Readers Write: Ignoring the threat to black lives

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By now, we should all be familiar with the phrase “black lives matter.”
For several weeks, conservative pundits have been railing against this  movement and what it represents.
At the Republican National Convention one speaker stated that blue lives matter (referring to law enforcement officers) and that sent the minions into a frenzy of cheers and applause. The chorus of Fox News hosts have joked that green lives matter as do purple ones. This feeble attempt at humor is monumentally simplistic. No rational creature disputes the fact that all lives matter, but to equate the suffering of blacks with that of police officers is simply inaccurate.
Our history is one of systemic racism starting with slavery; after the Civil War there were Jim Crow laws; and finally we had the long struggle for civil rights which goes on until this day.
Anyone who doubts this view of history should consider one fact. Between 1877 and 1950 almost 4,000 African Americans were lynched in the south.
This shameful part of our history is poignantly remembered in the lyrics of “Strange Fruit.”
          Southern trees bear strange fruit
          Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
          Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
          Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
But one doesn’t have to go back 60 plus years to understand the  impulse behind black lives matter.
Just this week, the Justice Department issued a scathing report on the conduct of police officers in Baltimore, Md.  
It described racially biased and unconstitutional  practices including interrogations and frisking for no reason. Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, states: “In a four and a half year period, Baltimore police recorded more than 300,000 pedestrian stops, but only a tiny percentage led to charges.”
As long as such practices are part of the American tapestry and as long as black mothers have to have “the talk” with their male offspring about being deferential to white cops, the racial tension which exists today will go on and on.
The black experience is very different from that of whites. In his poignant essay “The Ethics of Living Jim Crow,” novelist Richard Wright  discusses an incident from his youth when two groups of boys, one black and one white, were in a fight.
The black boys tossed cinder while the whites tossed bottles. A broken milk bottle hit Wright behind the ear opening a deep gash which bled profusely.
A neighbor rushed him to a doctor who put three stitches in his neck. The author picks up the story:
“I sat waiting for my mother…I raced down the street to meet her. I could just feel in my bones that she would understand. I grabbed her hand and babbled out the whole story. She examined my wound, then slapped me.
“How come you didn’t hide?” she asked…I was outraged and bawled…she grabbed a barrel stave…stripped me naked and beat me till I had a fever of one hundred and two impart{ing] to me gems of Jim Crow wisdom. I was never, never to fight white folks…She finished by telling me that I ought to be thankful to God as long as I lived that they didn’t kill me.”
Wright’s mother was not unloving and insensitive. On the contrary she wanted her son to survive in a land where even a 14-year-old boy could be tortured and shot for just speaking to a white woman. This was what happened to Emmett Till in Mississippi in 1955.
It isn’t easy for white America to accept responsibility for over a century of violence, discrimination and stereotyping.
One often hears…I am not responsible for the past.
Yet, until we accept the fact that this is the heritage of all Americans — blacks and whites — we cannot hope for much progress in race relations.        
Donald Trump does not miss an opportunity to stick his foot in his mouth.
He has recently announced to the world that he is “the law and order candidate.”
Those old enough to remember may recall that the first candidate to use that term was Richard Nixon.
Of course everyone  understood that “law and order” was a thinly veiled phrase for racism.
Trump also opined about the black lives matter group stating: “I think they’re looking for trouble.”
Trump and every other politician knows what the applause lines are…”the brave woman and men in our armed forces” and “the men in blue who protect us from anarchy and chaos.”
The tweeter-in-chief also posted a graphic purporting to prove that in 2015 blacks killed by police were 1 percent while whites killed by police were 3 percent.
Given the fact that blacks constitute only 11 percent of our population, these figures fail to prove much.
The source cited by Trump, the “Crime Statistics Bureau” doesn’t even exist. Furthermore, FBI statistics have debunked the Trump claims.
The job of law enforcement personnel is dangerous and the vast majority  of police are there to serve and protect.
But there has always been a minority who are racist as well as those who are not skilled in defusing potentially combustible situations.
Sadly, it has always been easier for whites to rally round the flag of bigotry than to understand the yearning for social justice embodied in the black lives matter movement.
Dr. Hal Sobel
Great Neck

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