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” that, frankly, didn’t. The gist of Mr. Mazzuca’s opinion is that if only blacks would be more like us white folks and use our good decision-making and leadership skills as examples, they’d be just fine. But there’s a problem here. We’re not like you. We’re not allowed to be. America has such a long and tortured history when it comes to race that it’s become woven into our national fabric. So much of what happens in this country is wrapped around race that most don’t even see it. It just is. For example, Arizona’s now infamous immigration law SB1070 was not written by a group of true patriots sincerely concerned with loss of jobs or crime. It was written, literally, by Kris Kobach, a birther (read: ignorant hater) with a bigoted history. When he penned what became SB1070, Kobach was an attorney for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, an anti-Jewish and anti-immigration group so hateful that they had been on the respected Southern Poverty Law Center’s watch list for years. Arizona’s immigration law wasn’t about crime or jobs. Its genesis was racial hatred, masked as it so often is as patriotism.

After days of railing against the federal government for having the audacity to try to collect the millions of dollars he owed, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy showed his true colors. Turned out he was a racist disguised as a “patriot”! He was pissed off because like all such “patriots,” he believed that his taxes go to pay “entitlements” for people who don’t look like him. And when all those conservative politicians who had lauded him as a true American patriot turned and fled, that wasn’t because they were appalled that he was a racist. They were appalled that he had exposed them, his like-minded political allies.

Mr. Mazzuca references a Gallup poll that indicated some 70 percent of Americans predicted better race relations with the election of a black president. If only. According to the SPLC, there was an exponential rise in hate groups. The number of patriot groups, including armed militias, skyrocketed following the election of Obama in 2008 — rising 813 percent, from 149 groups in 2008 to 1,360 in 2012. No, we did not enter a post-racial era.

The op-ed repeatedly blamed lack of black leadership, especially President Obama, for failing to not only not provide positive direction, but in actually inflaming racial tensions. Mr. Mazzuca blames comments like, “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon Martin,” or, “It is an understandable reaction to be angry with the Ferguson grand jury decision” for exacerbating racial tensions. Mr Mazzuca believes that Obama, who is black, expressing his understanding of how black citizens felt, which Mr. Mazzuca clearly does not and cannot, “in effect, gave cover to the protesters who looted and destroyed private property.” He goes on to ask, “Did Mr. Obama forget that the Constitution provides for a legal process that the police, city and the prosecutor’s office all abided by?”

Yes, in the aftermath of the shooting, Ferguson authorities acted within the letter of the law, but certainly not within the spirit. More traditional and more fair would have been to let a jury view the evidence and decide publicly what the hell had happened there. The Ferguson prosecutor, who had issues with race of his own, took the highly unusual step of sealing the Grand Jury testimony forever. Forever! Neither you nor I will ever know what actually happened in Ferguson.

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Obama mentioned that Trayvon would look like his son, if he had one, because that’s true. It’s ludicrous to think that acknowledging the truth that dark skin puts you at greater risk with so-called authorities and the police, regardless of your station in life, caused racial tension. Ditto Mayor Bill DeBlasio when teaching his dark skinned son how to act around a police force notorious for racism, violence and corruption. Do you really think that he is the cause of 600 hundred years of racial tension? Because personally I think it has more to do with a very long and ugly history from then until now. From slavery to black codes. From Jim Crow and lynchings to the Republican Party’s Southern strategy. From the injustice of the Homestead Act to lack of federally backed mortgages. From police brutality to unequal justice systems. From lousy and decrepit schools to harsh sentences for minor drug offenses that split families apart. From lack of equal amounts of opportunity in housing, college, and jobs to resultant inequality in income, net worth and employment. From television and movies that instantly and always validate the rightness of whiteness to secret grand jury proceedings. And, yes, to Bill O’Reilly who promotes a subtle and acceptable form of racism.

Mr. Mazzuca deplores the lack of black leadership from the likes of Obama, Sharpton and Jackson. Mr. Mazzuca seems not aware of Operation Bread Basket formed by Jackson and Sharpton that focused on better jobs for African Americans. Or Sharpton’s National Youth Movement that focused on raising resources for black youth. Or his National Action Network, an organization designed to increase voter education, provide services to the poor, and support small minority business. I assume also that Mr. Mazzuca is not aware of the president’s “My Brother’s Keeper Program,” his repeatedly thwarted attempts to raise the standard of living among the least fortunate among us, or his repeated request for calm and peace following Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin?

We’re not like you, Mr. Mazzuca. We’ve experienced America way differently then the way you have.

In my next letter, continuing this conversation, we’ll explore federal mortgage lending practices, the new Jim Crow, racial politics, and the exclusiveness of living in Edwards.

Wayne Hare

Grand Junction

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