Follow by Email

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Ramblings on Racial tension

      Racial tension is increasing in America today. The Trayvon Martin shooting is but one of many catalysts. Another is that the general public, especially the general, white, public, is no longer buying into the approved meme of "black victimization at the hands of white racists." The rise and acceptance of African-Americans in politics and industry, has removed the sting from accusations of racism. In short, those that once claimed to be held down by 'The Man' have themselves become 'The Man'. It's tough to convince people that you are oppressed when someone that you claim as your own occupies the most powerful office on Earth.

     Moreover, it is ludicrous to point to one incident and claim that it is indicative of reality in America. If that were the case, and the news media were as honest and unbiased as it claims to be, there would certainly be grounds for accusations of racism but those accusations would more rightly be from white people towards African-Americans. African Americans are more likely to commit crimes against white people than the reverse. I make this assertion, not through the lens of a distant outsider, but as one who has been the target of racism, both personal and institutional.

     I grew up in one of the most racially divided cities in the nation; Detroit, Michigan. This divide was emphasized and exploited by then Mayor Coleman A. Young, a race hustler and scandal magnet that managed to stay in office from 1974 to 1993, largely by keeping African-Americans angry and suspicious of what he called "hostile suburbs" in order to retain their votes. His was a masterful use of the race card and manipulation of "Black Rage". His repeated accusations of racism usually coincided with reporters asking him tough questions about questionable practices or missing city funds, causing a typically craven Detroit news media to back off and leave the issue alone.

     In the Detroit of the 70's and 80's, the racial divide was glaring and tainted every aspect of life. Between the rising crime rate and the loss of jobs resulting from a shrinking auto industry presence, Detroit was becoming less and less desirable as a place to live. The final nail in the city's coffin was the implementation of busing, the practice of transporting schoolchildren far away from their neighborhoods to attend schools elsewhere. This created the phenomenon known as 'White Flight', the migration of people of European ancestry from urban centers to suburban centers. Modern thought attributes this to fear and suspicion on the part of white people towards minorities, my experience was that it was more a quality of life issue than it was about fear.

     Indeed, the dischord sown by Mayor Young and his cronies short-circuited any attempt to tie the region together through mass transportation or cooperation between city governments. The result was that Southeastern Michigan evolved into a group of city-states that were independent of the urban hub. they created their own infrastructure, public venues, and urban cultures. They thrived while Detroit began a downward spiral into poverty.

     African-Americans (in those less enlightened times, we called them 'Black People') moving into your neighborhood signaled the decline of property values and a rise in crime. The logical conclusion was to move to the suburbs. Venturing across that border made famous by Eminem was like travelling to a distant land of prosperity and safety. Across Eight Mile Road, people walked the streets without fear, stores stayed open after dark, bulletproof glass was virtually unheard of, and the police were viewed as the good guys. Strolling along the side streets, one was treated to a variety of manicured lawns bordering well-kept houses on well-lit streets.

     Simultaneously, in Detroit, it was rare that street lights worked at all, let alone light the streets. lawn care was something that few people did, and most large chain stores closed up and moved out due to losses as a result of theft and vandalism. The typical convenience store was more like an outpost in hostile territory, what with bars on the windows and the clerk being encased in bulletproof glass. These were prudent precautions as the Motor City was, at the time, The Murder Capital of the world; a title that Detroit has either maintained, or been in contention for, ever since I can remember.

    And the schools? I can only speak for the ones that I attended. The faculty at Finney High School was the biggest collection of drunks, ne'er do wells, and  perverts I have ever seen outside of a prison. Those few exceptions were completely overwhelmed by the influx of students from the inner city; a collection of loud, rude, undisciplined, rabble that had no interest in learning, and saw high school as an opportunity to hone their skills in intimidation and drug dealing. In the end, school was less about learning than it was about storage. By keeping us off of the streets, the school system at least minimized opportunities for juvenile procreation; the results of which usually ended up on the ever-expanding welfare rolls. To be honest, I suspect that fully half of my graduating class could neither read nor write at a high school level, if at all.

     Yet, if you talked to anyone in the Detroit City government, they would paint a picture of sunshine and roses. They would point to The People Mover, a multimillion dollar boondoggle that was falling apart even as it was being built, The Renaissance Center, a huge office bulding and shopping center on the river front (which is laughable because it was built largely by Ford Motor Co. funds), and Hart Plaza, a huge slab of concrete that includes a fountain, and say, "Detroit is on the rise again!" Meanwhile, neighborhood infrastructure was crumbling and street crime was out of control. Downtown development was Coleman Young's Potemkin Village, and he, like the Czars, grew richer while the citizens grew poorer.

     To someone like me, growing up in a blue collar neighborhood that was swiftly declining into ghetto-hood, it was baffling as to why the minority, which was now the majority in Detroit, could not see how the city was becoming unlivable. Or why they kept re-electing the most corrupt politicians to positions of power. It was even more confusing as to why the new majority seemed incapable of doing even the most elemental maintenance on their property and possessions (lawn care was virtually nonexistent, and it was as if housepaint was a rare and unobtainable element). The descent into ruin seemed to be embodied by the people as well as the city. In 1991 I, like many before me, threw my hands up in disgust and left the city without looking back.

     Today, Detroit is in ruins. The police and fire services are all but gutted, the city itself more resembles a war-torn Third World nation than an American center of industry, and crime is so rampant that I imagine one would be safer in downtown Mogadishu than in downtown Detroit. And those havens of prosperity, the suburbs, have become the recipents of the refugees from Detroit. Ironically, history seems to be repeating itself, as people are moving out of the suburbs to suburbs that are even farther away from Detroit, while those in closer proximity to The Motor City are themselves becoming smaller replicas of ruin and strife.

     All of this to say that, racism exists in America, but it is a two-way street and it is emphasized and encouraged by those that stand to make a profit from it while solidifying their own position of power and wealth. Moreover, those same individuals that have worked so hard to keep the hate alive, work equally hard to prevent us all from seeing the truth that is America; racism is a facet of American reality, but it is a tiny one and one that is easily eliminated. Racism in America is almost a footnote (unless you happen to be the victim of it) compared to how it is expressed in the rest of the world.

     In other countries, racial tension is a euphemism for hatred. In various African nations, racial tension leads to massacres, war, and genocide. In Europe, racial tension in Nazi Germany killed six million Jews. Racial tension in the Balkans of the 90's resulted in some of the most horrific atrocities ever inflicted upon human beings. Racial tension in Turkey resulted in the slaughter of a million Armenians.

     In America, racism is seen for what it truly is; collectivism in its most extreme. To indulge in the mental gymnastics that are required for one to indict an entire race for the actions of a few, one has to believe in the hive mentality. You must be willing to suspend the belief that two individuals that have the same outward appearance can be as different as night from day, and that physical characteristics determine thought and action. Here in America, such concepts are ridiculous to all but a few splinter groups that prefer to wallow in hatred.

     So why has America escaped the racial violence experienced by other countries?

     The answer is complex. The Second Amendment? Certainly a part of it. it's tough to oppress someone who has the ability to pick you off hundreds of yards away. As Robert Heinlein put it, "An armed society is a polite society." The internet? Absolutely. The old media venues no longer have a monopoly on the dissemination of information. The Racial Grievance Industry is subject to the same amount of scrutiny as any other public figure, and everything they have said or done is on the net, somewhere.

     But the simplest answer is prosperity. It is difficult to become angry when you are vacationing in Hawaii. Ginning up a movement based in hatred is difficult when those that you would target have a hundred and twenty other channels to choose from. Rioting in the streets on a hot Summer night is less preferable to sipping a cold beer next to your pool. In short, satisfied people don't act out.

     The road to racial harmony is the same that it always has been; protect the rights of the individual, protect the right of the individual to own and use property, and keep the government out of the way. That way, it is up to the individual to advance or fail according to his or her abilities and talents. Given a clear path to prosperity, most people would be too busy working to indulge in hatred.