Reflections on “A Declaration Against Intolerable Racism”

Update: Related posts… Joel Gillespie, Floyd Stuart

I have written and re-written my impressions of Friday’s rally on the steps of the Guilford County Courthouse and the post just gets longer and longer.  This is what I will usually do when I don’t know exactly what to say about a subject.  Truth is, I don’t know what to think about everything I heard.

On the one hand I want to support any efforts that might make a change for the better in race relations in Guilford County, but I’m not sure that some of the rhetoric I heard on Friday is going to do anything other than drive the wedge deeper.  Even though the signatories to the “Urgent Call To Action” urge the white community to join the cause, I know white folks, and most of them will stay away as long they are pointed to as being the whole problem.  Most of us, as individuals, aren’t.

The media isn’t the problem either despite the vitriol that was cast their way early and often on Friday.  Joe Killian has covered much of what was imparted about that subject.

Instead of wringing their hands over the fact that they are not in control of how their message gets into the community, it would be a simple matter to start a weblog and say what they want to say – unfiltered.  But by and large, the old guard of our black leadership holds on to the way they dissiminated information, ideas and injustices in 1964: depend on the church, distribute flyers, make phone calls, and formulate catchy sound bites.  To that I say – change the medium to reflect the fact that this is 2006.  I, and many others, are eager to help on that front.

In addition, I think that as long as lightning-rod-leaders such as Commissioner Skip Alston hold a prominent place in this movement’s vanguard, most of white Guilford County will avoid this call to action like the plague.  Skip is a black man that white folks love to hate in the same way that Billy Yow is a white man that black people love to hate.  If part of the mission is to get white people and institutions to think and act on ways to improve race relations, it would be a good idea to remove any percieved impediments to that end – from both camps.

We were told that the list of six examples of a “culture of racism” listed with the “Declaration Against Intolerable Racism” which are purported to “bear witness to this truth” is going to be added-to during the coming weeks.  I think this is a good idea, but only if such examples clearly demonstrate some form of racism.  At least two of the first six were questionable, at best.  (Willie Best’s own take on his firing is here)

I’ve been told that I, as a white man, can’t judge as to what is, or is not, racism.  Perhaps this is true, but if I am going to be asked to join an effort to fight racism, I will find it very hard to fight what I can’t see.  Suspension rates in our schools clearly smack of some kind of racism in my book, as do the City Council decision to oppose the T&R process and many aspects of the ongoing police investigations.  To the black leadership, I say K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, stupid), at least in the early stages, and you will gather more support.

A person’s perception is their reality; so even if you think this group of black leaders hasn’t quite made the case for opposing and overturning ”a culture of racism”, that doesn’t amount to much; They do.  A white person’s perception might be that everything is going swimmingly on the racial front in Guilford County and that these black leaders have some uterior motives to stir things up right now.  Doesn’t matter, it is happening anyway. Join in or stay out of the way. A change of perceptions, on both sides, is what is needed.

So they can at least count me in, because I, for one, am weary of the never-ending racial divide that Guilford County just can’t seem to shake.  I’ll help because we’ve just got to get over ourselves and stop talking past each other and start listening to each other.

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  1. Posted July 10, 2006 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    Too contraversial for me. But just a strange observation. Is it not racism when you segregate yourself by exclaiming the “white media” this and that? It’s funny when people play the race card. If you ask me, that perpetuates racism itself. But what do I know about racial discriminations…. haha.

  2. Posted July 10, 2006 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Tackling only a part of what you’re thinking so hard about, we’ve had a dual shift that troubles both black and white people. White folks who say, “I was there in Selma,” or some such historical thing, don’t get the shift. It doesn’t count anymore. That’s a generational gap we can’t fix and we can’t go back. Younger people don’t CARE where we were. That’s history to them. Like the Nam war is to our kids.

    Shift #2: language. The language of racism (just use the word in polite company!) has become its own lightning rod. We can’t even agree on a definition or who can use the word, but toss the word around and it’s just like saying “nazi” in a comment on a blog; that’s where the conversation degrades into shouting and yelling and finger-pointing. We write “Declaration….” on or near July 4 so as to conjure up a second (or third) revolution. We have racisim on both sides and no matter what Chewie or jw say (and I heart them both and they know it), racisim is neither easily definable nor is it the purview of only one race. Not everything is racism. Some things are.

    The question is: do we WANT a moving forward or do we NOT? Is it better politically to keep shouting about racisim where there is none (the ultimate irony: Mr. Best’s firing wasn’t racist; it was the same old political crap the commishes do, only this was the first time they visited it upon an African American) because it keeps the topic in the news? That’s “equal oppty” the Guilford County way. Total insanity.

    African American males suspended at a higher rate? Let’s look into that. Let’s see if it’s happening with white teachers or uniformly across the racial divide of teacherdom. At which schools? Those with higher African American percentages? With lower ones? Equally? Unequally? Then we can begin to figure things out; the final score doesn’t tell you how closely the game was played.

    Yeah yeah, I was at those marches of history and part of the student 60s and 70s stuff. But it’s a new world, Goldie, with new rules. Those rules aren’t clearly defined yet (hell, they’re murky as mud) and I think we should be putting together a vision of what IS and what is NOT racism, get some consensus from all interested parties, and only then will we be able to discuss this critical issue as a society (or as Greensboro) without stupid name-calling, shouting, and finger-pointing. We have to be able to say, “This is racist,” or This is NOT racist” with some degre of agreement or there is no moving forward. We stand here, waist deep in big muddy, and the big fool says to move on.

    Unless, of course, the commishes continue this “J’accuse!” monstrosity that calls itself government.

    (end of vent)

  3. Mr. Sun
    Posted July 10, 2006 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    How about this for a start: two seemingly small, but actually gigantic process agreements. I believe that if local politicians would publicly commit to the following two principles — and mean it, we would have a fighting chance:

    1. Speak on behalf of yourself and your constituency, not others. (Not: “You are a racist,” but instead: “The abrupt and highly public firing of an African-American County Manager seems inequitable based on precedent, and has serious repercussions in the minority community.”)

    2. Focus on small, possible “next steps” and not large, impossible conclusions. (Not: “How can we solve racism in Greensboro?” but instead: “What changes can we make to personnel matters to avoid problems such as the ones we experienced in the Jenks, Wray, and Best cases?”

    We need a lower volume, dimmer spotlight, and more modest goals — not the opposite.

  4. Posted July 10, 2006 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Here is what should happen immediately….by the 100′s…people should go to public meetings and demand accoutability. Once that monstrous invisible shield the higher ups of the left and right use to defelct reality dissapears the better off we all would be. I think all of the County Commissioners..all of them…should step down for the interest of the community…Greensboro has some dead weight as well….the people feel powerless…i think that is by design.

  5. Posted July 10, 2006 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    THANK YOU SO MUCH SUE!!!! What you are saying is what I have been saying since my post on Saturday (“To race-obsessed Greensboro: Problems can’t be solved if you are screaming at each other”).

    You are right. The great majority of people my age (although not all) see the Civil Rights Movement as a historical thing. They also see that race relations have progressed. Within our own circles, youth don’t give a shi* about race (at least the majority); it just isn’t something that is an issue anymore.

    Secondly… how does anybody in Greensboro plan on actually changing anything unless we actually start looking for solutions instead of pointing fingers (which in turn cause opponents to point fingers back). If people want to talk about racism being to blame, then personally… I have to blame both sides. I have to blame those white people who are racist and keep Black people down, but then I also have to blame black people who use such divisive langauge as “white media” and by saying that white society and culture are to blame.

    I just don’t think it is as easy as saying “white society” is to blame or this is to blame or that is to blame. It is all a complicated issue. As for the effects of slavery from more than 100 years ago…. NO ONE ALIVE TODAY IS TO BLAME, but we have all inherited a societal (not “white societal” because black people live in society too) problem that needs to be solved by everybody sitting down together like adults and acting like it.

    We can’t change anything if everybody is screaming at each other. I think I was the first one to come right out and say on Saturday… and I’ll keep on saying it until all this non-sense stops.

  6. Brenda Bowers
    Posted July 10, 2006 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Yes! Yes! Yes! to ALL of the above.
    I have been trying to say these same things but no one wanted to hear because they were concentrating on yelling racism. So my tactics had to change to pointing out what was not in fact racism. Many of us who lived thru the battles and changes can’t seem to get out of that mode of thought, and the old way of fighting the battles. We worked hard to get laws passed to punish those guilty of discrimination towards minorities, so instead of yelling get the goods on the perpetrators and use the laws.
    We women had our own battles to fight if you will remember. They were not as bad as the Blacks had, but were enough alike that we can more easily understand the subtle ways of discrimination that are hard to protest because they just may or may not be depending upon one’s perspective. But the victim knows for sure! This is the type of racism that still exists. And, it requires a different set of rules. But we first need to, as stated above, define what is and what isn’t racist clearly and get agreement of both Blacks and Whites to these definitions. And, we who went thru the battles and changes, say from 45 years old and over need to step back and let the younger people set the definitions because we older soldiers have been hurt by and are still remembering how it was so we can not see clearly how it is. I know that I am ready to step down, but I don’t feel that I can as long as untrue and unjust accusations are flying around that need to be rebutted. I am also in a position to speak because my speaking out will not harm my business or my children or my career. Many people hold back and remain uninvolved due to these considerations. Being retired the most that can be done to me is the verbals shots that may hurt but never shut me up in the past and won’t now either. It is a new era and one thing is certain, we can not go on as we have been. Most sincerely, Brenda Bowers

  7. Posted July 10, 2006 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    “We have racisim (sic) on both sides and no matter what Chewie or jw say (and I heart them both and they know it), racisim (sic) is neither easily definable nor is it the purview of only one race. Not everything is racism. Some things are.”

    No matter what you and Marcus Kindley say, lumping people together like that doesn’t make sense.

    I don’t recall saying any of the following:

    1) that racism is easily definable
    2) that it is the purview of only one race (I’ve said the opposite)
    3) that everything is racism

    I can’t speak to whether JW has said or feels any of these things.

  8. Posted July 10, 2006 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    My concern is that white people, seeing through white eyes, miss some of the subtle cases of racism. Certainly there are the obvious examples of it that everyone can get, but there are those examples that white people don’t see. A racial joke (Okay black people, get a sense of humor.) a expectation of a certain behavior, being fired NOT because of your race, but just because. A white person may not pick up on what is clear to an African American.

    I agree racism isn’t easily definable. But I’M not the one to define it. Working towards a common language would help, but only if work together. For me, I wouldn’t care to be the one to tell a black person what is or isn’t racism.

  9. Posted July 10, 2006 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    Sorry about the typos, Chewie (but at least I consistent; I just didn’t spell check the comment).

    There’s a philosophy that says black people can’t be racists — and it’s about power. If you don’t have power, you can’t be a racist; only people with power (that would be white people) can be racist. I think I hear both Chewie and jw ascribing to that philosophy and I don’t agree with it; that’s what my comment was about.

    I think it WAS true. I don’t think it’s true anymore.

    If I interpreted what you’ve written so eloquently elsewhere, then I apologize. I thought I got the gist of your position; LMK if I missed it.

    But jw, you “wouldn’t care to be the one to tell a black person what is or isn’t racism,” so who’s going to tell a black person and who’s going to tell a white person? The common language isn’t impossible; we just have to stop shouting.

  10. Posted July 10, 2006 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    I don’t subscribe to that philosophy (that only people with power can be racist).

    I’m not really trying to jump into the debate about that, I just wanted to point out that it’s not really fair to lump JW’s views in with mine, anymore than it would be to lump yours in with someone else’s.

  11. dhoggard
    Posted July 10, 2006 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

    Yes you do, or at least you did back in February when you said,. among other things…

    “Do you believe that we live in a racist society? Do you believe that people are often prejudged according to the color of their skin? Do you believe that for whites in America, from prejudice typically flows power, privilege, and respect, whereas for nonwhites it is typically the opposite?

    I do.  (emphasis added) And if we don’t agree on that basic truth and reality, I’m not sure I could change your mind,… ”

     Perhaps you have changed your mind, Chewie.

  12. Posted July 11, 2006 at 12:10 am | Permalink

    David, one of the beliefs ascribed to me with Sue’s broad brush was that only people with power – or only white people – can be racist. I don’t believe that you have to have power in order to be racist. I certainly don’t believe that only whites can be racist. I do believe everything I said in the quote you pulled.

    Look elsewhere, and you’ll find me saying that to be human, and especially to be American, is to be infected with the disease of racism. It’s a scourge that affects all of our lives. This lifting every rock in search of a “real” racist is a huge waste of time in my opinion.

    I was making a point to Sue about lumping people together in a way that doesn’t hold up, not trying to start a debate about racism, and not debating you about anything.

  13. Posted July 11, 2006 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    Got it. The word you used was “typically”, not “only”.

  14. Posted July 11, 2006 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    I am the one who ties racism to power. I came to that conclusion after lengthy studying and deliberation. I also understand that not everyone agrees with that, but it is the best way for me to make sense of it, if indeed any sense CAN be made of it. I used to define it as the prejudging or assumptions base solely on race, which of course opens the door much wider. I like the more narrow definition. I’ve also participated in different anti-racism workshops. Yeah, yeah, yeah, liberal, white-guilt wonk. I know. But it suits me.

    While Chewie’s assertion that you don’t have to have power to be racist is true, she’s talking about individual or personal racism. I’m talking broader, institutional racism. I’ve raised the question, what about African Americans in positions of power. The quick answer to that is that there are indeed pockets of that, but as a whole, in the United States, the power is in the hands of white people. Black people can be, and some are, prejudiced.

    Like Chewie, I don’t want to rehash the whole thing unless there are specifics that I can address. I do think the common language is possible, maybe, eventually. But I still believe that I can not begin tell a race of people what should or shouldn’t offend them. That smacks of hierarchy, elitism, and patriarchy. And you know I’ve got that Quaker thing going on.

  15. Posted July 11, 2006 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Just one thing, I promise.

    What about anti-Semitism? Should that not be catagorized as racism?

    I’d say that the Jewish people are not bereft of power.

  16. Posted July 11, 2006 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Well, we couldl go really deep and start defining “power.” When you say “Jewish people are not bereft of power,” do you mean money? Is money the gauge of power?

  17. Posted July 11, 2006 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    JW, there’s no one my views would rather be lumped in with.

  18. Posted July 11, 2006 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    You know me, I think all of you commenting here know me. For those who might not know me I’m white, live in a black neighborhood and have been the victim of black on white racism many times dating back to the 1960s. When I wrote a couple of years ago about being beaten almost to death at Dudley High School in 1970 (David will remember the piece.) that was by a gang of young black men. They left me in a pool of my own blood, left me to die. It was young blacks who robbed me at knife point every school day for two years at Aycock Jr. High School in the late ’60s. Funny, they never robbed the black students, only the whites. When I was stabbed it was by a young black man. When I was hit in the head with a stick as big as a baseball bat it was by a young black man.

    But all that was all a long time ago. It doesn’t matter except sometimes when I’m sleeping.

    Now it’s young black men who yell racial slurs at me when I drive down the street where my family has lived since 1958, they threaten me and my family yelling, “YOU WHITE MF(**&& I’LL **&&^%%^ KILL YOU WHITE MF*&&^%% !” Some of them are hardly big enough to be called men, others stand over me. They tell me we don’t belong in their neighborhood when I lived here since before their grandmothers were born. How can anyone not think that is racism at it’s worst and how can anyone believe that only whites can be racist? I’ve never done anything to them and neither has my family. My ancestors– including my daddy– were sharecroppers, we never owned slaves– not one.

    Why don’t they carry out their threats? Probably has something to do with my .357 Smith & Wesson or my other toys.

    Why do they hate me, why my family? Because they’re racist, that’s why.


    Of note: I also have some great black neighbors, neighbors I trust, neighbors I care about. When something goes bump in the night I know when I walk out the door half dressed, gun in hand, that they’ll be watching my back just as I watch theirs. They’ve worked hard to keep my family and theirs safe and I wouldn’t trade them for all the white folk who left this neighborhood 35 years ago selling out to Bill Agapion and his ilk with their tails between their legs.

  19. Posted July 11, 2006 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    I guess I should have read your comments a little closer.

  20. Posted July 11, 2006 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    JW, I define power mainly in political terms.

    Billy, I do remember that post and marvel everytime I think how you kept from becoming a stark, raving racist lunatic.

  21. A&T Student
    Posted August 29, 2006 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Racism is inherent in us all, it exists naturally in the animal kingdom for the strongest and healthy, and it exists in tradition and culture. However it is easy to blame your problems on whatever makes you feel better about yourself. One example is about a friend that was having relationship problems blaming them on alcohol. In the end he was praised from his other friends and family for his sencerity, however I stood my ground and said from experience, “I do not believe that alcohol is the deamon in this relationship”, and quitting, which ment for both of them would further tear the relationship apart, which it did. To blame Alcohol is the easy way to assign blame because it is widely accepted to do so, but was not a solution to his current problem. Schools are being put under pressure because there are 60% more black students being suspended that whites. Prisons and jails are in the same category and it makes you think that they are relatable. Now I cannot bring myself to believe the school system is intentally out to destroy the black community, but there are changes that can be made and must be made at the home. The concept of home needs the help of the welfare system for all the single mothers that may have gotten pregnant as a teen with no future or father to break this cycle. The benifits will help both sides and allow more people to escape this pattern. In the mean time we cannot look the other way to unacceptable behavior reguardless of whose fault it is. Coming back to what I was saying earlier, how do we place blame, do we blame the United States for using us as slaves, or do we blame or own people for selling us as slaves?

One Trackback

  1. By Hogg’s Blog » Local logs alive and clicking on July 19, 2006 at 6:09 am

    [...] You just aren’t getting all of the news that is news if you aren’t reading local blogs.   Back in February, an article in this very paper reported that Greensboro’s nation-leading ‘blogosphere’ might just be losing some of its “exuberanceâ€?.  But apparently, local bloggers never got the memo.  Take this past week, for instance.   You probably read on these pages that Guilford County GOP chairman Marcus Kindley made a statement linking homosexuality to pedophilia, but the actual deed occurred on his weblog: “The Chairman’s Cornerâ€?.    Although Kindley now insists his statement was “taken out of contextâ€?, you’d be able to make your own judgment on his backtracking if you’d been keeping up with local blogs.   Even though that story has long faded from what bloggers fondly refer to as the MSM (mainstream media), Kindley’s apologists and detractors  continue to re-hash the issue and take the conversation to places you would never expect (such as multiple uses for various body parts).  Yes, blogging exuberance still abounds.   Then there was last week’s rally by Guilford County’s black leadership in support of the “Declaration Against Intolerable Racismâ€?.  Sure, the local MSM made obligatory mentions of the event the following day, but for the wider story and pure stick-to-it-ness, there’s nothing to match blogs, where you would have read how one African-American Greensboro blogger responded to the declaration and rally on the courthouse steps.  “…Stop marching & having rallies & actually DO SOMETHINGâ€?, wrote Ken B., proprietor of The House of Xanadu.   Others took a more conciliatory and cautious stance about the leadership group’s call to action to stamp out racism.  Pastor Joel Gillespie opined on his blog that he knows that racism still exists, but he doesn’t think it is “hiding behind every treeâ€?.  Nor does he think very many racist trees are still standing hereabouts.“   “The tendency here (to) pull out the racism card, and to hype racism as the source of so many evils, does not contribute to the decline of racismâ€?, he writes, “nor does it solve the problems of real racism.  Indeed it polarizes and possibly even creates and promotes racism.â€?   But local blogs not only expand on widely reported current events.  Real local news occurs on them as well.   This past Saturday, Ed Cone linked to a statement by state Rep. Pricey Harrison, one of a group of legislators who recently took a taxpayer-funded boat ride near Beaufort.   Harrison stated on her blog, “…many of you have heard about legislators celebrating the Tall Ships event on a state-owned ferry. Regrettably, I was one of those legislators. I made a mistake and I have reimbursed the state for all expenses incurred on my behalf.â€?   Readers who comment on blogs are bloggers, too, and Harrison’s announcement elicited a range of responses.  Comments below the blog posts ran the gamut from the warm and fuzzy over at Harrison’s blog (“Kudos! You’re a class act and I’m glad you’re representing my districtâ€?); to some sniping over at Cone’s place: (“Give her a break. She made a mistake like when she voted “yes” on the lottery, then had to change her vote to no after it passed with a margin greater than one vote. These things happen.â€? (Comment by Gate City)   No. The “exuberanceâ€? level of Greensboro’s famed blogosphere has hardly subsided.  To the contrary, as new voices are added, the conversation continues unabated.  Drop by and join in. -dhoggard no comments trackback this article comment on this article [...]