Archive for the ‘racism’ Category

The Racism We Don’t Talk About   7 comments

In 1997, a 15-year-old Fairbanks boy was walking home from a party when a group of men beat him into unconsciousness and sexually assaulted him. The Fairbanks Police Department looked around for who might have done this and found four young men already suspected of harassing and mugging people in the downtown Fairbanks area. They were brought in for questions and were either too drunk or too dumb to realize that they shouldn’t talk to the cops. Three of the four of them confessed. Marvin Roberts at one point insisted he wanted to go home and what he said after that was considered inadmissible by the courts. But the fact is, they talked about attacking a kid and had details only the assailants would have. There was other evidence as well, but no DNA and limited physical evidence. Marvin Roberts had an injured foot consistent with kicking something or someone multiple times

The trials (there were three) were moved to Anchorage to protect the jury pool from taint and three separate juries were formed. That’s 36 separate citizens who weighed the evidence, any one of whom could have refused to convict and at least one of these young men would have been acquitted of this crime.

I went to the Kevin Pease trial because I was in Anchorage on business. My default stance on trials is that the defendent is always innocent and the prosecution had to prove otherwise. I’ve helped hang one jury because I held that belief in reasonable doubt while my husband actually turned a jury around on a murder trial, so that they acquitted the accused. So I sat through the Pease trial and walked out feeling like a sociopath had been rightfully put behind bars. I did feel a little sorry for Marvin Roberts because he seemed to have just been along for the ride and not smart enough to say “no” to group violence. I knew his grandma and his aunties. I can be swayed by love too, but I still think he belongs behind bars.

At the time of the trial, a coworker of mine who just happened to be black pointed out that these were four Native fellows who had stomped a white kid to death and she wondered why nobody was talking about hate crimes (that was a big discussion during the Clinton administration, if you recall). I hadn’t really thought about that dynamic until that moment. Hartman was just a kid to me and so where the assailants. My friend is a lot more aware of racism than I am, probably because she is from the deep South and I grew up in a state (Alaska) that outlawed racial discrimination in the 1940s. We had an interesting conversation about how racism goes both ways. She had seen it in the black community and I had seen it on the reservation where my cousins live. We agreed that reverse racism was as evil as “white” racism and that until we got it straight that racial minorities could be guilty of hate crimes against whites, the racism discussion could not be fully closed.

Recently, a black man (William Holmes) “confessed” that he knew a bunch of other black guys who claimed to have kicked Hartman to death. He didn’t actually see it. He was driving the car. Holmes is doing a double life for other murders and didn’t bother to “confess” until after TCC offered a huge reward for evidence leading to the exoneration of the Four. He offered other confidential testimony to reduce charges previously, never mentioning the Hartman case. The guys he claims did it aren’t confessing. This is known as “hearsay”. But if you believe the evidence weighed by 36 jurors rather than hearsay, you are a racist. There is no position you can take on the Hartman case other than the Four didn’t do it without being called a racist.

This is the racism we don’t about. The Native community here will insist that they KNOW these four didn’t do this because it is not their culture to do such things. In other words, they believe they’re superior to other racial groups — less violent, not likely to sexually assault a young man and beat him to death. They don’t see that as racism, but they will be quick to point out that you’ve got blue eyes and you don’t accept hearsay testimony that five black guys did it — so you must be a racist.

Racism is a two-way street and I thank my parents (a white man and an Indian woman) for teaching me that neither of my races is better than the other and that when human beings do disgusting violent things to one another, you look beyond the color of their skin at their actions and find them guilty for what they DID and don’t feel guilty if it casts a shadow on one race or another because actions don’t have a race and technically, we’re all pink inside anyway.

Are You A Racist?   4 comments

I mostly have stayed mum on the racism debates because I’m frankly tired of the topic and I don’t think the histrionics surrounding it are getting any of us anywhere. And I would have stayed quiet if one series had not ended before I was ready to take up another. So here is what I think:

The rules of our current society are stacked against a reasonable discussion of racism because most people are not allowed an opinion. If you’re not (cue snotty accent) “a person of color”, you aren’t allowed to have an opinion. You are deemed a recipient of “white privilege”. You can agree with your accusers and plead guilty or you’re deemed a racist. There are no other options allowed, so no reasonable discussion is possible.

I’m part American Indian. That makes me a “person of color”, though I am also part Swedish and Irish, so my opinion counts less if I disagree with other “persons of color”.  So, I’m going to start out by saying — if this offends you, that’s okay! You probably need to examine yourself on the issue anyway.

Racism is defined as

  • the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.
  • prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior
So, based on that definition, I want to pose a series of questions for consideration as I would pose them to my cousins on the Rez.
  • Do you believe that all white Americans are inherently racist?
  • Do you believe that whites have better jobs because they are white?
  • Do you believe whites do better in school because the white teachers give white children better grades just because they’re white?
  • Do you believe that anytime a white cop shoots a minority suspect it is because the cop is racist?
  • Do you believe that every Indian in prison today is there because of institutional racism?
If you answered “yes” to any one of the above questions, according to the above definition, you might be a racist.
And, just so we’re crystal clear here — although I posed it to my cousins, I’m including every reader of every race in the OP. White, black, Asian, Indian, biracial … if you answered “yes” to any of those questions, you might be a racist.
Tell me where I’m wrong!

Posted January 1, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in racism

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Seeking closure, healing in Tanana – Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Community Perspectives   Leave a comment

Seeking closure, healing in Tanana – Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Community Perspectives.

This Community Perspective picks up another angle to the Tanana trooper shooting. I believe much of this was caused by three sources of conflict.

One — someone didn’t pay their debt. They owed money for a couch and they acted immorally and unethically in not paying what they owed. By the way, I feel this person is responsible for the troopers’ death as much as the shooter.

Two — Troopers overreacting and strong-arming citizens in a situation that could have been and should have been handled locally.

Three – Racism — which is what this letter addresses. Let’s be honest about this. Racism exists still in the United States. And most of the racism that exists comes — not from the white majority who have spent the last 30+ years apologizing profusely for the mistakes of past generations — but from the non-whites who (despite having been born in an era of legal and increasing equality) insist they are owed something for the mistakes of past generations.

My mother was part-American Indian and I have said this before. The most racist people I know are American Indians and Alaskan Natives.

I don’t know the Kangas family. I do know people who call Tanana home, though they live in Fairbanks these days. It was hard for my friends to admit that this was motivated by racism, but they have.

Can we deal with the remaining racism in our country yet?

Can our president stop being a “black” man and represent ALL of us?

Can the voices of vitriol and entitlement just swallow their words and start thinking of their neighbors as their neighbors, so we can move beyond racism to a place where we’re all Americans?


Dreams   Leave a comment

I know a lot of people think “white” people ought to just keep our mouths shut about racism and Martin Luther King, Jr., but here’s a news flash for you … we’re all Americans and free speech applies to everyone on any issue. I’m part-American Indian, so I am not completely “white”, but I identify as “American”, so I’m going to address my comments as a “white” person.

MLK had a dream of a post-racial America where the content of a person’s character would be all that we cared about, where his black children could play with my white-and-American Indian children and Opinionated Man’s Asian children without anyone thinking it strange.

Guess what? The second part of that dream has been fulfilled. It already existed in some parts of the United States when MLK said the words, but it was not as pervasive as it should have been in a society founded on the simple principle that God created all of us equal, endowed with certain unalienable rights. That was wrong and white people repented of it 50 years ago.

Today — most of “white” America has long ago walked into post-racial America. We don’t care if our kids play with other races, we welcome neighbors regardless of their skin color, we have coworkers/employees/bosses who are different from us and we don’t care — or even notice. Some of us (who didn’t read Dreams From My Father) voted for Barack Obama, not caring if he was half-black or because we hoped his election would finally end the whole racism debate in this country. That would be my brother, who is as Indian as I am and really hoped his black son-in-law would stop looking for racist qualities in his “white” father-in-law if he voted for a black president.

Wow, what a miscalculation that was! Today, we are further from MLK’s dream than we were in 2007. Why? Because minorities took the election of Barack Obama as an excuse to make judgments about “white” people based not on the content of their character, but on the color of their skin. I’m not saying everyone. I know blacks, Hispanics and Indians who see past that superficial emblem, but far too many blacks, Hispanics and Indians with access to microphones and television cameras look at the exterior and see a racist for no other reason than that the person they’re looking at has white skin.


Think about what you are doing!

There comes a time when you have to lay aside the grievances of the past in order to move forward into a healthy relationship. You don’t forget, but you move on. Conversely, if you poke and demand recompense from people who mean you no ill, eventually, they’re going to feel that you mean them ill and they’re going to act accordingly. We’re at that point now.

The only thing holding us back from being a post-racial society are those who, for whatever reason, are unwilling to accept that we already are a post-racial society.

Let it go, folks! That’s all that stands between us and the dream!

Do We Still Have the Dream?   2 comments

It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day and that seems like an appropriate time to declare my mind-crush on Walter E. Williams. Normally, I like him for his down-to-earth explanations of economics, but he also speaks sense in a number of areas. Amid all the mainstream civil rights lobby speeches, I find his common sense and ethical treatment of the human race to be well-worth some attention. The title of this particular article resonates with me. There are a lot of things I can’t say because my grandmother’s Indian blood skipped my eyes, but Walter Williams can say what needs to be said, so I’ll let him.

What You Can’t Say

by Walter E. Williams

Jon Hubbard, a Republican member of the Arkansas House of Representatives, has a book, titled Letters to the Editor: Confessions of a Frustrated Conservative. Among its statements for which Hubbard has been criticized and disavowed by the Republican Party is, “The institution of slavery that the black race has long believed to be an abomination upon its people may actually have been a blessing in disguise. The blacks who could endure those conditions and circumstances would someday be rewarded with citizenship in the greatest nation ever established upon the face of the Earth.”

Hubbard’s observation reminded me of my 1972 job interview at the University of Massachusetts. During a reception, one of the Marxist professors asked me what I thought about the relationship between capitalism and slavery. My response was that slavery has existed everywhere in the world, under every political and economic system, and was by no means unique to capitalism or the United States. Perturbed by my response, he asked me what my feelings were about the enslavement of my ancestors. I answered that slavery is a despicable violation of human rights but that the enslavement of my ancestors is history, and one of the immutable facts of history is that nothing can be done to change it.

The matter could have been left there, but I volunteered that today’s American blacks have benefited enormously from the horrible suffering of our ancestors. Why? I said the standard of living and personal liberty of black Americans are better than what blacks living anywhere in Africa have. I then asked the professor what it was that explained how tens of millions of blacks came to be born in the U.S. instead of Africa. He wouldn’t answer, but an answer other than slavery would have been sheer idiocy. I attempted to assuage the professor’s and his colleagues’ shock by explaining to them that to morally condemn a practice such as slavery does not require one to also deny its effects.

My yet-to-be-learned lesson – and perhaps that of Rep. Hubbard – is that there are certain topics or arguments that one should not bring up in the presence of children or those with little understanding. Both might see that explaining a phenomenon is the same as giving it moral sanction or justification. It’s as if one’s explanation that the independent influence of gravity on a falling object is to cause it to accelerate at 32 feet per second per second could be interpreted as giving moral sanction and justification to gravity.

Slavery is widely misunderstood, and as such has been a tool for hustlers and demagogues. Slavery has been part of the human condition throughout recorded history and everywhere on the globe. Romans enslaved other Europeans; Greeks enslaved other Greeks; Asians enslaved Asians; Africans enslaved Africans; and in the New World, Aztecs enslaved Aztecs and other native groups. Even the word slave is derived from the fact that Slavic people were among the early European slaves.

Though racism has been used to justify slavery, the origins of slavery had little to do with racism. In recent history, the major slave traders and slave owners have been Arabs, who enslaved Europeans, black Africans and Asians. A unique aspect of slavery in the Western world was the moral outrage against it, which began to emerge in the 18th century and led to massive efforts to eliminate it. It was Britain’s military might and the sight of the Union Jack on the high seas that ultimately put an end to the slave trade.

Unfortunately, the facts about slavery are not the lessons taught in our schools and colleges. The gross misrepresentation and suggestion in textbooks and lectures is that slavery was a uniquely American practice done by racist white people to black people. Despite abundant historical evidence, youngsters are taught nothing about how the Founding Fathers quarreled, debated and agonized over the slave issue.

October 23, 2012

Walter E. Williams is the John M. Olin distinguished professor of economics at George Mason University, and a nationally syndicated columnist. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page.

Copyright © 2012 Creators Syndicate, Inc.


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