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Vail Daily letter: Not that simple

Mr. Mitchell (Letters to the Editor, March 18) lists some of the many injustices in the world to trivialize the situation of African Americans. But this conversation is about African Americans, not Muslim women. He goes on to say, in effect, that white people caused misery for Chinese in this country. Yet they overcame being called “coolies” and prospered. Let me point out the obvious: Yes, you did treat the Chinese with disdain. But they were here of their own free will. African Americans were here through bondage. Chinese bought with them their culture and families. We bought with us no culture at all other then the culture of slavery, and our families only if we were very, very fortunate.

It wasn’t being called some degrading name that was the problem. It was post-slavery black codes that provided blacks as contract prison labor. It was specific and legal federal exclusion from mortgage programs designed to provide wealth and stability, merely for being black. It was Jim Crow. It was the reign of terror that saw almost 4,000 lynchings between the late 1800s and 1950.

You mention the Irish immigrants of the ’20s were “maligned, denied work, access to pubs … ” We were being hung. Can you see the difference? It was being legally and violently excluded from living in the good neighborhoods with the good schools that you live in. It was the Dred Scott decision that said that the Negro has no rights that the white race is bound to honor. It was Plessy v. Ferguson that legalized separate but equal schools that certainly got the separate part right, but, to this day, not the equal.

Most of all, it is the legacy of all this that has led to one in three black males being incarcerated in the 21st century — a situation that did not exist in either the 19th nor 20th century.

It is the legacy of all of this that evolved and became manifest with programs like New York City’s notorious “Stop and Frisk,” which was applied almost exclusively to young black males. Did you know that? Or did your research only come up with birth rates and crime stats that supported the way you wanted to portray African Americans? It’s the legacy of hundreds of years of being written about and portrayed in the media, in movies, in cop shows … as disgusting, lazy, stupid, unattractive, criminal and smelly.

Tell me how level the playing field is. Tell me how you’d gladly become an African American if you could, because it’s only about work ethic and good decision-making. Color makes no difference. But would you pick up a seemingly working-class black hitchhiker as readily as you would pick up a similar white hitchhiker? Or is there a legacy of an ingrained difference? Is affirmative action the only form of “discrimination” that you have noticed and railed against — or have you railed against actual discrimination? And if legacy doesn’t mean anything, then why do so many colleges have legacy programs? Why do so many folks investigate their heritage and draw strength and pride from what came before — their own personal legacy?

You mention the African who graduated from Boston College and that he did not let discrimination deter him — as many African Americans likewise have not. You applaud the help that was given him, but for your black countrymen, mere “personal choice” is enough to propel us forward.

In your world, you see Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, and Michael Brown as moments in time. We see it for what it is — a cumulative moment in history.

And while you are waiting and “longing,” notice this: That the universe you were born into of “academics, journalists, lawyers, doctors, Realtors, bankers and ordinary folk all longing for a change in behavior from black America” is like being in a bike race with a tail wind. Hard to notice, but immensely helpful nonetheless.

If only it were so simple as proselytizing from folks with no contact with black America would have us believe. And pardon my frustration. It comes from 65 years of listening to people who have no idea what they are talking about.

Wayne Hare

Grand Junction


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