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The Other Side of the Tracks blog by Word Press

When Race Is A Hardluck Story

The Other Side of the Tracks: A Socially Speaking commentary

July 20, 2010

By Perry Redd


Since I cut cable out of my life about eight weeks ago, I’ve noticed a phenomenon that I didn’t notice before and I don’t like.  I come across this occurrence whenever I’m browsing channels on network TV, but I first noticed it when I had cable.  America, in all it’s diversity, pays attention to it’s minority populations…at least blacks and Latinos.  The more TV I watch (maybe five hours per week, including “60 Minutes” and “The Simpsons”), the more I see that blacks and Latinos are featured—as hardluck cases.

Of course, I’m sick of it.  The only time we’re making TV is when we’re “wanted” or “wanton”.  It’s among the most insulting gestures this country can make—along with separation, segregation and discrimination.  For years, we’ve been inundated with plenty of “Cops” episodes where blacks are consistently chased through their neighborhoods.  It’s clear that white people don’t commit street crime.  They’re reserved for America’s Most Wanted.  They share the show with blacks there…

This isn’t limited to television.  Now, I know why conservatives do it.  It heightens their sense of nobility; exposes their charitable deeds (remember what Jesus said about “your right hand?”).  The well-meaning progressives in radio are equally as guilty.  NPR and Democracy Now are notorious for finding the worst-situated blacks and connecting them to white “saviors” in order to prove what exactly?  Yes, I’m sick of listening.

I recall Hurricane Katrina.  For a minute, I thought this is what all black people look like.  Whenever they do stories on school achievement, the networks show students who “overcame the odds” or are “on the fringe” of failure…they’re always minority.  Remember the movie about the football player where Sandra Bullock saves him from a life of poverty?  I see stories on overcrowded jails, gang life and teen pregnancy.  I wonder how white people are even reproducing, ‘cause their young people are never shown having kids (oh, I forgot about Bristol Palin and “Cops”—they show “poor, white trash” there).

Going back to the days of Sally Struthers and her “Save The Children” info-mercials on twilight TV some years back, it occurred that white people “save” the world.  They destroy it too; but they’re glorified for that (Settlement of America, Hiroshima, Viet Nam, etc.).  It appears that no other race on earth would live to see tomorrow if white savior heroes don’t show up and rescue people from themselves.  Before Shaft, blacks never could fill those shoes.

How realistic is it that whenever bad guys invade the peace, Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson, William Shatner, Mel Gibson or Keanau Reeves came to save the day?  Well life imitates art.  You see, now it’s Paul Bremer, Thad Allen or A.C. Cooper.  Poor black people ain’t got a chance…

When it’s all over, said and done, white males aren’t the heroes…they just write the scripts.  It is true that when you’ve got money, then you can conduct a helluva lot more charity.  So wealth disparity explains the why in that.  But when it comes to “bad guys”, white males comprise of more people in prison; since they make up more of the population, then that makes sense.  But you wouldn’t know it from searching the internet.  They proudly display the percentages of those incarcerated, but fail to display the raw numbers. 

Obviously, African American males have high rates of incarceration. Its an systemic fact that Black men are sentenced to more than one year in prison (585,800) outnumbered both white men (449,200) and Hispanic men (199,700). What is particularly shocking is that in percentage terms, on New Year’s Eve 2001, 10% of all black non-Hispanic males between the ages of 25 and 29 were in prison. In the same age group, 1.2% of white males and 2.9% of Hispanic males welcomed the New Year in prison.  The TV show Cops had a good year…
Black males represented the largest percentage (35.4%) of inmates held in custody, followed by white males (32.9%) and Hispanic males (17.9%).  But of course, whites make up 69% of the general population of the country.  Almost half (48%) of all mothers held in the nation’s prisons at midyear 2007 were white, 28% were black, and 17% were Hispanic.  It’s not that minorities commit more crimes, it’s that the decisions made to arrest them are executed more often by whites.

Of the estimated 147,400 children with a mother in prison, about 45% had a white mother. A smaller percentage of the children had a black (30%) or Hispanic (19%) mother.  But black kids are more often shown in the media as needing “white saviors.”

Why do I continue to talk about race?  Simply this: it is the most prevalent, yet avoided issue that lies at the root of all that is problematic in America—and we get it wrong.  It is the reason why we progress in baby steps, rather than leaps and bounds.  Deceiving ourselves on the realities of racism is why it’ll always be a hardluck story.


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