After a gruesome four game misery fest against the Red Sox at home, it is often a good time to disengage for a bit and think about other things. Those other things tend not to be charged up issues like the question over the lingering presence of racism in this country. But, sorry guys, this is about race relations. It is everyone's favorite subject where we typically discuss the feelings of white people and the life and death issues of black people on a one-to-one comparison. Yay. Hopefully this unedited rambling is coherent.
This current thought was spurned a little bit by former Orioles Steve Clevenger's comments on Twitter and some Facebook entry screen captures from his account that have been making the local blog rounds. It is obvious that Clevenger's tweets were not a case of beer rabbit hole adventure with a cell phone too close by. It appears that these thoughts are long lingering thoughts and, lets be frank, these are very common thoughts in society.
The general idea is that once the very unpopular Martin Luther King Jr. (In 1966, two thirds of America did not like him and, guess what, an overwhelming amount of that dislike came from white people--not all of us have a father who walked in Washington and other locales) had his ideas become more manifest in the Civil Rights Act that the hundreds of years of active oppression came to an end and brought in a new era of black entitlement. This is much more feeling than fact and Clevenger is someone who seems to fall in line with this thinking if the Facebook entries are accurate.
In one of the captures, Clevenger rants about "Obama phones". This is the mistaken belief that somehow President Obama took office and then began handing out free cell phones to black people. This is a very commonly thought idea. In fact, this was a program that began under Ronald Reagan's oversight by the FCC in 1984. It is called the Lifeline Program and its intent is to subsidize phone use for poorer communities because communication is vital and is often one of the first services that the poor go without when finances start getting beyond tight. The Lifeline Program expanded to cell phone use during the second Bush administration. The program is open not just to welfare recipients, but for anyone who is on a social program like Medicaid. Furthermore, it is paid through FCC fees as opposed to general taxes.
I have no interest in going through all of the minutia of false issues laid at President Obama, but simply to show how an obviously wrong idea becomes a detail in a greater narrative. That narrative as expressed in Clevenger's tweets and alleged Facebook posts show a dehumanization of black people as well as a desire to ignore any institutionalized racism. In one alleged Facebook post, he claims that Black Lives Matter is a racist group on par with the Ku Klux Klan. And this might be where things get sticky in the mind of Steve Clevenger and this is conjecture.
I imagine it is true that when he says he would be appalled if someone thought him to be racist. He almost assuredly does not see himself as a racist, but more someone who is a speaker of truths. From his perspective, some blacks take advantage of weak liberals and mooch off the system. In his alleged post, he calls liberals who empathize with Black Lives Matter as trash and a problem. And perhaps this is where we get to Charlotte.
Black Lives Matter is not racist. Black Lives Matter is coined that because of the perspective they have that their lives are not being viewed as equal to white lives. It is not about Black Supremacy, which is what the KKK is. It is a false comparison. Facts are mushy because we tend not to spend money to evaluate programs, particularly programs that judge the government, but it is pretty certain that police activity has racial bias. This has been studied to a great degree. Being black (when controlled for neighborhood, income, etc.) means you will be stopped more frequently by police than if you are white. Beyond that nugget, things get more complicated. But that kernel is not really deniable and people should look at this issue with an open mind and show an open heart for people who think America has chosen that they as a people, as a product of their skin, are not considered equal citizens in America.
Maybe Clevenger is racist, maybe he is not. Maybe Clevenger is classist, maybe he is not. Clevenger did express racist thought and his alleged writing combines that racist thought with classism. Words like racist and other classifications are often too broadly applied. The reality is that we all are prejudiced to some degree. It is a product of how our brain works and it is how we deal with anxiety about unfamiliar situations. Where the problem comes in is when you shut off your ability to process logic and fully embrace your prejudice without challenge. Racism is not the issue, really. What is the issue is the acceptance of racism.
That acceptance of racism is what has brought about such horrible terms from the past as "Good German" in reference to those who went along with the Nazi Party because it personally did not impact them. A society, a great society, is one that is cognizant of those most vulnerable and is concerned with their well being. A great society is one that will listen to those who scream of oppression and, with an open mind, try to find resolution.
Over the past several years, I have found that people settle on an idea and then supplement that idea with a foundation that is in agreement without trying to figure out if their newly found foundation is actually true. People often connect the worst aspects of this cry to justice with Black Lives Matter without the self awareness of how they would appear if they were defined by the worst turned events produced by white people. Blacks have experienced this for centuries, this double standard. Muslims experience this here, too. Hispanics experience it. Most of our forefathers experienced it when they emerged from cramped ships full of lice to settle down in cramped Nationalized urban centers full of dismay.
I do not comprehend this lack of empathy. Regardless of what you think the solution is, people are calling out for help and evidence gives credence to their call. If your response to these people is to call them animals, think hard about what that says about you.