Vail Daily letter: We’re not like you |

Vail Daily letter: We’re not like you

On Feb. 16, the Vail Daily published an opinion piece by Butch Mazzuca about race entitled “How to help.” This is the second part of my opinion of why “How to help” didn’t.

You say, “It’s hard to argue with conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly’s position that, essentially, African Americans are responsible for their own problems.” Actually, I find it quite easy to argue with a man who grew up in an all-white neighborhood built with federally funded loans that were not available to blacks, pontificating about what blacks really ought to be doing.

After World War II, the feds got into the mortgage lending business with FHA-backed loans that were not available to African Americans. Later, blacks could sort of get federally backed loans, we just couldn’t get them for houses in the neighborhoods where we actually lived because of the official government policy of not lending in “certain neighborhoods.” Then the banks took that up in their redlining era. And even now, in the 21st century, the government is still finding and fining banks that have higher mortgage rates for folks with black skin.

The government land give-away, “homesteading,” from which over 4 million Americans still profit financially from home ownership, was a whites-only government entitlement program. With the historical difficulty in home ownership — most families’ primary source of net worth — blacks were hit hardest during the great recession. White net worth is now 13 times that of blacks’. Speaking of the recession, the black community has long endured double-digit unemployment. It only became an emergency when it spread into the white community.

The disintegration of the American family that O’Reilly speaks of started with slavery where families were torn apart and sold away with no regard for the “disintegration” of the family, and continues in a society where a black male is more likely to get locked up than to go to college. Thanks to any number of laws or nuances of laws, to a justice system that may be blind, but not to color, and yes, to circumstances that compel us towards crime, one in three black males can expect to be incarcerated in their lifetime.

You decry the murder of two New York City policemen. But you neglect to be outraged that five of New York’s finest, each with years of experience and specialized training, each with a duty belt full of defensive equipment, could think of no other way to stop one unarmed black man from illegally selling cigarettes other than to choke him to death.

And if you believe that words carry weight, were you outraged way back when Reagan, in his first run for the presidency, kicked off the modern era of racially polarizing politics when he chose the exact site of the three Civil Rights workers who were murdered in 1964 in Philadelphia, Miss., as the perfect place to kick off his run for office? Or when he further fomented white resentment when he expressed camaraderie with white Americans when he said, “I know how you feel waiting in line to buy groceries with money you earned, while that ‘young buck’ ahead of you is buying steak with his food stamps.” Or when he conjured up a vision of a black welfare queen driving a Cadillac … a vision that persists to this day.

Were you enraged when Bush invoked the scary black man Willie Horton? How about when Lee Atwater, senior advisor to both Reagan and Bush, admitted to his party’s Southern strategy of race when he said that since we can no longer use the n-word, we just use code words such as “states rights”? Were you outraged at the development of a political strategy based on white fear of blacks to gin up votes?

You invoke the specter of the scary black criminal and promiscuous black girl. Are you enraged that infant mortality for black babies in the United States is about 250 percent that of white babies and here in Colorado is actually increasing? I guess black girls should just decide to have lower infant mortality. Or somehow find access to health care and abort their babies … like their white counterparts. It’s all a mere matter of better personal decision-making.

Does it enrage you that you live in a state where out of every 100,000 white residents, 525 are in lock-up versus 3,491 for our black residents? Or in a country where the state with the lowest rate of incarceration for black men (Hawaii) is still 15 percent higher than the state with highest rate of incarceration for white men (Oklahoma). Or should black men just make better personal choices to go before a less biased criminal justice system? Incarceration has been called the new Jim Crow.

Does it enrage you that in Ferguson the search and arrest rates for blacks are twice as high as those rates for whites, even though whites are more likely to be found with contraband?

Are you enraged by college affirmative action but not by legacy systems?

You decry the supposed deaths that follow Al Sharpton wherever he goes, but you ignore the deaths and violence that brought him there in the first place: The Bernard Goetz incident that left four dead. Bensonhurst, four assaults, one dead. Howard Beach, three assaults, one dead. Amadou Diallo, one dead — NYC police. Abner Louima, assaulted and sodomized — NYC police. Ousmane Zongo, one dead — NYC police. Sean Bell, one dead — NYC police. Tyisha Miller, one dead — Riverside, Calif., police. Katrina, hundreds dead. Trayvon Martin, one dead. Eric Garner, one dead — NYC police … do you decry those deaths?

Edwards … Eagle … Vail — what could anybody who has made a conscious decision to live in one of the most exclusive, most white, most non-cultural places on earth, whose children know no black children, possibly have to add to the tortured national conversation on race that would be enlightening or productive?

It takes an arrogance borne from privileged membership in the dominant culture to believe so cavalierly in the myth of free and simple choice. Or that this is a land of equal opportunity based solely on one’s work ethic. If only. We don’t make personal choices and wonderful decisions like you Mr. Mazzuca because we’re not like you. We’re not allowed to be.

Wayne Hare

Grand Junction

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