Respectability and Baltimore

30 Apr 2015 06:26 am
Posted by: Donna

Much has been said about the protests in Baltimore following the death in police custody of 25 year old Freddie Gray and, of course, much of it is centered on how black people should better themselves so as to avoid deadly confrontations with the police and discrimination in general. You know the drill: Pull your pants up! Stay in school! Stop having babies out of wedlock! Stop being so angry!

I’ll just paraphrase something I posted on Facebook a while back about that:

An African-American man graduated with honors from Columbia University. He went on to become a community organizer and then to attend Harvard Law School, where he was the editor of the prestigious Law Review. Afterward, he worked as a civil rights attorney and as a lecturer at University of Chicago Law School.

In 1992 he married a woman who was an accomplished attorney and they had two daughters. They have been married ever since and are the model of an intact and stable family. He was elected to the Illinois State Senate and then to the United States Senate. In 2008 he was elected President of the United States. It does not get any more respectable than that.

And yet.

President Barack Obama, obviously the man I just described, is the target of a constant barrage of the ugliest and most vicious hatred imaginable. As is his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama. Candidate Obama got Secret Service protection back in 2007 (the earliest any Presidential candidate has ever gotten it) and and he and his family are under constant death threats, including some alleged “joking” ones by police officers. GOP members of Congress and other officeholders regularly treat the President with sneering contempt. An entire industry was forged around doubting the circumstances of his birth and qualification to be President.

It is clear that being the most respectable, and respected, black person in the world is no inoculation against having a whole lot of people resent the position you have attained and wish you ill. Or dead. In fact, there is a rather long and sordid history in America of black people being annihilated for doing the very things white people are currently scolding the protesters in Baltimore to do. So maybe think a little harder about why black people are angry before dispensing any stupid advice you may be inclined to give.

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