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Vail Daily letter: When words are not enough

It was “ heartwarming “ to learn that Butch Mazzuca (“How best to help?” Feb. 16) is concerned about improving race relations in this country. According to Mazzuca, race relations would improve if our president would only change the tone of his rhetoric and stop blaming white America and start holding black America accountable for the problems which beset them, namely, crime, unwed mothers and the rate of high school dropouts.

How can the president improve his rhetoric? Well, for one, he could stop siding with the black victims of alleged injustices like Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and begin demonstrating his allegiance to the police in this country who are sworn to uphold the law. For another, he could cut his ties to known “ race baiters “ like Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. And, finally, couldn’t he make a few public service announcements “advising young black girls not to have babies before they are married or encouraging young black men to stay in school?” I can only imagine that this last suggestion stems from the fact that the most vocal and prominent black person charged with this task, Bill Cosby, is currently unavailable.

Mazzuca’s solutions illustrate why conservatives and liberals will always look at the same problems and come to totally different conclusions as to what the causes are. For Mazzuca words, language, statements have a powerful determining effect on why violence and lawlessness of a racial nature occur in this country. If only the president early in his presidency hadn’t accused the police of acting “stupidly” in arresting Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. of Harvard for “ breaking” into his own home “a comment,” according to Mazzuca, “that encouraged racial hostilities.” If only the president hadn’t said in the case of the grand jury’s decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., that it was an understandable reaction to be angry with the decision thereby, again according to Mazzuca, “ giving cover to the protestors who looted and destroyed private property.” If only the president hadn’t said if he had a son he would look like Trayvon Martin, “ it would go a long way,” says Mazzuca, “toward ameliorating the race issue in America.” In a nutshell, then, racial strife, unrest, hostilities are caused by the irresponsible rhetoric of black leaders like the president who encourage lawlessness on the part of certain segments of the black community.

For a liberal like myself, the root causes of racial violence rests not with words but with actions. What the president had to say neither caused nor condoned violence in Ferguson, Mo. What caused looting and rioting there was the video showing an admittedly frightened police officer shooting multiple times an admittedly large and menacing looking (at least to that police officer) black teenager in the streets of Ferguson and then letting his corpse lay there for hours on end. And the looters and rioters among the mostly peaceful protestors both black and white in Ferguson were there not because of the president’s words but because they saw an opportunity to hijack a public protest for their own lawless ends.

What causes the racial divide in America are the two sets of wholly different realities experienced by whites and blacks when coming in contact with police authority in this country. Whites see the police as largely protective and supportive. But that is largely because they have never been stopped for “driving while black.” They have never had to counsel their sons about the dangers of being stopped by police on the streets of white neighborhoods late at night. They have never had to suffer the humiliation of having taxis in cities refuse to stop for them as they tried to hail a cab at night. They have never had to experience what countless black males from the time of their youth have had to experience when confronted by the police. They haven’t for simply one reason: They are white. In my 70 years as a white man in this wonderful country I have never been treated unkindly or unfairly by the police. And I can only guess that Mazzuca who appears to be close to my age might have had the same experience. The rhetoric of any president in my lifetime has had no effect on my positive view of the police. The color of my skin and a lifetime of kind and fair treatment by them did.

Jay Wissot

Denver


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