if it means they themselves have to exchange a few rungs on the ladders of social value with anyone, especially blacks.

What we all see this week is just how implanted these attitudes are.

Of course, the main engines of discourse this week were not addressed in that restaurant: police department attitudes and practices, unequal emphasis on arresting people by category, unequal imprisonment of people based on local district attorneys and their voting populace. Many are content and well-pleased by the actions of their city attorneys and police forces, by their state and city laws.

Millions of Americans have known for generations of the relative value of skin color. Six years ago we held a colorblind election that was, for many, exactly that. For others, it was a declaration of war.

Finally the first cannons have been fired. Cannons because the sites of these machines vary so widely in the nation: in Florida, in Missouri, in Illinois and in New York. And all of this in little more than one year.

This is not scattershot. We’re not hunting birds. We’re hunting human souls and for that you need heavy ordinance. And guess what. The targets sooner or later are going to be black and white. The ammunition will be both real and verbal. To repair the nation requires immediate attention and action, perhaps even the loathed “executive” action.

We have no advice to give about how to go about getting both sides to temporarily disarm or becalm themselves. Every day that passes without material change is added to the history of slavery in our nation.

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