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Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 8, 2016

Race relations in America

By Curt Swarm

Race riots across the country, white police officers shooting black people, accusations of racism, discrimination and reverse discrimination fill the news. What’s going on? Not good press for a country founded on freedom, where all people are created equal. Our adversaries around the world are having a heyday broadcasting news clips of Ferguson, Mo., deadly choke holds, and black children being gunned down. “This is democracy,” they decry, “the American Dream.” “And the U.S. accuses us of human rights violations!”

As a white person, let me be the first to say that I have no idea what it is like to be a black person in America. I don’t know the feeling of racial profiling, being followed around in a department store, or having “the talk” given to me by my parents. I’ve always felt that I had as equal a chance to get ahead as anyone, that my accomplishments were pretty much up to me, that hard work and honesty were the keys to success. Not so, I guess, for everyone.

In college, in a black literature class, a black professor lectured that what’s going on is rooted in our DNA: black is bad, white is good. Human nature tells us to reach for the light, and shun the dark. It starts at birth, as we descend the birth canal in search of light. In theater, evil is portrayed as black, and white as good. We sleep during the night, and are active during the day. Our fears are wrapped in, and heightened by, darkness. Distrust of the black person is not always bigotry, but human nature and perception becomes reality.

So where does this leave black people in America? They are running out of patience. Justifiably so. You’d think race relations would be getting better in the United States, after all we have an African-American president and attorney general. But race relations seem to be getting worse, almost to the boiling point.

By the way, protests and demonstrations often turn violent, and frustrations are taken out on innocent property owners and even property and housing owned by the demonstrators themselves (acts of civil disobedience). Take for example the demonstrations in Mexico over the disappearance or murder of 43 college students. The demonstrations turned violent resulting in destruction of private and public property.

What to do? Body cameras on police officers are a good idea. Both parties will act differently if they know they’re being recorded.

Education! If the white person or white police officer does indeed have an innate fear of black people, it can be overcome by education and training. Just like in the military, how to act or react in certain stressful situations can be taught. When human emotions fail, training takes over.

Shoot-to-kill? I really question this mentality. I know it is taught. “If you shoot, shoot-to-kill.” If it’s taught, it can be untaught.

Stop and frisk without probable cause has got to stop!

Affirmative Action. The last time I checked, and I used to be an EEO Officer, Affirmative Action is still the law. The basic core of Affirmative Action requires government contractors and subcontractors to employ qualified minorities in proportion to the racial make up of the community in which they reside. The police department in Ferguson, Mo., since it receives government funding and equipment, falls under the mandates of Affirmative Action. Why the Ferguson Police Department was allowed to have such a low percentage of minorities, in a high-minority community, is not acceptable.

Black football players at the St. Louis Rams football game, holding their hands up in the “Hands up, don’t shoot!” profile, remind me of the 1968 Olympics, where black athletes held up their medals in protest of racial discrimination.

We are on the cusp of breaking the color barrier in the United States. The next few years (or days) will determine whether we are indeed a country where all men are created equal, or a country of hypocrites.

Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at curtswarm@yahoo.com, or visit his website at www.empty-nest-words-photos-and-frames.com.