Recently, someone said we have to keep on talking about race in this country. While I think I agree with the essay where he says that as a whole, it's not the most helpful turn of phrase as I see it. But I have a couple of thoughts that are, it seems to me, useful.
In no particular order:
What does anyone deserve?
A long time ago in blog years, I posted an essay at my old blog about the primary pitfall in engaging with homosexuals and the people who love them. I know most of you have not mastered clicking thru (maybe: you're just committed to not driving my page counter, you stingy louts), so I'll copy the key bit right here:
See: if I say, "well, homosexuality is a sin, Dustin," what Mr. Rowles hears -- and I think he's listening just fine -- is the subtle hint of this outrageous lie: "he actually deserved what he got." I know none of you regular readers of this blog would actually mean that, but the ones who harnessed that conclusion up to the horse of my assertion are the ones who pounded his Dad's face in for being gay -- you know, God hates fags, boy, so I'm going to smash a coke bottle in your face. ...The application from the question of evangelizing homosexuals and the people who love them to evangelizing people who are committed to measuring anything by means of race is this: the problem is that somehow the facts are all interpreted right now toward the interpretation that anyone who is the victim of a cross-racial crime "got what he deserved." Referring to the facts simply sounds, to the people you are talking to, like this statement: "When you think about it, he got what he deserved."
So the problem in talking to Mr. Rowles now is not trying to convince him what the Bible says about (for example) homosexuality. The problem is convincing him that you don't want to bash his father's head in over it. That kind of ferocious evil is what Dustin Rowles associates with the moral affirmation "homosexuality is a sin". My suggestion is that helping him believe what you believe about homosexuality is frankly a stupid gambit.
Your righteous indignation at the crime rate of blacks against whites? It sounds like you're saying that the victims of non-black-on-black crimes got what they deserved.
Your erudite notification of statistics which indicate that far more black people are killed by black people than by white people? It sounds like the victims here, therefore, got what they deserved.
Your socio-economic analysis of what is the problem behind the problem? It sounds like the victims here, therefore, got what they deserved.
What if we start here: it doesn't matter what Trayvon Martin was doing in that neighborhood. He didn't deserve to die. He wasn't putting anyone's life in danger; he didn't deserve to die. Until and unless you are willing to say that out loud -- and I don't care which side of the argument you are on here -- if you can't say that Trayvon Martin did not deserve to die, you frankly have no place in this discussion. Your moral compass and your real empathy for other people are both broken. You can't do anything to make this or the future better until you deal with that.
Having it both ways
The problem with our legal system is that, ultimately, it will make a decision. That is: when something comes before it, it's meant to take action and not merely take it to committee for deep pondering.
Two weeks ago, our legal system decided that the Federal Government had no business saying anything about what constitutes marriage in this country. That, apparently, was a victory. This weekend, the same system at a different level reviewed the charges against George Zimmerman, the evidence presented, and concluded he was "not guilty." Listen: it didn't say he was innocent. It didn't say that Trayvon was not dead, nor that George did not pull the trigger. It said that this man was, at the end of the day, not to be punished for the crime which he was brought before the court.
You can't have it both ways: either the system is working, or it is not working. You can't say that the system works only when you like the outcome. That every outcome does not benefit you politically or socially or even in terms of your self-esteem is probably about right.
Is racism a problem? I live in a cul de sac where the families are mixed about 70-30 white-to-black. There is no open animosity on the street (except for the one guy who posts anonymously to the neighborhood watch about his problems with every other person's yard, pets and children)(who is not me)(as far as you know)(no seriously: not me), but let me admit something: there is also not always the most neighborly atmosphere. Maybe: it's a southern thing. Maybe: its a local culture thing. Maybe: the middle class changed from when I grew up and people just don't make friends the way they used to. But there are some families who do not even come out of their houses, and never come to neighborhood parties.
Without a doubt, what is happening is better than open hostility -- but only just barely. It worries me that there are fences in place I don't understand and don't really know how to cross. I am open to suggestions because I have tried the normal stuff, and it is received, at best, with kind indifference.