Denial is holding blacks back

By Earl Ofari Hutchinson

By Salon Staff
Published August 7, 2000 7:01PM (EDT)

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Earl Ofari Hutchinson makes good points by saying that some black leaders are "fanning the flames" of racial paranoia in the black community. I suspect that may be true, but the larger point that he seems to miss is that black people's history in America gives ample reason to look at white authority suspiciously. He gives passing credence to the current assault on black civil rights, but it's much larger than that. Black people's distrust of white people did not spring from a vacuum -- generation after generation of black people has passed down true, personal horror stories of being subjected to lies, unfair treatment, broken promises and abuse of authority. How many black residents of Los Angeles knew the LAPD was corrupt long before the Ramparts case broke? How many black sharecroppers (many of our grandparents and great-grandparents) were tricked into years of free labor because they were illiterate or intimidated? What happened to the 40 acres and a mule the federal government promised us? Why did the Tuskeegee Experiment ever happen at all?

At this point, the onus is not on black America. The onus is on the rest of America to prove to black people that promises that are made will be kept, the law will be applied fairly and governments will actually extend all the privileges of American citizenship to black Americans, not just in words, but deeds.

-- Michael Sales

Earl Ofari Hutchinson's article made a great point about denial by black leaders undermining the credibility of blacks who make racist claims. There is certainly much racism in our nation, but not every bad event in the lives of minorities is the result of racism. As a white man living in Atlanta, I obviously have a different perspective on race matters than do most minorities. However, I think it is important to point out that crying "racism," like crying "wolf," only tends to dilute the impact of actual racist actions. Contrary to the thoughts of some, most whites in the United States are not racists, they are merely desensitized to the word, and do not want to hear it anymore.

-- Michael Martin

Salon Staff

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