Monday, December 8, 2014

Seeing The World In Black And White

More polling on race, police brutality, and the stark differences between the white and black experiences in America, this time from Bloomberg News.

President Barack Obama had hoped his historic election would ease race relations, yet a majority of Americans, 53 percent, say the interactions between the white and black communities have deteriorated since he took office, according to a new Bloomberg Politics poll. Those divisions are laid bare in the split reactions to the decisions by two grand juries not to indict white police officers who killed unarmed black men in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y.

Yes, we're sorry America's first black president has caused the racism you thought was a "barbaric relic of America's past", both overt and covert, to become more public.

Perhaps there is a silver lining, actually.  It means that people are more aware of racism in general over the last six years and aren't pretending that it doesn't exist anymore.  That's making a lot of people rather uncomfortable with America the Beautiful.  Here's a hint, guys: race relations in America have been like this for decades.  A black president just made you notice.

But that awareness only extends so far.

Both times, protesters responded with outrage and politicians called for federal investigations. Yet Americans don’t think of the cases as a matched set of injustices, the poll found. A majority agreed with the Ferguson decision, while most objected to the conclusion in the Staten Island death, which was captured on video. The divergent opinions—52 percent agreed on Ferguson compared with 25 percent who approved of the Staten Island outcome—add to an ongoing discussion that was inflamed when Officer Daniel Pantaleo was seen in the July video putting what appeared to be a chokehold on Eric Garner, a 43-year-old man suspected of selling untaxed cigarettes. Garner could be heard saying, “I can’t breathe,” and died of a heart attack in what a medical examiner ruled a homicide. The grand jury decision not to charge Pantaleo came just 12 days after a similar panel in Ferguson declined to charge Officer Darren Wilson, who in August shot to death 18-year-old Michael Brown. That altercation was not captured on video, and the prosecutor presented evidence of a physical confrontation between the two men before the fatal shots were fired. 
To Dania Wilson, 49, a Northern Virginia white woman, the cases shouldn’t be lumped together. “I think sometimes the media likes to put upon people a theme that’s political in nature,” she said in an interview.

In other words, white America sees the Garner case as an aberration rather than part of a systemic series of abuses of power and civil rights by police.  To white America, the Rodney King riots were more than 20 years ago and now Obama is president.  Why would African-Americans possibly be out in the streets protesting? How could we possibly still be upset after all these advances that prove racism is dead and gone, as Chief Justice Roberts reminded us when rolling back the outdated Voting Rights Act?

I am going to trust our grand juries until there’s proof that they’re not being honest,” said Dale Griessel, 80, a white retiree in Columbia, Mo., who agrees with both jury decisions. “None of us has seen the forensic evidence. They have.”

Delarno Wilson, 28, a black Georgia resident who objects to both jury outcomes, said he wasn’t surprised that there is division based on race. “Your background is what makes you,” he said. “If you don’t understand the struggle that a person went through, you never truly get it.” Wilson is in the U.S. Coast Guard and said many of his assignments are in overwhelmingly white towns. “I constantly have to worry about how to relate to people. That’s something white people don’t have to think about.”

But...America.  How can it still be different for black America with Obama as president?

Hell of a lot of answers to that question, it seems.

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