By Leader & Times publisher EARL WATT
I am not so naive to believe that racism does not exist.
In a community made up of Hispanics, we get our share of racial comments from both sides, and our shrinking African American population is another sign in itself of racial issues.
I am well aware that as a white male, I really am not supposed to address racial issues because I am the problem.
Last week, a young African American male was shot and killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., and the town has been on fire ever since with riots and looting.
There is an ongoing investigation, and for the first time in my life, I believe I can understand a little of what minorities have gone through.
The investigation has been turned over to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. When I heard that, I knew what the outcome was going to be before a court hearing, before any evidence was presented. He talks race all the time.
When race enters into a tragedy like this, we all take our sides without even thinking about it, and if we don’t admit it, we are liars.
Whites who may instantly side with African Americans before hearing all the facts are no different. They are also joining in on the assumption that the shooting was race driven.
Electing an African American president, and re-electing him, has done little to address racial issues in America.
A couple of years ago, I was invited to speak to NELL, a group in Liberal that often discusses racial relations.
One attendee wanted me to admit there is a bias in the newspaper against African Americans.
I did not believe it then nor do I believe it now. Our news coverage has nothing to do with race in our view. In some of the members of their group, it does.
An example shared was that we did not print the president’s State of the Union speech in the paper.
We never print the president’s State of the Union speech. We did print a story about the State of the Union speech.
I attended Liberal’s schools, and when I reached middle school, I was exposed to a larger minority culture, particularly African American. I learned some different music and made new friends. Kids tend to do that.
When I look at the racial tension in our nation today, the answer is not simple as long as we keep looking at ourselves as separate groups based on our color.
Morgan Freeman, an African American, told us we have to stop talking about race if we are ever going to get beyond it.
Most of the time, a Hollywood actor speaks about liberal issues and is celebrated, but when one speaks out like Freeman did, he is vilified or at least challenged, even referred to as simply “an actor” as Slate.com’s Jamelle Bouie did when explaining how Freeman was wrong.
Martin Luther King, Jr., said we should not judge based on the color of our skin but on the content of our character.
That is not what is happening in Ferguson today.
The reason had to be race, we are told. There can be no other answer.
Al Sharpton has shown up to push that idea home.
It might have been racial. I don’t know. If it was, then the officer should face the penalties prescribed by law.
Riots and looting only lead to more race skepticism.
I am sure the African American community feels about white law enforcement the way I do about trusting Eric Holder to conduct a fair and impartial investigation. We all still have suspicions.
When we can trust the system beyond the color of those involved, then we can start to get beyond race.
When we all trust in justice, and allow the courts to do what they do, and when we can separate the power of the office from the color of the office holder, then we can become one people.
But as long as we are talking about race, that is all we will ever be.