FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

I May Be White, But I’m Not Stupid

by CARL FINAMORE

The vigilante murder of young Trayvon Martin and his legal lynching in the courtroom is producing a valuable conversation about racism that is probing deep into the very heart of our country.

Hopefully, it all will lead to an honest and frank examination among the white population.

So far, the intense discussions unfolding on virtually every media outlet expose the baseless racist argument as pathetically shallow and empty, none more so than the charge that somehow Trayvon Martin was responsible for his own death.

This preposterous allegation belongs in the dustbin of history along with defense of America’s ugly legacy of slavery and segregation.

Certainly all the main racist arguments of our sordid history have been repeatedly repudiated but they continually get regurgitated as in re-circulated and re-packaged.

Right-wing commentators, for example, deny race was a factor in George Zimmerman’s killing of Trayvon Martin. What? Trayvon was absolutely targeted because of his color. That is what originally aroused the biased fears of Zimmerman. Can any reasonably thoughtful person deny this?

I may be white, but I’m not stupid!

Another one of the favorite tactics of these throwback commentators is to rapidly shift attention away from an examination of Zimmerman’s actual stalking and profiling of Martin. They change the subject and attempt to shift blame onto the Black community by citing crime statistics in large cities like Chicago.

Of course, crime in Chicago has nothing to do with the facts of Trayvon’s murder. Plus, a genuine discussion of crime cannot possibly be separated from a discussion of how the enduring legacy of racism and poverty tears apart the social fabric of a community.

But that’s not their purpose. The whole premise of conservatives is to suggest that Blacks, as in their fabricated example of Chicago, are responsible for their own self-induced plight, thus tying into the twisted notion repeatedly mentioned that Trayvon himself was responsible for his own death. This is abhorrent nonsense.

I may be white, but I’m not stupid.

To further buttress their retrograde prejudices, these bloviating loudmouths cite the judge prohibiting mention of race in the trial, Sanford police and FBI reports rejecting race as a factor and the prosecution team still insisting post-trial that race was not a factor.

But these denials by almost all the powerful government institutions and their representatives that race did not play a role in Trayvon’s murder does actually reveal an important point, but it’s the opposite one intended by the reactionary race-deniers.

Prosecution: Not So Much Incompetent as Unfair

Racism in America not only exists, it is excruciatingly deep, seeping not just into personal consciousness but into the most powerful institutions of our society.

For example, a criminal justice system that prosecutes on a federal and local level more Blacks, imprisons more Blacks and sentences more Blacks to longer prison terms than whites with similar charges cannot be relied upon to change its colors and vigorously and thoroughly prosecute a racist crime like Zimmerman’s.

Recognizing racism as Zimmerman’s motivation would challenge the documented long-standing biased assumptions of Sanford authorities. Their history explains why Zimmerman was at first promptly released without charges.

The local prosecution was, therefore, not so much incompetent as it was unfair. It’s the only way to understand how the extremely experienced legal team, among other numerous failings, refused to challenge their own police investigator testifying he “believed” Zimmerman.

Blacks are treated differently by cops and courts all across this country. It’s obvious and it’s on the record.

I may be white, but I’m not stupid.

Why Racism Persists

The dominant culture always controls the message and spreads its biases everywhere.

For example, none of the monumental civil rights reforms won in this country started at the top. All were jump started by massive movements from below, outside of and often against institutions of power.

But besides persisting inside government, police and courts, racism goes even deeper into the very fabric of our society. For instance, among employers, there is money, lots of money in discrimination.

The undercurrent of racism, never openly stated these days, crudely portrays Blacks as lazy and violent without any aspirations to succeed. Similarly, sexism portrays women’s role primarily as caretakers for children, another prejudice seldom expressed openly.

In both cases, these false stereotypes create social stigmas that in the workplace appear to justify lower wages, benefits and opportunities for advancement. The more Blacks and women, for example, are socially compartmentalized into these false categories, the more it appears as an acceptable rationale for their lower status in the workplace.

Untold billions of dollars accrue to businesses each year paying less to Blacks and women, particularly Black women according to statistics, for comparable types of work performed by whites with less education and skill.

This is fact, this is the record. As long as businesses profit from discrimination, there exists a huge incentive for it to endure.

I may be white, but I’m not stupid!

How to Fix It

I am particularly inspired by the words of leading abolitionist Frederick Douglass. He continually agitated for building mass protest movements. “Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation are people who want crops without plowing the ground….,” he famously said.

And he urged people to become active in liberating themselves. “I prayed for freedom for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs,” the escaped slave wrote so vividly.

I always understood his powerful words to mean that the harsh realities of prejudice had to be clearly recognized and directly confronted before racism would ever take a backseat to reason and humanity.

In other words, people will repudiate racial attitudes after they embrace a social consciousness that understands the vast racial problems in our society are not personal excuses and not self-induced but, instead, actual harsh conditions imposed on people of color by powerful entrenched interests who benefit and profit.

It is this progressive social awareness, once embraced, that promotes more humanity and more activism, a powerful combination that has in the past and can once again literally change our world.

Of course, most of us prefer to be loved and, in particular, respected, but we can’t really control how we feel about each other. But society can control how we all are treated and in that regard, we must act to make sure everyone is treated fairly. Taking a cue from whistleblower Edward Snowden, “that’s the society I want to live in.”

I may be white, but I’m not stupid!

Carl Finamore grew up in the all-white, working-class northwest-side neighborhood of Chicago in the 1950s. The civil rights movement showed him people had to “fight the power” to win freedom. He now lives in San Francisco. He can be reached at local1781@yahoo.com

Carl Finamore is Machinist Lodge 1781 delegate, San Francisco Labor Council, AFL-CIO. He can be reached at local1781@yahoo.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
Ashley Smith
Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution
Andrew Stewart
Did Gore Throw the 2000 Election?
Vincent Navarro
Is the Nation State and Its Welfare State Dead? a Critique of Varoufakis
John Wight
Syria’s Kurds and the Wages of Treachery
Lawrence Davidson
The New Anti-Semitism: the Case of Joy Karega
Mateo Pimentel
The Affordable Care Act: A Litmus Test for American Capitalism?
Roger Annis
In Northern Syria, Turkey Opens New Front in its War Against the Kurds
David Swanson
ABC Shifts Blame from US Wars to Doctors Without Borders
Norman Pollack
American Exceptionalism: A Pernicious Doctrine
Ralph Nader
Readers Think, Thinkers Read
Julia Morris
The Mythologies of the Nauruan Refugee Nation
George Wuerthner
Caving to Ranchers: the Misguided Decision to Kill the Profanity Wolf Pack
Ann Garrison
Unworthy Victims: Houthis and Hutus
Julian Vigo
Britain’s Slavery Legacy
John Stanton
Brzezinski Vision for a Power Sharing World Stymied by Ignorant Americans Leaders, Citizens
Philip Doe
Colorado: 300 Days of Sunshine Annually, Yet There’s No Sunny Side of the Street
Joseph White
Homage to EP Thompson
Dan Bacher
The Big Corporate Money Behind Jerry Brown
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
DNC Playing Dirty Tricks on WikiLeaks
Ron Jacobs
Education for Liberation
Jim Smith
Socialism Revived: In Spite of Bernie, Donald and Hillary
David Macaray
Organized Labor’s Inferiority Complex
David Cortright
Alternatives to Military Intervention in Syria
Binoy Kampmark
The Terrors of Free Speech: Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act
Cesar Chelala
Guantánamo’s Quagmire
Nyla Ali Khan
Hoping Against Hope in Kashmir
William Hughes
From Sam Spade to the Red Scare: Dashiell Hammett’s War Against Rightwing Creeps
Raouf Halaby
Dear Barack Obama, Please Keep it at 3 for 3
Charles R. Larson
Review: Paulina Chiziane’s “The First Wife: a Tale of Polygamy”
David Yearsley
The Widow Bach: Anna Magdalena Rediscovered
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail