Saturday, May 9, 2015

It's About Time

Today's Baltimore Sun headline, intentionally or not, indicates that holding police accountable works, as police seem to be saying they're worried they might have to think twice about taking a human life if there might be a consequence for it.

The Sun's coverage is of course all about the fallout from the uprising and subsequent charges filed against the six cops who participated in the "rough ride" death of young African American Freddie Grey.

Interestingly, the headline in the web version of the Sun plays it a bit differently:

The web version uses less loaded  wording -- "hesitant" versus "chilling" -- and a less menacing picture of State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby. The reason? One can imagine the different ways the two versions of the paper are viewed, and by whom, and speculate about the difference. And the print headline would have been written late last night, near the end of the second shift as today's paper was being put together. The editor, seeing the paper this morning, could have called in and had the day crew tone things down a bit.

Marilyn Mosby

A State's Attorney in Maryland is the equivalent of what in most places is called the district attorney, which in Maryland as many places is an elected office. Mosby, a Democrat, recently unseated an incumbent Democrat and has been reforming the office, reinstating for example the offices of community liaisons that were eliminated by her predecessor. The police union that's calling for her resignation donated $3,250 to her campaign, according to a Washington Post profile of Mosby.

Whether they take advantage of it or not, Mosby has offered white people some valuable insight into how they think about race. The knee jerk reaction of many whites is to wonder if Mosby is favoring her race by charging the officers and to wonder if she can be unbiased.

Such thoughts never enter a white person's mind when it's a white person judging a white person, or a white person judging a person of color.

Have you ever heard a white person struggle with expressing how to handle race in a conversation? White people need to know what race a person is before they can proceed in a conversation. To a white person, there are black people and "regular" people. There are distinct categories of people.

Race becomes part of personal identity when we are very young. I have memories, like of being at the beach and finding a nickel and when, as toddlers do, I started to put it in my mouth, my aunt grabbed my hand and violently jerked it away and warned me that a "colored" person might have handled it. I remember being in the car and an older sibling pointing to some houses and solemnly saying "That's where the colored people live."

I began to realize that I was not only a person, like the big beings that had been looking down on me, but a certain kind of person, a white person. I knew it because I was finding out there were other categories of people, that we define ourselves in opposition to, and so my first reaction, too, when I saw Marilyn Mosby's face, was to wonder if she can be unbiased. It was an unconscious reflex.

WBAI, the New York Pacifica station, had a big shakeup recently, and when things came down it left the station with mostly black on air people. When I listen to WBAI in the morning over my cell phone now as I'm coming back from Holbrook, I find myself wondering whether the version of the news I'm getting favors African American concerns and their outlook. And it does. Just like the same s how for my entire life all the news I've ever heard has favored white peoples' concerns and their outlooks. Just like living in New Mexico I've had to get used to hearing about things that concern Hispanics and that sometimes come at things from a different angle.

It's about time.


  1. Good points, well expressed. It's all uncomfortable, isn't it...the conversation about race, our reactions, our reactions to our reactions, complexity layered upon confliction. To some degree, it's generational...I see it less in my kids than myself, and even less in my grandkids. I don't think that means they (the coming generations) will have less to deal with, they will reap what has come before. But, it might be less difficult for them to come to grips with.

    Sorry I haven't been following your stuff in a bit, had a few health issues.


    1. Thanks, Mike. Thanks for the comment and insights. It's true isn't it. They are doing better than we did, in race relations and other areas, too, like acceptance of LGBTs.

      But I suppose we should give ourselves some credit for that. In the social realm progressive minded people continually tried to push things forward, expand awareness and so on, but some of the reason the powers that be have allowed the changes taking place now is their realization that key demographics and future voters have changed, despite them.

      That's the social realm. When it comes to coming up with an economic system that's more fair and just we haven't succeeded. Maybe, I hope, that's one of the issues the coming generation will deal with.

      I hope your health issues are on the way to being resolved.