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Race talk or pointless dialogue?

By Starla Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Jul 23, 2013 - 4:40:50 PM

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( - In the aftermath of the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin as in other past high profile cases involving race, calls for dialogue have permeated radio airwaves, blogs, social media and cable news outlets.

Whether it was Rodney King in 1992, the Black motorist savagely beaten by cops that were also acquitted, sparking rebellions and riots across Los Angeles, or numerous others cases, “we need a national dialogue on race,” is a familiar and common refrain.

But, how realistic is open and honest dialogue, and what comes next? 

“If you want to discuss it, discuss it, but unemployed Black folks need jobs, not a discussion,” said Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr., on July 22 during the nationally-syndicated Carl Nelson Show when asked his thoughts on a national dialogue on race.

“How about an agenda (instead of a “conversation”) on racism (and how to stop it), racial inequality, racial profiling, racial injustice ...?” Jenee Desmond Harris, writer at posted via Twitter.

Remarks delivered July 19 at the White House by President Barack Obama in which he directly talked about the murder of Trayvon Martin and how Blacks view it through the historical injustices Black Americans, and particularly Black men and boys face daily in the U.S., brought glaring and starkly different reactions from the public.

Mr. Obama shared his own experiences saying, “Trayvon Martin could have been me, 35 years ago.” “There are very few African American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me,” said Mr. Obama.

“There are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me—at least before I was a senator. There are very few African Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often.”

Responses to the president’s words, which echoed the reality facing young, Black men, garnered many reactions.

Slews of right-wing and conservative pundits both Black and White through multi-media platforms denigrated Mr. Obama.

On Twitter and Facebook, comments calling the president, “race-baiter,” “racist in chief” and “divisive” followed. Other posts accused Mr. Obama of instigating a “race war” and yet another comment on Twitter stated, “Barack Obama and Eric Holder just want to run a Klan with a tan. You got a problem with that?”

One break from GOP rhetoric came from Republican political analyst Ana Navarro who tweeted, “Cringed when heard POTUS talked re GZ trial. Read transcript. Think was respectful of trial process, called for non-violence, not divisive.”

According to the PEW Research Center, 49 percent of Whites surveyed were satisfied with the Zimmerman verdict compared to just 5 percent of Blacks and 25 percent of Hispanics.

“Big Racial Divide over Zimmerman Verdict,” released by PEW on July 22 also noted 60 percent of Whites said the issue of race in the case was getting more attention than it deserved verses 13 percent of Blacks and only 28 percent of Whites said the case raised important issues about race that need to be discussed compared to 78 percent of Blacks surveyed that felt the same way.

However, younger Whites, according to PEW were less satisfied with the verdict with 53 percent of Whites ages 18-29 being dissatisfied with the verdict. 

The divide among party lines reflected the majority of Republicans were satisfied with the outcome with 80 percent of “Tea Party Republicans” that agreed with the verdict, according to PEW.

Texas Governor Rick Perry, was quoted as saying America’s justice system is “colorblind.”

How can dialogue lead to substantive change when the sides do not agree on the root of the problem or  when a majority of one side denies a real problem exists?

“Their (Whites) perception is that Blacks belong in prison, that they are not employable and have no value.  Remember that we were originally considered to be subhumans and later on became 3/5ths of a man.  This was the basis for the Dred Scott case that determined that we were property and like the rest of the livestock should be considered as 3/5ths,” said Dr. Harry X Davidson, referring to the 1846 Supreme Court case.

He describes White Supremacy as a mental disorder involving “narcissism.”

“The racist sees the world totally different from the normal person. It is not a matter of conscious thought. We see red, they see yellow,” Dr. Davidson, a psychologist explained.

“White Supremacy dominates every aspect of American society, including the thinking of many Blacks who have bought into the system. They too distance themselves from the reality of the Black condition in America. The fact that we have a Black president and million dollar entertainers and athletes heightens the notion that there is no excuse or reason to complain about our conditions,” he added.  

Tavis Smiley told The Final Call it is difficult to have a dialogue about race when the only attempt to do so in moments of crisis.  “It’s hard to have a dialogue about race, the most intractable issue in the country in moments of crisis and heightened tension which means the issue or even a conversation about the issue really isn’t that high  on the American agenda. The subject of race has always been taboo,” said Mr. Smiley, an author, television host and businessman.

“We only get around ‘talking’ about a conversation and that’s the wrong time to have these kinds of conversations. It’s just like there are certain issues that are not best discussed on the eve of a presidential campaign because you know you are not going to get any honest dialogue about these issues in Washington, where everybody is about to run for office,” said Mr. Smiley, who has received backlash and heavy criticism from Blacks that accuse him of being too critical of President Obama, despite voting for him twice.

When tensions are high, it usually results in “phony conversations” about race because emotions are running high, added Mr. Smiley.

On October 16, 1995 on the day of the historic Million Man March, convened in Washington, D.C., by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, President Bill Clinton gave an address on race relations at the Miller Center at the University of Virginia. Nearly 2 million Black men attended the march. Both events took place in the aftermath of the O.J. Simpson trial and verdict, another legal case that at the time, gripped the nation. Mr. Simpson, a retired Hall of Fame football player who had parlayed his popularity into movies and sports broadcasting, was tried for the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman, both White. Mr. Simpson, who is Black, was found not guilty in criminal proceedings by a jury made up mostly of Black women. However, Mr. Simpson was subsequently found responsible for the deaths in a civil trial two years later and ordered to pay $33.5 million in punitive and compensatory damages.

Just like the Zimmerman trial, sentiments during the Simpson trial were heavily split among racial lines with the majority of Blacks happy of the criminal trial acquittal while the majority of Whites were left shell-shocked.

Mr. Clinton in his address nearly two decades ago spoke of the racial divide gripping the country even then. “In recent weeks, every one of us has been made aware of a simple truth: White Americans and Black Americans often see the same world in drastically different ways, ways that go beyond and beneath the Simpson trial and its aftermath, which brought these perceptions so starkly into the open,” noted Mr. Clinton.

Like President Obama, Mr. Clinton asked the question about “honest” conversations about race and where the country was headed. Mr. Clinton in his address said past issues were addressed by legislative and legal changes in the 1960s such as the Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Act.

Mr. Clinton attributed the problems then to what was in the hearts and minds of human beings.

However, the Supreme Court in June of 2013 struck down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, a brutal realization those with the hearts and minds that racism no longer exists still have legislative and judicial powers to use to their advantage.   

Blacks and Whites have been engaging one another in America for over four centuries, Dr. Wesley Muhammad told The Final Call.

“In 2013 the Trayvon Martin case, not just the killing but in particular, the verdict, indicates that Black and White don’t inherently see the world the same way. No matter how much dialogue we have we can never bridge what 400 years of American slavery has created between the races,” he added.

In June, PEW released another poll indicating 46 percent of Blacks say there is “a lot” of racial discrimination against Blacks with another 42 percent saying there is still “some” compared to 16 percent of Whites surveyed who say there is “a lot” and 41 percent saying “some.”

“The only solution to the race problem in America which is thrown in focus once again, the only solution to this race problem is that articulated by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, which is separation,” said Dr. Muhammad, an author, scholar and well sought after lecturer.

“It is more than futile in 2013 to keep appealing to the same people who consistently give license to murder Black men and women and continue to demonstrate there is not value in Black life.

They consistently demonstrate in their mind the so-called Negro in America is still 3/5ths as a human being as they wrote in their most hallowed document, The Constitution.”

The Black community is fighting for its life and very survival in America, said Dr. Muhammad.

As Whites begin to “feel” threatened or their security is compromised, then their “mask of civility” comes off followed by murder coming out of their hearts and out of their eyes, said Min. Louis Farrakhan during part 27 of his online lecture series, “The Time and What Must Be Done”.

In the face of that reality happening daily, how reasonable and likely are hopes for substantive race dialogues that will usher in a new reality for Black people?

Attorney Ava Muhammad, National Spokesperson for the Nation of Islam and Min. Farrakhan in addressing the audience at Mosque Maryam in Chicago, July 21, said Moses did not go to Pharaoh and say, “Let my people have jobs. Let my people vote.’

“He said, ‘Let my people go!’ This truth is simple, but it’s not easy,” said Atty. Muhammad.