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No end to race debate

Published: Sat, August 1, 2009 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Ernie Brown

The debate over race in this country just won’t end.

Even though the president is a black man — and some liberals boast that this fact demonstrates the nation has finally overcome the issue of the descendants of slaves treated as second-class citizens — incidents such as that of Dr. Henry L. Gates Jr.’s being arrested and black kids’ getting the boot from a private suburban swim club in Philadelphia keep cropping up.

My heart went out to the 10-year-old boy from northeast Philadelphia who was crying upon his denial. When a reporter asked him why he was crying, he said he couldn’t believe he was being denied access because he was black. He added this shouldn’t be happening now.

Yes, this was a private swim club. But the day-care center’s director had called ahead of time to make sure the center could use the facility for the summer program, and she forked over a $1,950 check to pay for a once-a-week visit for a period of several weeks.

The club returned her check, saying it underestimated the capacity of its facilities and realized that it could not accommodate the number of children from the day camp. It denied race played any decision in the matter.

That sounds reasonable, and that should have been the end of the story.

But the race issue came up when the club director later told two Philly TV stations, according to a CNN report, the children had changed “the complexion” and “atmosphere” of the club.

In the confirmation hearings of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for a seat on the Supreme Court, senators grilled her incessantly about her “wise Latina” comment she made at a 2001 symposium at the Berkeley School of Law at the University of California.

Judge Sotomayor was making a point in her address that whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, “our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging.” She referred to Justice Sandra Day O’Connor as often quoted as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. Sotomayor said she believed there can never be a universal definition of wise. She then added, “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

The arrest of Professor Gates at his Cambridge, Mass., home by Sgt. James Crowley, and President Obama’s initial comments — “the officer acted stupidly” — and the president’s subsequent remarks make up the latest grist for the mill on the topic of race.

Some in the Youngstown black community are still seething that a black man convicted of raping and killing a white woman got the death penalty while a white teenager who set a fire that killed six people, most of them black children, received life imprisonment.

Our life experiences cause us to look at things differently, and that is why I believe this friction exists between the races.

More black and Hispanic men are routinely pulled over for traffic stops by police than white males. Such racial profiling is banned in several states. That is a problem in the minority community that typically hasn’t been experienced by whites.

More black people are followed by either security personnel or employees when they enter certain stores. That, I believe, is something that doesn’t happen to most white people.

When was the last time a white person went to work to find that he or she was the only Caucasian in the workplace?

Not every issue, however, that involves disagreements between the races should be labeled as racism.

But there still must be more dialogue on race in this country to eventually get to the day that race is no longer an issue.

We do have the capacity to judge people by the content of their character instead of the color of their skin. We just have to have a will to do so.


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