The current book on my Kindle is “Enough” by Juan Williams. I haven’t finished it yet but he is making some very interesting arguments which are causing me to evaluate the changes that I have seen in race relations since my coming of age in the late 60’s and early 70’s. That is roughly forty five years ago.
Meanwhile, I have been watching old black and white movies on the Roku. My favorite so far is Kung Fu with David Caradine. I was a young man when it originally aired. Now, many years later, I find it interesting to note that every single episode deals with a different culture or race and the problems they are having in our American Society. Other shows of the era similarly showcased the plight of the less fortunate in our society. Even “Dead or Alive” with Steve McQueen took an occasional opportunity to do so. (I don’t remember noticing that as a teenager.) It was an educational way of dealing with the prevalent racism of the day which I now find was very effective.
Recently, a friend posted an old video of Elvis Presley. He was singing “In the Ghetto.” It still brings moisture to my eyes. I feel respect for Elvis for recording the song. Not only was the song didactic but it required a certain bravery to record it in a nation that was still struggling with the Civil Rights Act. The song taught me back then that others grow up in a different world than I and it made me as a young man empathetic to the difficulties of other members of my American society. Again, education.
Just thirty years past, I was the Affirmative Action Officer at a fairly well known college. There I wrote and implemented an affirmative action plan. (It was quite a good one.) The concept then was diversity. Diversity taught us variety in culture and a mixing of races can produce an enriched life experience for all.
I grew up in a fairly small “white” town. I remember upon fleeing the nest and meeting my first black peer. (An opportunity not available to me in my youth.) How excited I was. We became friends and black American culture has enriched my life ever since. (My excitement at the opportunity to enrich my friend base was probably the result of watching shows like Kung Fu.) I clearly remember the first two close Hispanic friends I made and what a joy it was to learn of their experiences and to hear their stories. Sometimes the learning brought sadness rather than joy. Today however, there are those who will quickly call me a bigot if I ask questions or try to learn more of other cultures. For some reason it is no longer polite to celebrate our differences, rather we are expected to ignore them.
Somewhere in the past forty five and even thirty years the very nature of the way we approach race, ethnicity and discrimination has changed. We have lost the concepts of education and diversity. The rather tall and always well-dressed Michele Obama tells the story of shopping at Target and having a lady ask her to reach something from the top shelf. She points to that as racism. It has happened to me at Walmart on six or seven occasions. I didn’t see it as an affront that someone would think me relegated to honest, work. I just saw it as an opportunity to help and I did. While the First Lady of the United States of America perceives racism in a plea for assistance, my personal experience with unlawful discrimination is much, much uglier. It affects entire lives, families and career opportunities. True discrimination closes doors and makes things like becoming the President of the United States unthinkable.
Today, we are told that cops profile and unfairly prosecute blacks and Hispanics. Arrest records and similar statistics are used to prove that unlawful discrimination is being propagated upon colored people by our law enforcement community. I believe there is a problem in some areas of our country. However, this evidence often becomes fuel to light the fires of unlawful rioting and the destruction of person property. In some instances it even triggers violent retribution. Sometime in our recent past, our nation has become a police state. While some cops are bigots often confrontations with the police have nothing to do with race. It is simply cops against non-cops. News flash, when you get harassed by overzealous police, you’re not that special. It seems to be what the police do now. Perhaps those statistics are telling us something different. I know the issue is not that simple but, the propensity to engage in criminal activity to protest over zealousness in being wrongly accused of lawlessness would seem to indicate more than one interpretation. Somewhere in there lies a great irony.
So what has changed? Today we have a “black” President. You would think we would be celebrating the progress that has been made over the past fifty-two years. However, rather than taking this unprecedented and portentous opportunity to teach the nation, a great opportunity for lifting others, President Obama seems intent to punish the nation for past injustices. He is using the Justice Department, lead exclusively by black individuals, to investigate white policemen. Having found a scenario on which to base his power grab, he is touting federal intrusion into local police enforcement.
Evidently education is being set aside in favor of retribution for the sin of white ancestry.
The President meets frequently with Al Sharpton and other profit motivated civil rights activists to do what? I don’t know, I guess to discuss political strategy? Rather than being a color blind President and an example, President Obama empathizes with young black hoodlums (“Travon Martin could have been my son?”) and sets them up as role models regardless of criminal activity or complicit acts of violence. He is quick to be represented at black funerals and shuns those of white citizens suffering similar deaths. Instead of teaching diversity he exemplifies and legitimizes discrimination when directed at whites: especially if they are republicans. Our President has become the defacto leader of the American Civil Rights movement and he has chosen to legitimize bigotry. Rather than heal our country, he chooses to divide it.
Forty years ago, television was educating the nation about our differences. Thirty years ago we were learning to celebrate those differences and trying to achieve equality. Today civil rights marches, mobs and anarchy are demanding that minorities not be subjected to white policemen, or immigration laws. Modern activists are demanding not equal but preferential treatment and even possible restitution for wrongs suffered by great grandparents.
Civil rights today is no longer about educating or lifting. Juan Williams in his book Enough asks: “Why is rhetoric from our current core of civil rights leaders fixated on white racism instead of on the growing power of black Americans, …to determine their own destiny?” To me, it seems that today’s civil rights movement is not in the business of equality but rather in the business of demanding. What they appear to be demanding is a return to segregation! They desire a society where the law applies only to whites. A segregation where minorities are given preferential treatment in welfare, health care and other government programs. The real irony is they want rich white people, the unknown and unnamed one percenters, to pay for it. By placing demands rather than reaching for equality through friendship, education or even empathy, the modern civil rights activist is becoming the new master in a reversed slavery scenario. Like the slave Foreman of years past, our civil rights leaders demand our obedience using the courts, civil unrest and cyber bullying as a whip. The irony is, white Middle America, white people with jobs are being forced to pay the bills without reward of the benefits. It is thus that America’s white middle class has become the slave of choice in today’s “land of the free.”
Samuel Waen Jensen
Note: While leadership in the civil rights movement seems to have chosen division and retribution as a course of action, real change and progress is quietly making headway in our Christian churches. As evidenced in South Carolina where a black congregation freely, and tragically, welcomed a lone white male into their worship group. In today’s Christian congregations, a testimony of and an appreciation for Jesus the Christ, our Savior, is quietly overcoming ethnic and racial boundaries.