published Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

Cook: Black and white anger

The email came Tuesday morning. It was written by a man in Hixson. He had read Monday's column about Trayvon Martin and the fragmentation of America. Call him Rick. I assume he's white.

"While the Trayvon Martin shooting has stirred the black community ... why isn't there more focus on problems in the black community?" he emailed.

In other words, why aren't black Americans taking to the streets over issues within their own community?

Rick continued:

• Thousands of blacks will be killed by other blacks this year. Where are the protests within the black community over that?

• Which hurts the black community more: the Trayvon Martin decision or the abandonment of black fathers?

• Where is the uproar over educational under-achievement within the black community?

"I know you write me off as a Tea Party Racist," he finished. "It is not true! But I am aghast at the magnitude of the [Zimmerman] matter, while truly great issues dare not even be discussed."

I thought all morning and into the afternoon about what he said. Took me hours to write a response. In the end, after much writing and deleting and re-writing, it turned out to be just five little words.

"Rick, I think you're right."

The life of Eric Mason (black male killed by gunfire in Chattanooga) is as valuable as the life of Trayvon Martin. So are the lives of Lamunta Williams and Terry Parker Jr. and Edward Glenn (also killed by gunfire).

The lives of black drop-out teenagers whose futures are fading because they can't read are just as tragic as Trayvon, whose future, too, has vanished.

The heartache and cell-block hopelessness within the heart of so many absent black fathers are as profound as the hole within the heart of Mr. Martin, who will never hold or hug his son again.

Rick, of course all of it matters. Of course all of it is heartbreaking and worthy of protest.

Don't you think black folks know this, far more intimately than you or I?

Perhaps they're already marching and protesting, but just not in our neighborhood, or on our news channel, or in our church bulletin.

Perhaps they're already working to restore families and end mass incarceration and stop gang violence, but we're just not part of their work.

Perhaps they're praying with an earnest and broken heart you and I will never hear, but God does.

Perhaps they're doing nothing. Perhaps they're doing everything.

Perhaps they're longing to hear it from white America. From you and me.

Racism is our country's original sin, our oldest crime. The evil -- a most appropriate word -- of slavery suffering that lasted for generations. The Bible speaks of the sins of the fathers being passed onto sons. What about the sins of the slave-owners and Jim Crow overseers? How long are they passed on?

Since the Zimmerman verdict, so many of our conversations have been based around convincing. Whites convincing blacks that no one is holding them back. (I had phone call after phone call yesterday, saying this very thing.) Blacks convincing whites that racism exists, in tenacious ways. Lots of convincing, yet little reconciling.

"So many of the people of color, in particular the people of African descent in my life went to bed on Saturday without a sense of peace," writes Charles Howard, chaplain at the University of Pennsylvania, on Huffington Post. "And I am not sure that some of my non-Black friends understand why."

It is a powerful essay; I wrote another email to Rick, sent him the link, hopeful he sees this early line:

"There is a lack of peace because of the painful reminder that historically black lives are valued less than the lives of others," Howard writes.

So Rick, your anger is good. You are right to be angry when black kids are shot, or fail out of school, or miss their dads. You're right to be angry ... because their lives do indeed matter profoundly, immensely, magnificently.

Black people know this.

And if we really did too, then maybe your question -- why aren't they doing more? -- would be replaced by another one.

How can we do the good work together?

Contact David Cook at dcook@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at DavidCookTFP.

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

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riverman said...

Great column David.

July 17, 2013 at 8:45 a.m.
chet123 said...

i'm glad timefreepress respect (vague-free)free speech.....poster who dont agree with my veiws try to censure me....

thanks freepress!!

July 17, 2013 at 2:49 p.m.
LaughingBoy said...

When you have many apologists and race-baiters refusing to let themselves believe most problems blacks experience are self-generated, there's not much chance for working together. Until there is wide spread acceptance and understanding that the culture is not a positive currently, cycles of violence, poverty and under achievement will just continue to occur.

If "black people know this" then do something about it and stop looking for blame (Sharpton, Jackson, Obama, Crump, the usual "leaders").

July 17, 2013 at 4:34 p.m.
ddfinn said...

I read paper today about the Trayvon Martin case and sadly everyone thinks is this about race, as black american & as a person I think that the case was simple. Can I look out my door,see someone walk down street, grab my gun stop them whole them against there will,loose the fight,shoot them and say self-defence. After all that child or kid because he was not a adult. Was walking home.

July 17, 2013 at 10:05 p.m.
jjmez said...

It's not about what Zimmerman did. His actions may or may not have been racially motivated, but more motivated by perception of another race. The outcry is about a system that failed to hold him accountable. We can go on and on about black on black crime, but that's not the point. No one ever use the analogy of white on white crime when some white guy goes blazing into an elementary school or a theater and shoot up little white children. That's a lame excuse. In essence you're saying since criminals are doing it then why hold law-abiding citizens accountable when they do it. Throw rocks through old ladies windows because the other kids in the neighborhood is doing it.

The system failed. The jurors, for whatever reason failed. People have used the Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground law where there was clear evidence of self-defense, and was still prosecuted and found guilty anyway right there in Florida. So that's a lame excuse when the jurors claim they were just following the law. Trevor Dooley was found guilty of manslaughter for shooting and killing David James, when they got into an argument at a neighborhood tennis court. They had a history of fallouts. Dooley was much older than James. James, retired Air Force Veteran, white and was in much better shape than Dooley. Dooley is black. Dooley was walking back to him home while James continued to follow him when Dooley pulled his gun and shot him. Whether there was any kind of actual physical contact where James actually put his hands on Dooley I'm not sure. But Dooley was attempting to avoid a confrontation. Another case was where one Hispanic renter was shot and killed by his landlord. Another where a black female shot into the ceiling in an attempt to frighten away her abusive ex. She received 20 years. The excuse was she fired the gun while children were in the house, placing them in danger. So the law seems to vary depending upon who is firing the shot. What color skin they have, their economic status, standing in the community and if they have friends in the courts or in law enforcement. That's the issue. Not what Zimmerman did as much as what the system failed to do, and how this translates for the other perhaps million gun-toting Zimmermans out there, that will now be spoiling for the opportunity. We all know they're exist. There's no denying that.

July 17, 2013 at 10:25 p.m.
chet123 said...

LAUGHINGBOY.....ITS PEOPLE LIKE YOU THAT MAKE ME THINK TWICE ABOUT AMERICA FORIEGN POLICIES.....YOU REFUSE TO TREAT FELLOW AMERICAN WITH DIGNITY.....YOU THINK YOU KNOW WHAT GOOD FOR BLACK-AMERICA...WHEN IN REALITY...YOU ARE A BIG PART OF THE PROBLEM

THE BLACK-AMERICAN THAT I KNOW ARE HARD WORKING HONEST PEOPLE......YOUR PROBLEM IS THAT YOU ARE A VEIWER OF FOX NEWS....YOU HAVE BEEN DUMBED DOWN......YOU MY FRIEND HAVE LUMPED ALL BLACK-AMERICA WITH GANGS IN THIS COUNTRY EVENTHOUGH PEOPLE LIKE YOU CREATE THIS PROBLEM BY FLOODING THIS COUNTRY WITH GUNS. YOU ARE INSECURED IN YOURSELF SO YOU TRY TO RAISE YOURSELF UP BY PUSHING OTHERS DOWN IN MAKING BROAD ACCUSATION ON AN ENTIRE RACE OF PEOPLE.

NRA,GUN MANUFACTORS,STATE POLITICIANS HAVE CREATED THIS VOLENCE IN THE BLACK COMMUNITIES...

I DO FAULT BLACK-AMERICAN FOR NOT POLICING THEIR OWN COMMUNITIES..HAVING FALSE HOPE IN A JUDICIAL SYSTEM THAT WORK AGAINST THEM.!!!!

July 27, 2013 at 8:51 a.m.
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