This weekend, I started to do some research on the hate crime numbers in Philadelphia in the wake of the flash mob attacks-as well as the recent incident in Milwaukee. That is because I consider what has been happening in those two cities to be clear examples of one ethnic group targeting another ethnic group. Then, just last night, comes the news of the June 26 murder of a black man in Jackson, Mississippi by a group of white teenagers-2 car loads of them- for no other reason beyond the man's race. (One teen has been charged with murder and another for assault.)
As one whose mother was a Southerner, I had come to the belief over the past few decades that it was a new South that had put the KKK, lynchings, segregation, and resistance to civil rights behind them. I had come to the belief that race relations between whites ands blacks in the South were as good, if not better, as anywhere else in the US.
And now this.
It may well be true that this could have just as easily have happened in New York, Boston or Chicago. The more important point is that we are going the wrong way again. Blacks attack whites in Philadelphia and Milwaukee, and a gang of white teens attacks and kills a 48-year-old black man in Jackson, Mississippi. One can argue that these are isolated incidents, but it is undeniable that anger is being stoked on both sides when these awful things occur. The damage to our country and our society will be incalculable, as if we needed one more problem.
When James Byrd was murdered several years ago in Jasper, Texas by three white men who dragged him to his death with a vehicle, the local community came together as one to work together. The case was quickly solved and justice was meted out (including 2 death sentences). When Jesse Jackson came blowing into town, he was quickly told by black community leaders that his presence was not needed. They were doing just fine with their white brethren without him. That is what needs to happen now in Jackson.
There are so many issues that need to be discussed between white and black America. They always say that America needs a frank and open discussion on race. I agree. It must be frank and open on both sides because both whites and blacks have legitimate concerns, as evidenced by Philadelphia and Milwaukee. But it has to be always an exchange of words and ideas, not violence.
Milwaukee, Philadelphia and now Jackson, Mississippi have done us enormous damage. I commend Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter for his actions in dealing with the issue. I think at this time, it would be good for President Obama to play a role in getting people to come together. What that role would be I am not sure, but now might be the time for him to give a speech to the nation.
(I can't believe I said that.)