Monday, July 20, 2015

Blaming the legacy of lynching

NY Times columnist David Brooks writes:
Dear Ta-Nehisi Coates,

The last year has been an education for white people. There has been a depth, power and richness to the African-American conversation about Ferguson, Baltimore, Charleston and the other killings that has been humbling and instructive.
Yes, these events were educational to me. I did not know how much black people think that it is acceptable to try to kill white cops, and how much white liberals tolerate such views.

I did not know how much liberals want to censor others, such as by banning private sales of confederate battle flags on EBay.
Your ancestors came in chains. In your book the dream of the comfortable suburban life is a “fairy tale.” For you, slavery is the original American sin, from which there is no redemption. America is Egypt without the possibility of the Exodus.
Brooks is Jewish. He married a non-Jewish wife who then converted to Judaism, and they visit Israel regularly. So I guess they are big believers in the Exodus myth. But there is no historical record of the Jews ever being slaves in Egypt, or of causing plagues on Egyptians to get their freedom.

I probably have ancestors who came to America as Indentured servants. That is about as relevant today as slavery. I have also had cops and other officials harass me as much as the blacks were in the widely publicized examples.
Your definition of “white” is complicated. But you write “‘White America’ is a syndicate arrayed to protect its exclusive power to dominate and control our bodies. Sometimes this power is direct (lynching), and sometimes it is insidious (redlining).”
I have never met any white people who want to control black bodies. Complaints about lynching and redlining are nearly always about events before I was born. Even the most racist white people just want black people to obey the law and behave like responsible citizens.
But I have to ask, Am I displaying my privilege if I disagree? Is my job just to respect your experience and accept your conclusions? Does a white person have standing to respond?

If I do have standing, I find the causation between the legacy of lynching and some guy’s decision to commit a crime inadequate to the complexity of most individual choices.
Brooks wants permission to criticize criminal behavior?

The legacy of lynching is that a century ago, vigilantes in the South might have hanged a black man for raping a white girl. Does this make blacks more likely to commit crimes today? Is that what someone is saying? Is it because the punishment is not swift enuf today?

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