A Conversation on Race

In his chilling account of the social and economic turbulence in which we now find ourselves – an essay written for the May 11, 2020 edition of The American Spectator, titled “A Time to Hate” – Rabbi Dov Fischer sets the stage by quoting from the Book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3:

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven;

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that
 which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up…

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

These are all part of the human experience, the realities of life that most of us encounter during our lifetime.  We’re born, we grow up, we plant, we harvest, we create new life, and if we are so blessed, we play a positive role in the lives of others.  On the other hand, some of us die in infancy or childhood, some of us waste our lives on drugs and alcohol, and some of us lead lives of “quiet desperation” from beginning to end.

Rabbi Fischer goes on to say that he believes most people have the potential for goodness and that he has always tried to find the good in people, until they ultimately prove to him that they have no capacity for good.  Sadly, as he follows the daily reports of violence and looting by Black Lives Matter, Antifa, and other Democratic Party “auxiliaries,” he is now forced to admit that he has “learned to hate.”

How many times will we have to hear of the untimely death of another black man at the hands of police officers because the victim chose not to comply with the lawful orders of the arresting officers?  How many young black men will continue to ignore their parents oft-repeated caution, “If you don’t want the police to shoot you, don’t resist arrest!?”  And will the racial hatred and violence resulting from the brutal murder of George Floyd provide us with a much needed turning point in race relations?    

In the 401 years since the arrival of the first slave ship at Jamestown on August 13, 1619, we have made significant progress in race relations.  But all of that progress was wiped away in just eight minutes and forty-seven seconds when George Floyd resisted arrest and Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, placed a knee across his throat, cutting off his air supply and killing him.     

As it did when Clayvon Martin lost his life while assaulting a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Florida, on February 26, 2012; when Eric Garner died while resisting arrest in an altercation with NYPD officers on August 9, 2014; when Michael Brown lost his life while attempting to kill a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, on July 17, 2014; when Freddie Gray lost his life in police custody in Baltimore on April 12, 2015; and when Alton Sterling was shot to death while resisting arrest in Baton Rouge on July 5, 2016, these episodes created a call from all sides of the political spectrum for a “long conversation” about race and race relations.  But when do those conversations begin?  Have any of us, black or white, held such conversations with other members of our community, black or white?  Probably not.  If others are holding such conversations I haven ‘t been invited to participate.  

Since 1988, I have lived in the middle of the Cherokee reservation in eastern Oklahoma, the largest Indian reservation in the nation, comprising all or part of fourteen Oklahoma counties.  But the Cherokees don’t riot, and they don’t loot.  They are gentle, hard-working, peace-loving people.  And because of the extent to which whites have inter-married with native Americans, it is often impossible to tell which of my friends and neighbors carry Cherokee blood and which do not.  Because inter-marriage between whites and those with native American bloodlines has been commonplace for nearly two centuries, those with a substantial amount of native American blood speak of it with pride.  Unlike the white liberals who are offended by the names of sports teams such as the Redskins, the Indians, or the Braves, they carry their Indian blood with pride.

What Americans of European descent cannot fully appreciate is the ethnic epiphany that all black children experience.  Like white children, black children and native American children begin life convinced that once each year, in the early spring, a very large rabbit visits every house in their neighborhood, leaving behind quantities of colored eggs, chocolate rabbits, marshmallow peeps, and plastic eggs containing small amounts of cash.  It is a belief system that all children share and which they continue to hold until, at some point, someone blurts out the truth of the matter.  There’s no such thing as an Easter Bunny.

But the favorite of all children is a gnome known round the world as Santa Claus, or Saint Nick.  He is their favorite nocturnal visitor because he is the most generous.  He can be counted upon to unload a treasure trove of toys and gifts far beyond anything the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy might deliver.  What most kids find so “cool” about Santa is that it’s possible to write to him at the North Pole, listing everything their heart desires, and then expect that most, if not all, of those wishes will show up under the family tree on Christmas Eve.

But learning the truth about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy is one thing.  It is a brief disappointment that soon passes.  But what about black children who can see at an early age that they, because of the color of their skin, are different from white children, and that, because of their skin color, they can expect to be treated differently in most professional and social settings.  That racial awakening comes at an early age and is constantly reinforced throughout their lifetimes. 

How can they not wonder, were the black children they saw romping playfully among the bloated corpses floating in bloody Rwandan river waters in 1994 their distant cousins?  And why are black people around the world still wearing loin cloths and living in mud huts, when those of European and Oriental descent enjoy all of the comforts provided by 21st century technology?  Surely, they must wonder by what cosmic miscalculation their skin color plays such a major role in where they live, how they earn a living, and what they might achieve in their lifetimes. 

But most of us have black friends and acquaintances who have not allowed their skin color to be an impediment to their success.  Some are physicians, business owners, and executives; some are college professors, and some are scientists and engineers.  These opportunities are available to everyone in America.  The difference between the successful and those who are less successful is that their parents understood the formula for success in the modern world and had the wisdom to see to it that their children’s skin color would not be a major factor in their success or failure.

Those parents understood that, in order to achieve social and economic success in 20th and 21st century society, there are certain requirements that must be met.  Children must be in school, on time, every day.  They must behave themselves, they must obey all the rules of classroom decorum, and while they’re in the classroom they must pay close attention to what the teachers are attempting to impart. 

Outside the classroom, they must be on their best behavior, they must stay out of trouble, and they must faithfully complete all of their homework assignments.  When they’ve completed their schooling and entered the work force, they must develop a work ethic that has them at their workplace every day, on time, appropriately dressed and groomed, and prepared to give their employer at least eight hours of their best effort in exchange for eight hours pay.

America is a land of unlimited opportunity.  All that is required to achieve great economic success is to follow the simple formula outlined above.  Failing to take advantage of educational opportunities and the failure to stay out of trouble are not part of a winning formula.  To acquire a lengthy police record by age twenty or twenty-one is not the way to “make it” in America.

So, who are those thugs, black and white, male and female, who fill the streets of Portland, Seattle, Chicago, and other major cities on a nightly basis?  They are the unfortunate children of parents who have failed us and who have failed their own children.  It is they who make it impossible for us to confront racial issues honestly and forthrightly. 

Men such as Barack Obama and Eric Holder have been especially insistent that we have a national conversation about race, but it is impossible to have an open and honest conversation with men of such questionable character. 

Since the day that Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, Democrats have been interested in nothing more than black votes, no matter what price they had to pay to acquire them.  Until African Americans fully understand the sinister nature of their relationship with the Democrat Party, we can never have the kind of honest conversation that politicians of both political parties, black and white, insist that we have.  It is, and always has been, the responsibility of the Republican Party and Republican elected officials to see to it that all of our black citizens are fully aware of their post-Civil War political history.  Unfortunately, our Republican leaders have not been up to the task and the American people are now being forced to pay a huge price for their inadequacy.  

Paul R. Hollrah is a retired government relations executive and a two-time member of the U.S. Electoral College.  He currently lives and writes among the hills and lakes of northeast Oklahoma’s Green Country.

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