Vail Daily letter: Perception vs. reality
Questions abound of late, speaking to race, politics, fairness and humanity; not necessarily in that order. America reflects, daily, about who we are, and were, in an effort to label ourselves differently than the sound-byte/picture painted by the media.
Our police, portrayed often as heartless racists, caught in both verbal and literal crossfire, go home to friends and family at the end of their shifts. Likely, they attend their churches and pray, show up at neighborhood barbecues and push their 3-year-olds along avenues on tricycles … humans, after all.
Young African Americans, off the bus after school, or walking home, clad in gangsta streetwear and basketball high-tops, acknowledge friends with a wave. Not many white folks in this neighborhood, and waves can be mistaken for gang signals. Braided hair, rap music, smiles for Mom waiting at the door, and no sign of Dad. Poor kids living with limited hope, looking to belong … to something.
6 p.m. news — 10 kids gunned down in this neighborhood for no apparent reason other than simple revenge between rivals. This tragedy happens way too often, and labeled, too often symbolically, even emblematically, as default behavior. The victims are trapped inside this war zone, one that robs them of a deserved fun adolescence and parental affection … in short supply, sadly.
I would venture to suggest panaceas and solutions for this, requiring political and human bravery, plainly evident in our past. We have assets from multiculturism often taken for granted, but always enjoyed:
• Olympic athleticism without which our medal haul would be abysmal. (No space here for Howard Cosell.)
• Soul, gospel, rock ’n’ roll, rap music.
• Drama: the Hollywood kind.
“West Side Story,” “To Sir, with Love,” “Ebony and Ivory,” “Ink is Black”; where are similar songs and movies today? At the turn of the century, Irish immigrants were lambasted, typecast, stereotyped and downtrodden. Their culture slowly seeped into ours and found a home in breakfast cereals, March 17, beer innuendos, humor, love, luck-connotations and self-deprecation. “Whiskey was invented so the Irish wouldn’t rule the world.” Food, or drink, for thought.
Along the way, America has yet to put a true face on race. Equal opportunistic, disingenuous TV commercials suggest political correctness more than inclusion in the fabric of this country. Meanwhile, our children watch, and see the misconception. Without messages of love, humor, music, art and church assimilation, perhaps, this perception will continue.
Could President Obama arrive in the streets of South Chicago pleading with dads via a bullhorn, to step in and man up? Meet and greet. Share stories. Invite some to meet with him and Rahm Emanuel. Play golf? Place the presidential library nearby. That would be a legacy to be proud of, but I’m not holding my breath. Any break of dependency from these communities would violate DNC decorum.
Perception, not beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.