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Straight No Chaser: More Value In Broken Windows Than A Broken Spine?

Op/Ed By Gloria Wintson Al-Sarag


gloria_winston_al-sarag2Before you start pointing your crooked fingers at me, let me be crystal clear, so some of you who choose to understand just might do so. Please do not confuse my passion with anger. Please don’t misinterpret my truth for bitterness. And, for God’s sake, please do not believe that any European value, or habit, I may have picked up on does not negate the love I have for MY people.

I have the deepest respect, and admiration, for the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But, I was not one of the people sitting at lunch counters being spit upon, beaten, or jailed. I was a card-carrying member of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. While some of my brothers and sisters were being beaten, kicked, and humiliated as they followed their teachings; I had been on a rifle range, learning to shoot anyone who violated my rights. As a section leader, I taught classes that encouraged no less than respect for the law, and how to carry oneself if ever approached by law enforcement. As a people concerned about our community, and the injustices occurring therein, we recognized that many individuals did not know their rights, which was something that could have landed you, not only in hot water, but, as indicated by recent events; it could get you killed.

Baltimore, Rochester, and this nation, stand in the need of prayer.

The recent events in Ferguson, Baltimore, and elsewhere, and the demonstrations which have been occurring in protest of the injustices happening to black men, scare me. Our history, beginning with the founding of the birth of this great nation, has been one where those who have been quick to condemn violence, have lacked knowledge.

Prior to the Civil War in 1857, the Dred Scott decision helped to declare the lives of black men, and those of African descent, to be of no value. The Dred Scott decision clearly stated that NO person with African blood could become a citizen of the United States. The Dred Scott decision, among other things, also helped set the pace for a mentality which has been uncomfortably woven into the fabric of the quilt we have all sought for cover. And, depending upon which side of the street you may have been raised, you may look down your noses at black men, or even be condescending enough to think that, because they may have a criminal background, they may be trash, and their lives not worthy.

Some folks seem to be happy that, because a black man may have had a “rap sheet,” and met his death by the hands of those who have been sworn to protect and serve, society will be better off.

In fact, some people have actually made comments describing black men as being “thugs,” “animals,” and the like.

I don’t know why they don’t keep what they feel real enough call them the “N” word, like they probably really want, but, I am sure it has been a term used more often than not at their dinner tables.

Racism is not something which can be swept under the rug. It is real. It exists, and, as much as some try to feign acceptance, it can surface in a variety of ways.

As a result, the underlying mentality, and lack of value some whites may have for black people will become apparent from time to time. All you have to do is pay attention to what they have said, blogged about, or done. Pay attention to the types of news about blacks which may have gotten a rise out of them. There have been several news articles they’ve seemed to have cherished enough to re-share, regardless of how degrading it may have made the next black person feel.

They really haven’t cared.  They’ve only wanted to be right.

And then, there have been different kinds of racists. There have been those who may have been born Hispanic, but have only represented their culture when it is convenient. I know of some Hispanics who have distanced themselves so far from their cultures, they’ve gone as far as to marry outside of their race, move so far out, and away from their kinfolks; they have kids who’ve probably never heard of Three Kings Day.

July ’64 should have been a lesson to those in Rochester. It brought about much-needed CHANGE, in some instances. It did not become a cure-all for Rochester ills, but, from the ashes rose agencies like Action for A Better Community Inc. (ABC), and Rochester Jobs Inc.

In addition, the Urban League found its way to town, with the help of Dr. Walter Cooper, a man who, incidentally, wrote the original proposal which established ABC.

The disappointment I experienced recently came when folks I’ve tried to respect, actually made comments condemning those who look like them, and acting like they have no clue about riots. I almost felt some of the comments I read had been meant to solely curry favor from whites. I don’t condone, support, or provoke violent behavior, but, in our history, violence is about the only thing which has exacted CHANGE.

Riots have been caused by problems which have gone unresolved in a people. Sometimes, they have been caused by those who have been overjoyed, similarly to Kentucky College ball fans. But, RIOTS are merely a symptom of a problem. It can’t be stated enough that, the situation which has occurred in Baltimore, for instance, has gone deeper than Freddie Gray. Demonstrations for Trayvon Martin, and others, have been merely a symptom of the REAL problems black men face in today’s society. There can be no POST-racial society, when whites collectively refuse to understand the plight of ALL black men.

Whites, as well as some NEGROES, have collectively refused to admit that economic despair, and urban blight, have contributed to the significant disparities in the way black men have been treated by the criminal justice system. Yet, the problem is not new, and certainly not ALL in law enforcement have been guilty of these acts of aggression.

Another lesson I used to teach, as a section leader with the BPP, is, ‘Just because you see someone black being arrested, don’t assume he has done anything wrong.’  We taught people to ask questions; not to interfere, but to ask questions, and stop assuming everyone in handcuffs committed a crime.

However, racism has become increasingly apparent when we’ve recognized how white men have gone unscathed, and have been treated with dignity, even after they’ve killed children in a classroom, or innocent folks in a movie theater. It begs the question, how has America become one nation under God, with liberty and justice for all? There is no doubt that, as far back as the early 1700s, our history has shown, “Sam Adams and the Sons of Liberty proved that rioting, looting, and violence, disgusting as they often were, could be effective Revolutionary tools.”  

I think an appreciation, and understanding, of our history just might help those who have been prone to call names, and look down their noses at those who have been sick and tired, of being sick and tired. Again, I am not condoning any acts of violence, or ignorance, but, more so trying to understand from where these acts have come. Being black in America should have taught us there has been much to be concerned about, at times.

We need to learn to value someone’s death, from a broken spine while in police custody, more than being concerned about a few broken windows.


Quote Source: A. J. Langguth, “Patriots: The Men Who Started the American Revolution,” (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988); John C. Miller, “Origins of the American Revolution,” (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1943), pg. 135.)