Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Dear African Americans: Politics is Not the Answer to Your Problems

You can talk all you like about the failings of Donald Trump, but the riots in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, subsequent to the killing of a black suspect by a black police officer seem to speak more clearly about the state of America today.

Years ago, I read a guy that said simply that politics and laws can do something about egregious injustice and discrimination. But politics should get its nose out of moderate and light injustice and discrimination.

In other words, politics is a very blunt instrument and can't do much more than keep the peace, and then not even that all the time.

So people that put their faith in politics keep getting disappointed.

Thus, in the 1960s the race riots in major American cities began after the passage of the landmark civil rights laws.

Thus, in the 2010s the race riots in Ferguson, Baltimore, and Milwaukee began after the election of America's First Black President.

Why? Because politics and civil rights laws cannot make African Americans whole. It can make slavery and Jim Crow illegal but it cannot vault African Americans into the middle class.

You get into the middle class by changing your culture from the subordinate, resentful culture of the worker or the peasant to the responsible culture of the middle class. Not by Affirmative Action and diversity programs.

By the way, the chap killed by a cop in Milwaukee, 23-year-old Sylville Smith beat a shooting rap.
He beat a shooting rap at a jury trial in 2015 when a witness recanted, allegedly after Smith intimidated him. 
This is what Jill Leovy recounts in Ghettoside. Cops can't get a conviction on murders, because of witness intimidation. So they arrest the bad guys, that everybody knows who done it, for minor violations where they can be convicted on the testimony of a police officer.

I was on a jury years ago where a black suspect was tried for some minor offence purely on the testimony of two police officers. During jury deliberations the five white jurors were all quiet until the sole black woman on the 6-person jury announced for conviction. Then we followed her lead and voted for conviction.

If you want to step out into the modern world of global exchange and of trusting anyone who demonstrates trustworthiness then you must step out of your tribal enclave. You cannot sit there ready to strike out at the tribe over the hill or in the next urban gang territory. You have to declare for peace and base your public life on the principle of serving others before you serve yourself. And the first thing you do is stop listening to the politicians and activists that tell you that the answer to your problems is force: against the police, against the bosses, against the 1%.

Maybe, after the disappointment of the civil rights revolution, and after the disappointment of the First Black President, and after inner-city African Americans have burned down their cities again, our African American friends will give up on the false promise of politics and just pitch in and become Americans who happen to be black.

But that is the way of humans, and of the United States. We only do the right thing after trying all the alternatives.

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