What’s Going On?
Surge or Resurgence of Racism?
By Kwame S. Salter
According to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, a woman of Chinese descent who is an American citizen has filed a police brutality lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department for slapping her while she “was on her knees and cuffed behind her back.” The Police Department denied the allegations of brutality and, in fact, “charged the woman with battery for allegedly biting and scratching officers as they tried to subdue her.”
However, her lawyer recently revealed that a video surveillance camera shows footage of the incident and captures some disturbing audio, so disturbing that according to her lawsuit, “Police officers can be seen on the video searching for the surveillance recording, but they were unsuccessful because it was recorded off-site.” According to the video footage (now available on the Internet), one officer “got in her face and began to rant.” On the video, the officer can be heard yelling, “You’re not a f—— American. I’ll put you in a UPS box and send you back to wherever the f— you came from!”
If the video is to be believed, this is a classic case of adding insult to injury. First, why slap her? Second, why insult her? Even more puzzling, why question her citizenship status?
Maybe the bigger question is: Why are we witnessing this current spate of racially motivated outbursts? I assume the active duty officers in last week’s Chicago case are not in their late 60s, 70s or 80s like the notorious offenders of just a few weeks earlier: the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, and New Hampshire police commissioner Robert Copeland. Many people are quick to excuse the raw bigotry of old fellers on age alone. The old fellers are captives of times past, some say; they were brought up in a white supremacist era, they’re “kooks,” addled old men out of touch with the political correctness of the times. However, these old farts are more than just ghosts of racism past. They are zombies—the “undead” avatars of racism past and present.
Let’s take a look at this trio of race-baiting zombies.
Sterling’s well-known verbal indiscretions went viral—no need to repeat them. Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who refused to pay for grazing his cattle on federal lands—his chosen welfare plan for 20 years—gratuitously decided to share his ossified point of view on “Nigras,” unabashedly positing that Blacks were better off as slaves.
According to the New York Times, Bundy’s pontifications on race included the following:
“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” Bundy said, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids—and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch—they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.
“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” Bundy continued. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”
Wow! When CNN questioned him about his remarks, he responded, “I don’t think I’m wrong,” insisting that he’d spoken “from my heart. I think I’m right.”
Enough on Bundy. Let us take a peek into the mind of another self-proclaimed expert on race. Have you heard about Robert Copeland, Police Commissioner in Wolfeboro, NH? When Copeland opined that the President was “that f—— n—–,” he was overheard by a resident of Wolfeboro, who complained to the town manager and later the rest of the police commission. According to the Concord Monitor, “in his response to the complaint, which was later printed in the local weekly paper, Copeland wrote, ‘I believe I did (emphasis added) use the ‘N’ word in reference to the current occupant of the Whitehouse (sic). For this I do not apologize—he meets and exceeds my criteria for such.’ Double wow!!
These three men share unshakable certainty that they are right in their beliefs and their expressions of them. They steadfastly and unapologetically hold to the doctrine that one human race is superior to any and all others. They point to the so-called contributions “their race” has made to civilization and, ironically, to the other “inferior race.” In some cases, they are paternalistic. In other instances, they are hateful and menacing. Mostly, they are callous, cruel and intolerant. Above all, they know they are not outliers. They know that the majority consciousness of our society supports them, and they are simply expressing those majority beliefs and opinions—albeit crudely and venomously.
Racism is bedrock in White America; it is institutionalized doctrine. While most Whites in America have mastered “political correctness” in their day-to-day public speech and behavior, there is still the nagging private belief that they are superior to Blacks and some other people of color. They can point to crime statistics, housing patterns and employment figures to bolster their beliefs. Conveniently, they factor out the impacts of slavery, the Jim Crow laws, the legally enforced segregation, and the unequal administration of opportunity and justice. In their minds, the inferior race is just that—inferior.
Yet their position and point of view should come as no surprise. If you were born and raised in America as a “White person,” you were subjected to an insidious programming that reinforced your sense of superiority over an inferior group—i.e., Black people. For over 300 years, as a White person you didn’t play with them, go to school with them, hire them, or—God forbid—marry them. It was normal to view yourself as superior. If, as a White person, you resisted the programming and fought as an anti-racist against the racist configuration of society, you were clearly abnormal.
Thank heaven we are seeing more and more “abnormal” Whites. The anti-racist Whites need more help and support from us. However, because they do reach out to us, they are most often vilified and not trusted. They are forced to prove themselves over and over again. We spend more time attempting to move the bigot to tolerance than we do trying to support and form coalitions with the anti-racist. In the workplace, this is analogous to trying to improve the incompetent performer into marginal performer instead of investing in moving the competent performer to excellence.
America has come a long way over a long period of time. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “We’re not where we ought to be; we’re not where we’re going to be; but, thank God, we’re not where we were.”