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28 February 2010

Can We Talk?


I love listening to Joan Rivers’ stand up comedy. Her famous line, “Can we talk?” always preceded a harsh truth, usually about the celebrity du jour. The truth is often harsh and ugly. We have to coat it, and cover it, and disguise it, so that we can ignore it. Underneath all the wrapping, we still hear the ugly truth honestly mumbling the unattractive reality we work so hard to escape.
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On this last day of February, Black History Month, I want to talk. I want to talk about dreams, and myths, and truth.
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I live in a land of contradictions. There is the United States. This is the physical place where I spend my days and my nights. The United States is cities, farms, skyscrapers, homeless encampments, luxury condominiums, and housing projects. Then there is America . . . . the idea; the concept; the dream; the intangible hope that all people share – freedom and liberty.
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Liberty: immunity from arbitrary exercise of authority, political independence
Freedom: the power to act, to speak and to think without externally imposed restraints
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Is there liberty in America for everyone?
Are the people immune to arbitrary exercise of authority?
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Ask the Black man who is stopped by a White police officer for no other reason than he is the wrong color and driving a car that is too nice in the wrong neighborhood if he enjoys the blessings of liberty. What do you think he would say?
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Is there freedom in America for everyone?
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Are the people free to act, to speak, and to think without attracting the attention of the police?
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Can we talk? Three or more White kids hanging out at the local shopping mall are just a bunch of kids. Shopkeepers hope that maybe they will spend some money in their store. Three or more Black kids hanging out at the local shopping mall are a gang. Shopkeepers think they might steal something or start some trouble. A bunch of White folks hoist up misspelled signs demanding the President be impeached and they are exercising their freedom to assemble and the right to demand redress of their grievances against the government. A bunch of Black folks hoist up signs and demand equality and they are hosed, beaten by police officers, and the dogs set upon them because they are disturbing the peace and creating a public nuisance. A little White child goes missing and it’s on the news, there is a call for community support, and the police scour every inch of the surrounding area looking for the child. A little Black child goes missing and hardly anyone outside the immediate family and neighborhood takes notice.
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In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, when White people took food from the grocery stores, they found it. When Black people did the same thing, they looted it. The Black people who suffered in New Orleans, Louisiana following hurricane Katrina were called whiners and criminals but the people affected by Hurricane Ike that devastated Galveston are victims and residents. Years after Katrina devastated New Orleans, no one cares but people returned to Gaveston within a few months and had electricity service.
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I live in a land of contradictions. But it goes even deeper than skin color. Corporations reach into the pockets of the tax payers and it’s called a bail out. The people ask to receive assistance and it’s called welfare and Socialism. Those of us calling for fairness and equity in hiring, promotions and wages for women are feminists and mocked as frigid bitches or lesbians.
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Can we talk? TRUTH: There is White Male Democracy and then there is whatever is left for the rest of us. I have been on this Earth for almost half a century, and the one thing that I have found sorely lacking in America is respect for truth. We don’t like truth because truth doesn’t support the beliefs in myths that we hold so dear.
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Can’t you see it people? Can’t you hear the murmurs of truth? Can we talk?
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Insurance Redlining
Housing Discrimination
Workplace Discrimination Divides Nation
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