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Calling Out Systemic Racism

Photo by Étienne Godiard on Unsplash

After the killings of Ahmad Aubrey, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, the nation started talking about race. Some people argued that we have no race problems, other than fake crises stirred up by “colored” activists and their feminazi haridan camp followers. Others said that we need to study and understand what problems there may be, no matter how long that pre-solution study may take. And many, many white people understood that there is some kind of problem, but that it is caused by rogue cops, the uneducated Donald base, and not by the well-intentioned among us, who truly want to fix whatever national problems we face. 

We’ve read books like White Fragility and So You Want to Talk About Race, and realized that they’re talking about important problems, but not about those of us who already know what the writers are saying, and are doing what we can to “fix the problem.” And while we read, more black people get shot, or choked, or run over. And the Donald’s campaign justifies or even celebrates each death as a justification for more repression. 

There are those who say, “It’s all systemic racism.” There are also those who say, “Nothing changes, it all stays the same, all stays repressive.” 

Last week provided us with clear activities which help us see and understand what people call systemic racism and of what people call “microaggressions.”

Last week provided us with clear activities which help us see and understand what people call systemic racism and of what people call “microaggressions.” Examples of intentional dishonesty and of unconscious racism. From the activities in one American city, Kenosha, Wisconsin, we get examples which should both horrify and educate us. 

I will not be discussing the Jacob Blake shooting. Let’s look at civilian, police and press activity and statements related to the killings of two unarmed demonstrators by a 17-year-old carrying a legal gun. 

That’s right, a legal gun. In this case, a minor, a child, from Illinois had an assault rifle. Possession of such a weapon by a child is legal in Illinois, with permission of the child’s parent. This 17-year-old drove with his legal gun to Wisconsin where a child can legally carry a fully automatic assault rifle. 

Did this child’s Illinois resident parents give him permission to own an assault rifle? No one has denied it. The child is innocent of any gun possession crime unless proven not to have had parental permission. 

When the 17-year-old used his legal gun to shoot three people, killing two, the local police chief told reporters on the scene that the shooting victims were the real criminals. They were out after a curfew, and deserved what they got. The same police chief had no complaint about any of the heavily armed gun nuts who had driven into town, looking for a fight, and milling around for hours after the curfew. 

The gun nuts proclaimed that they had come to Kenosha to “protect businesses and property.” The local police cheered them, gave them bottles of water and told them that they were glad they were there. But did anyone identify any business that had asked for out-of-town, amateur, unorganized gun nuts to come and protect their businesses? 

Rather than going off to protect businesses on dark streets, the gun nuts mostly milled around in brightly lit gas stations, where they could parade for the news cameras, brag to each other about their alt-whitey bona fides, and show off their biggest guns and best tats. Except for a few, who slunk off into the darkness, seeking targets. The 17-year-old appears to have been the first to find a suitable target, an unarmed demonstrator, who ended up shot in the back of his head.

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After killing two people and wounding a third, the 17-year-old calmly walked up to a police car, being videoed as he walked. He knew what all the gun nuts knew - a white shooter carrying an assault rifle was not going to be treated like an unarmed black man making the same walk. Police vehicles streamed by the shooter, even as people were shouting at the police that he had just shot people. 

The white civilian gun nuts and the police knew that an armed white actual shooter would be treated much less harshly than an unarmed black “suspect.” That is systemic racism, understood by perpetrators, onlookers and “law enforcement.” 

The “Fourth Estate” (“journalists”) are counted on to report facts, and sometimes offer insights and opinions on the news. Professional athletes are in the business of entertaining us. But after the Jacob Blake shooting, and after the 17-year-old’s rampage, an entire basketball team said, “NO!” For one game, they refused to play, as an expression of outrage at the violence in Kenosha. They clearly stated their reasons. And their opposing team joined them. 

This horrified some “journalists.” On Thursday, August 26, 2020, Los Angeles talk show host A. Martinez, on Public Radio station KPCC asked if the black basketball players should pay some kind of penalty for their wildcat strike: If they want to protest, “Don’t they have to be ready to give up something of value?”

Martinez came to his position as a talk show host from a career in sports journalism. He spent years covering and writing about black athletes. He should know, far better than the average listener, that even black athletes with high visibility, super salaries, and regular TV appearances get stopped for “Driving While Black.” They get profiled when they go into stores. They watch as their unfamous wives and children get profiled, get stopped, get discriminated against, every day. 

Successful, wealthy black athletes are the rare few who “made it.” Most got out of bad neighborhoods, with bad schools, slumlords, abusive cops, poor healthcare and food deserts. That they got out does not mean that they forgot, or that they have abandoned connections or concerns. Although Lebron James is today’s token “do gooder” black athlete, modern history is filled with black athletes who gave back. Who give back. What they do is not disruptive, or violent - it is not “news.” So it doesn’t get covered like demonstrations. Or like the crime which has been endemic in impoverished cities in every city since civilization began.

We should hope that an experienced journalist might know this. We should expect that a journalist with years of experience covering the history, careers and lives of black athletes would know this. But what we got was,“Don’t they have to be ready to give up something of value?”

tom hall

I do not think that A. Martinez is “racist.” I think that he is unconscious. What he said was what is called a microaggression. What he said simply ignored the totality of the lives of black athletes AND the statement the athletes made when they announced their wildcat strike. What he said was a simple pronouncement that the desires of the audience, the fans, was more important than the expressed life concerns of successful black men with far better access to information and to the media than most of the people in the neighborhoods from which they escaped. That is systemic racism. 

We will never get beyond the systemic racism of police forces trained to protect the status quo, and who are protected every time they inflict racially differential violence, until we acknowledge and correct the systemic racism of “journalists” and politicians, and professors, and business leaders who provide the examples and leadership that the police forces follow. 

In the past 70 years, we have made enormous progress. The undisputed fact that integrated schools have led to more black professionals and business successes (Herman Cain could never have become a billionaire without the Civil Rights Movement) is a direct cause of such strident opposition to black voting and to black voting, in today’s political discourse. The backlash proves the successes. We must continue the work of that Movement. 

We must call out systemic racism where we see it, and we must call for better behavior from those in whom we put our trust and our donation dollars. KPCC constantly begs us for support. We have a right, and a duty, to ask what KPCC is doing to actually address the issue of systemic racism that impairs Southern California, and our nation, every day. 

Tom Hall

Tom Hall