Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Some "common sense" on race and racism

“Hey, we all know there’s been some bad history in our country. We know that racism exists. I’m extending a hand like, ‘Hey, we want to get past this. We’ve been bullied, we’ve been beat down, but we don’t want it anymore.' ”

Rapper and actor Common, who said those words recently on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” ended up taking some abuse for also saying that ending racism can begin by “extending [a] hand in love” to whites. And, frankly, I don’t understand that.

Because he’s right. That’s the only way racism has ever been ameliorated.

Last month I picked up the book “Birmingham Revolution: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Epic Challenge to the Church” by Edward Galbreath, and in reading it I got a considerable surprise: As a teen Dr. King himself went through an “I hate Whitey” period.

Which tells me that, like Nelson Mandela after him, he underwent a time of transformation and, by the time he became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., he was able to refer to “our white brothers” in sermons.

We all remember what happened next.

And as the campaign for voting rights in Selma, now 50 years old, made national news, whites — even some religious leaders — even got involved. One of them, Boston minister the Rev. James Reeb, who was beaten to death, is listed in a hall of martyrs at alma mater Princeton Theological Seminary; Viola Liuzzo, a housewife, lost her life at the hands of Ku Klux Klansmen when driving demonstrators back.

I respectfully ask militants out there: Kindly explain to me how we’re supposed to attain “equality” without relationship-building, what Common was getting at. Tough talk has never availed us anything but further social, economic and political isolation.

Many African-Americans often ask: Has there ever been this level of disrespect for a sitting president as there is today toward Barack Obama? The answer is yes.

Remember that Bill Clinton was gossiped about, with unsubstantiated allegations of corruption, and eventually impeached — illegally — on phony charges. And if you want to go back in history, consider that 11 Southern states left the union as the direct result of Abraham Lincoln being elected president — and he eventually ended up dead. To say that people hate Obama simply or primarily due to his race is thus an overstatement.

One other thing to remember: Dr. King’s adoption the Gandhian-style nonviolence served to expose the bad guys as bad guys. And it certainly worked like a charm because “We’re not going to play their game — we’re bigger than that.”

I find it interesting that Common’s former stage name was “Common Sense.” Which he displayed that day.

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