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It’s time to discuss race relations in US intelligently, reasonably

Published: Sat, August 7, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

My July column on interracial marriage and dating kicked off a pretty lengthy debate on race on Vindy.com.

More than 100 posts were attached to my column, most from just a few people going back and forth at one another on whether Italians are white, the proposed lack of the president’s birth certificate and other political rhetoric.

The gist of the column was this: Based on statistical evidence, interracial marriage is on the increase in this country, and I believe it is good to see such marriages based on similar life experiences, education and values as opposed to skin color.

I thought that was a small, positive step toward breaking down racial boundaries.

But judging from a few of the Internet posts, it seems writing about racial issues continues to be a sore spot for some in the Mahoning Valley.

Not everyone in our area has a computer, and those who do probably don’t spend a lot of time reading the responses to a particular column.

So I will share a few.

One of the posters called me a racist and called me despicable for making my living that way. Another said the subject of interracial marriage and dating was essentially 20 years too late and would never be allowed in print in a reputable paper such as The Plain Dealer of Cleveland.

For the record, two major media giants, CBS and CNN, broached the subject of interracial marriage and its place in the 21st century before little, ol’ me wrote about it in this newspaper.

Another said he was Caucasian and married to a Chinese woman. They have two beautiful children representing both races and cultures. He suggested I move on to a more pressing topic.

One person, however, chose the old-fashioned way of commenting on the column. He wrote me a letter, unsigned of course.

He began by praising President Obama for being a black man raised by white people with white values. He pointed out the president was immersed in an environment where things academic mattered. He said more black kids should do the same.

In his house, when they see a black man and white woman together, they have this saying, “She must like gettin’ beat up!”

It gets worse, and I won’t print the rest of the inane babbling.

But I believe the problem in the Valley specifically, and in America in general is that we don’t want to discuss race in an intelligent, non-inflammatory manner. The amazing thing about the United States is that despite our racial differences, we still thrive as a nation.

The purpose of most of my columns is to extol and advocate how we can all live together as opposed to separately. I certainly won’t apologize for writing about injustices still going on in the black community. And I have criticized the community on several occasions for not taking responsibility in the areas of parenting, education and domestic violence.

This space also has been used to showcase the positive events happening in the black and Latino communities.

We can be a better Valley when we can embrace our differences while looking for the good that can be found in most of us. Everyone should be proud of their ethnic heritage. And everyone should be seen as individuals, judged by the content of their character.

In their 1997 book “America in Black and White,” authors Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom penned these words in the chapter titled “The Racial Climate:”

“It is on the ground of individuality that blacks and whites can come together. Large and important race-related problems still remain. Together blacks and whites can address them; as separate nations within our nation, they cannot – and will not.”

Ernie Brown Jr. is a Regional Editor at The Vindicator and writes a monthly column. Contact him at ebrown@vindy.com


1CandyfromCanfield(172 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Ernie, I agree with you, but sadly, you will find neither intelligent nor reasonable discussion on this forum. (Please see posting above.) In the past four or five months, I've noticed a lack of debate, just hysterical rantings from the same people over and over again. What is troubling is that those out-of-towners reading such spew might actually think intelligent life doesn't exist in the Youngstown, Ohio area...while I know for a fact that isn't true. Can't wait for the forthcoming comments to prove my point....

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2Stan(9923 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Barack Obama is shamed by being polluted with white genetics . Surely this couldn't be racial . Race relations are at it's best when a white and a black lust for one another and are of the opposite sex . But hey, isn't this what happened to Barack's white mother and black father ? Later Barack gets elected President with the help of the white vote from those people that he hardly knows .

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3Lifes2Short(3877 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

"I certainly won’t apologize for writing about injustices still going on in the black community."

What exactly are the injustices? Some examples of this would be appreciated.

"And I have criticized the community on several occasions for not taking responsibility in the areas of parenting, education and domestic violence."

Whatever happened to being responsible for your own actions. The majority of families don't need help from the community in raising there children, educating them between right and wrong and making sure they get a education if they really want it. Domestic violence? Another example of not being a responsible individual and living a life of crime. A community don't need to help someone that don't want it. A community helps people who want to be helped.

"The purpose of most of my columns is to extol and advocate how we can all live together as opposed to separately."

This goes both ways. There will always be black and white racists. That will never stop. It is up to the individual on what he wants out of life instead of hating and blaming the other race. People just need to look in the mirror and they either want to be a productive member of society or not. The choice is theres and only theres, no one else's.

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4Stan(9923 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

How many blacks read Ernie's column let alone respond to it ?

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5cambridge(3013 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Stan....I'm amazed you know where the question mark is on the keyboard. I thought you knew all the answers.

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6Stan(9923 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

cambridge :

I am estatic that you haven't used a prepared response from your lib bot handler ! Or have you ? . . ..

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7janitspace(94 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Candy I could not agree more.

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8angelohio(19 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

I am tired of people blaming other races for their problems, poverty and drug use. We all have choices , education is free , jobs are available to those who want to work.
We have created a system for people who have generations on top of generations of people milking our tax dollars . They are entitled to free rent, free food, free housing and free medical. I use the word entitled ferociously , I think a person should work in order to enjoy these things.
This system creates an easy way out to people who want to live off others , continuing to have children, and choose to do nothing to change their lives, and then sit and blame other races for what is happening in their lives. I think you have to much time on your hands, stop blaming others , take responsibility for your lives, and do not let the fathers of these children get a free walk. Some fathers and mothers go to jail for non support, yet others have children by several mothers with out any accountability to the child

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9Youngstown_Strong(91 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Well Anti, if you really respected all ethnicities, then you would also respect and accept their right to marry each other. Staying intolerant hurts race relations and if you can't see that then there may be no hope for you to integrate into the 21st century with the rest of us.

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10Youngstown_Strong(91 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

I'm not disagreeing with your point of humans having inherent prejudices. But when you say you will not accept an interracial relationship what does that mean? If I walk past you with my fiance (who is black) what will you do or say?

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11Stan(9923 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

If your white and you show up for a date with a good looking chick in the hood will the sparks fly ?

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12Youngstown_Strong(91 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Not anymore Stan. I'll admit that both our families were hesitant at first (mine more so than hers) but besides a few questions there were no real issues. To touch on JesseDavid's last comment, I guess our situation is a bit uncommon for any races these days in that we both have college degrees and don't plan on having kids until after we're married. We don't care what other people's opinions are anyway but I'm sure those facts helped ease things for some.

I think that no matter who you are, when you grow up you are going to have some people in your family that tend to be racist. Over the past few years of our relationship, it has been amazing to see such people (in my family) change their whole way of thinking. So I can truly speak from experience that accepting relationships like ours does help in overall race relations.

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13Stan(9923 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Youngstown_Strong :

I remember a red haired boy who was with a black chick at Westlake Terrace a while back . He came up missing and I heard that he was killed for being with the black girl . There is still no widespread acceptance within the black community .

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14city_dweller(194 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

A lot of people in the Mahoning Valley lack any sense of empathy. They diminish and blatantly deny the effects on young children of poverty, neglect, blight, malnutrition, and exposure to drugs and criminal elements. They expect people to just "get over it," and they believe there is no legitimate excuse for a lack of self-sufficiency -- even in children. But drive the streets of the South Side and then think about being a five-year-old, or a twelve-year-old living, walking, and playing in those neighborhoods and in abandoned houses. Imagine having multiple family members in prison, living in a home without utilities, with drugs and guns all around, sleeping on a pile of dirty clothes on a floor, eating stale cereal and pop for dinner. Imagine having to hide books for fear of being beat up for liking school or told by your parents that you think you're better than everyone because you want to go to college.

Then compare it to the kids living in the suburbs with manicured lawns and well-kept homes. Kids who have access to dentists and doctors and vegetables, whose parents have college degrees and take them for swimming lessons at the Y and Little League in the summer, and cheer them on with encouragement and support instead of insults and blame.

It's easy to say the kids in the city should or could grow up wanting to break the cycle and improve their life, but it's a hell of a lot more likely that before they even hit puberty their older sibling or cousin is showing off a new iPhone or Wii that he got selling drugs. It's a lot more likely a 13-year-old girl will be coerced into a dirty bathroom by a brother's friend and raped. Before they even have a chance to see what's beyond the blight and destruction of their neighborhoods, they become convinced that's all they are worth.

And this is not restricted to race. It's about the power of stability, security, and education, which is afforded and denied people of all races. Yes, in Youngstown, most people living in the worst conditions are black, but visit central Ohio or other parts of the Midwest and you will find millions of whites living under similar conditions with similar attitudes and perpetuating similar cycles.

I'm not suggesting we not emphasize personal responsibility, but we can't pretend that that's enough, especially when we're talking about the most vulnerable and impressionable group: kids. We cannot ignore, deny, or underestimate the power of negative influences and then hide behind a claim of racial inferiority to justify our self-righteousness.

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15Stan(9923 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Ernie really needs to do a story on why why whites dating black chicks are not welcome in the hood . Today the whites rarely give a second look at interracial couples . The next topic could be why do mixed race kids gravitate to their black side ? Barack Obama is a prime example . Put some extra thought into your next column Ernie .

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161970mach1(1005 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Bet this won't be all over CNN.

Police say it's 'very possible' attacks near fairgrounds had racial overtones

By TOM ALEX • talex@dmreg.com • August 24, 2010
Des Moines police are trying to determine what led to a series of attacks outside the Iowa State Fairgrounds over the weekend that included the assault of two police officers.

At least three people were arrested Friday through early Monday morning. Other arrests may occur as officers investigate the incidents, officials said.

There are indications that some of the fights were racially motivated, police said.

"We don't know if this was juveniles fighting or a group of kids singling out white citizens leaving the fairgrounds," Sgt. Lori Lavorato said. "It's all under investigation, but it's very possible it has racial overtones."

Officials announced last week that they were stepping up security outside the fairgrounds after a series of attacks Aug. 14 that included a pair of stabbings.

Sgt. David Murillo stated in a report on Friday night, "On-duty officers at the fairgrounds advise there was a group of 30 to 40 individuals roaming the fairgrounds openly calling it 'beat whitey night.' "

Jammie Carroll, 36, of Polk City, was seriously injured Friday night after a group of people beat him up, causing severe injuries to his eyes, cheekbones and nose, Murillo wrote. Carroll is white, and many of the suspects are black, police said.

State Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad, D-Des Moines, who has worked to fight gang-related violence, said he doesn't have enough information to decide if the fights were racially motivated. He said police comments that race was involved could miss other factors, such as nonracial taunting.

"Unfortunately, like any other city, you have certain parts of town that individuals congregate in," Abdul-Samad said. "You have those that go into that area with no problem, and those who cannot."

He added, "We of course need to work on race relations. If anyone says we don't, they are playing games with themselves."

Sgt. Richard Schuett and reserve Officer Lynn Hubbs both complained of head, neck and back pain after being punched from behind while trying to make arrests.
Also Sunday night and early Monday:

- Officers arrested Daveion Trell Smith, 18, of Des Moines on a charge of disorderly conduct. Police said they observed him with a large group of people, yelling and gesturing and trying to start a fight with another group of people. He was warned and told to leave the area, police said.

- Kiera Agee, 18, of Des Moines was charged with disorderly conduct. Police said they told her several times to leave the area. She allegedly responded by swearing at police. She was arrested and was taken to jail.

Groups "have been openly taunting the police - in the street right to their faces," she said. "We found some of them that ran from the police hiding in our backyard."

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17Stan(9923 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

In Youngstown a white boy picking a black chick up in the hood for a date will trigger problems . The Iowa State fairgrounds may be nothing more than the blacks asserting themselves and controlling the turf . Surely this couldn't be considered racial .

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18Stan(9923 comments)posted 4 years ago

Perhaps Ernie could do an interview with Jamar Houser and get the view from The Hood ? Others and myself would like to see Jamar's viewpoint in a Vindy article .

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19VINDYAK(1799 comments)posted 4 years ago

Race relations is a two way street.
Believe me, I have tried, but the reception is just not there. Despite being called "whitey" and "honky", I have continued to hope for the best, but when I stopped at a gas station and attempt to start up a casual conversation about the weather as I was pumping gas, a black woman rolled up her car window. Another time a black clerk would not turn on the pump for me when the credit card machine was down, but she turned on the pump for a black man. I had to go inside and pre-pay, making two trips, while the black man only had to make one trip inside.

Racism? Maybe...maybe not, but it shows that we have not improved in that area as much as we think we have and there are people out there who have no interest in doing so .

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