"If you saw Tina Turner and Ike having a lovely breakfast, would you say their relationship's improved? Some people would. But a smart person would go, 'Oh, he stopped punching her in the face.'"
The quote is from an interview with comedian Chris Rock in New York magazine this week. It was widely shared online and is well worth the two clicks it will take you to find it. His point with the above quote?
"To say [electing] Obama is progress is saying that he's the first black person that is qualified to be president. That's not black progress. That's white progress. There's been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years."
Anyone who's been in this country for a few decades can see that racial progress has been made from the pre-civil rights era, but the recent events in Ferguson have opened new wounds and have pulled the covers off a nasty strain of American bigotry.
Rock also said, "I've invented a new app that helps you find out which of your friends are racists. It's called Facebook." Boy, did he nail that one. The posts on social media vilifying Michael Brown and his family are almost unavoidable at this point. Lots of people now seem to think it's important to convince others (and themselves) that Brown deserved to die. It's ugly out there in social media land.
There's little doubt that Brown was foolishly aggressive with a cop and that his behavior contributed to his death. And there's no question that the ensuing burning and looting in Ferguson gave those who wanted to turn this incident into an excuse to paint all blacks as "thugs" a great opportunity to do so.
But it's also likely that if a cop shot and killed a teenager who lived in your neighborhood and left his body in the street for hours in broad daylight, you and your neighbors would be upset and angry. There's also little doubt that the prosecutor in this case gamed the grand jury system, putting his thumb on the scales to keep Officer Darren Wilson's actions from objective legal scrutiny.
Little noticed in all the Ferguson furor was the subsequent case of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy who was shot by Cleveland, Ohio, police on November 21st. Unlike in the Brown case, there is video of this horrific killing. The cops pulled up at high speed, screeched to a halt, jumped out, and shot Rice within three seconds. I urge you to watch it, and then try to convince yourself this kid did anything that would make him deserve to die — or that the cops followed any kind of logical protocol. And ask yourself if you really think the cops would have done the same thing to a white kid playing with a toy pistol in a park in the suburbs.
Yes, there's been progress, but we have a lot more work to do. Ratcheting up the hate and anger won't get us anywhere. We've got to stop punching each other in the face.