October 13, 2009

You Want to Talk About Race?

Guest Blogger Jon Thomas...

Back in February, speaking to Justice Department employees on the topic of racism, US Attorney General Eric Holder said "We have always been, and we, I believe, continue to be, in too many ways, a nation of cowards." He followed up with a less terse statement saying that "Americans of all races should stop avoiding the difficult issues of race." I'm not so sure about the charge of cowardice but maybe we are just so browbeaten when it comes to issues of race. So, at the risk of inviting more ad hominem attacks, let's talk about race.

The other night my wife and I watched the Clint Eastwood film Gran Torino. The story is quite moving in its juxtaposition of racism and redemption. Without spoiling the plot, it's a story of a recently widowed retired man whose once blue collar neighborhood is becoming more and more a community of mostly Asian immigrants. Still struggling with the demons of his service in the Korean war, he grudgingly befriends the immigrant Hmong children next door after saving one of them from a brutal gang attack. The following day, I saw the horrendous video of Derrion Albert, an honor student on his way home from school, killed by black gang thugs simply because he stumbled upon this brawl. An innocent black kid with a promising future killed by black kids with no regard for themselves or anyone else for that matter. Positively senseless. Earlier in mid September, also caught on video, a white student was beaten by two black students on a school bus in some sort of dispute over a seat. In both instances the attack was seemingly unprovoked -maybe some words were exchanged earlier in the day, who knows. But perhaps even more disturbing is the apparent fact that this is just a normal every day occurrence for these kids. Why would any group of people or culture look the other way when such despicable acts happen in their midst? I see these things and I ask, is this how you want to live? Do you wish to live as animals? Is this how you want to be perceived by others? Is it your intention to continue to fall on the crutch of racism and proclaim yourselves helpless? If so, I can assure you -it is a dead end road that leads to misery and loathing.

Continuously branding broad groups of people with the baseless charge of racism will, in the log run, do two things. First, it trivializes the true meaning of the word thus drawing an ever diminishing reaction from the accused. I have been called racist so often that I refuse to answer the charge. It no longer has any meaning to me because it is always pre-qualified by my political vantage point. Second, it sows deep the seeds of mistrust and resentment. The former can be easily reversed simply by stopping the behavior. The latter, if not reversed, will steep for generations and will undo what was fought for with blood and treasure since this country's founding. And oh what a tragedy it would be.

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