A Portrait of Modern Racism

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Huddled in the store’s back office, the employees tried to avoid being seen by the men who loomed outside. They were ready for this situation. A suspicious call earlier in the day inquiring about the store’s opening hours set the jewelry store workers on edge. Having alerted the police, they waited for help to arrive.

When police arrived on the scene they confronted the thugs and uncovered the plot. John Henson, a star forward for the Milwaukee Bucks, had arrived with three friends for what he saw as a major event in his life. Having just completed a $40m contract, Henson was planning to purchase a Rolex watch. He had been perplexed to find the store closed yet again, despite having called ahead to check its hours.

In America, you may get rich, but you’ll always be a…

There’s no denying that white America has come a long way over the past fifty years, shedding many of the most overt and violent elements of our deeply embedded race culture. Glossed over in that dramatic process are hardened relics of hostility and fear with origins so old that their rationale is lost to history. They remain cemented into our foundations, inspiring a bizarre white psychosis that still emerges to shape the life experiences of those subjected to it.

John Henson’s experience two weeks ago encapsulates what those achievements mean and what challenges still remain. If you want to know what American racism looks like in the 21st century, this may be the best place to start.

What makes this story so accessible is its banality. No guns, no screeching tires, no chase. There’s none of the lurid violence of a recorded beating. And it didn’t happen in the South. Henson’s experience at a jewelry store in suburban Milwaukee is important because it is so ordinary. This is how the machinery of white cultural supremacy operates on a routine basis.

A shop worker got a phone call from a black man who planned to come to the store. That shop worker reached the unremarkable racist conclusion that a black man (she could tell from the voice) would only visit her store for one reason. Repeat after me, “you know how those people are…”

She took the precaution of warning the police. Then when the frightening figures arrived, she did what her racial programming demanded – she hid and waited for law enforcement to restrain the deadly impulses of ‘those people.’

Here’s what she said to the 911 operator:

I don’t want them to see me out there. We’re pretending like we’re closed. They’re looking in the window. They’re just kind of pacing back and forth. I don’t feel comfortable letting them in. I just really don’t at all.

Sometimes this cycle ends with a dead black man. More often it leads to humiliation or threats. On the aggregate it feeds a kind of organized extortion as African-Americans are forced by a shadow hand out of common channels of commerce into markets that are little regulated, built for exploitation.

The same silent unacknowledged dynamics that might insert a police officer between a black millionaire and a Rolex shunt black borrowers into riskier, more exploitative lending environments, sort black-sounding names to the bottom of the resume stack, and block black entrepreneurs from access to lucrative capital markets. African-Americans can never assume that they are not inspiring fear or hostility (the same thing, really) in the people around them.

Most important of all in this scenario is the “innocence” of the store clerk. In the truest possible sense, that store clerk intended no one any harm. As she huddled, frightened, in the store office, she was possessed by a genuine fear of danger. Ask her and she would probably explain that she has “lots of black friends” and an absence of any racist bones anywhere in her wholesome frame. White fear is a blanket of absolution.

Her nasty racist assumptions could have gotten someone killed, as happened to John Crawford III and Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice and countless others. Yet no one is to blame. There are no racists in America. When these confrontations with racism turn deadly and are captured on camera, we are treated to a cascade of trolling concern over “black on black” crime. That term becomes our code, used to evoke the eternal absolution for racism, “you know how those people are.”

No matter how absurd, how ignorant, how malicious, White Fear is always a legitimate ground for violence against blacks. Young black men carry an implied burden of proof that they are not dangerous. Their window of proof sometimes opens only for a few seconds before closing forever.

On a more mundane level across endless small interactions like the Milwaukee incident, the same racist assumptions push their targets toward a galaxy of negative outcomes, big and small. Like a million invisible hands on a tug-of-war rope, the programming that clerk followed drags black Americans toward otherwise unexplainable outcomes.

And she is blameless. And we are blameless. This is how racism continues to impoverish whole communities, destroy lives, and kill in an America without any racists. This is why your aging parents passionately hate President Obama without being able to describe any justifications grounded on facts. Racism is the most universally potent cultural force in American life that allegedly doesn’t exist. As is doesn’t exist, it is beyond accountability.

Progress is real, and it is present in this story. Before 1950 black players were not allowed in pro-basketball. Henson not only plays, but he has become wealthy doing it. Without that progress this story would not have happened, at least not in this way.

For those who want to see a wealthier, freer America, Henson’s trip to the jewelry story is a capsule of our hopes and frustrations. What lies ahead for us may actually be more difficult than the long challenge of dismantling Jim Crow.

There may be no legislation or army that can perform this duty for us. The largest obstacles to progress in the black community are hidden deep in the souls of the white folks who surround and outnumber them. They are relics left behind that distort our vision and pervert our intentions. As the British still wrestle with ghosts of class we remain blinded by race.

Only self-reflection can correct our distorted vision, but that is painful. Time may bring us some relief, as each new generation seems to have incrementally less racist programming than the last. However, the time that white Americans demand to work out their issues is little comfort for those who must stand outside a locked door waiting.

Eddie Murphy discovers what life is like as a white man.

Chris Ladd is a Texan living in the Chicago area. He has been involved in grassroots Republican politics for most of his life. He was a Republican precinct committeeman in suburban Chicago until he resigned from the party and his position after the 2016 Republican Convention. He can be reached at gopliferchicago at gmail dot com.

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Posted in Civil Rights, Race
103 comments on “A Portrait of Modern Racism
  1. flypusher says:

    C.K.Louis on “mild racism” (not safe if you are easily offended):

    I think he perfectly illustrates Chris’ point with the mild racism section. I saw what he was trying to do with the later jokes about child molesters, but that was a bit of a fail. Very risky comedy territory there.

  2. Griffin says:

    Hope you don’t mind me posting something unrelated to this but I’ve been reading some more Ezra Klein on Vox lately and his descriptions of the Republicans are pretty dead-on and cut straight to the problems within the party. My favorite sentence from his latest article:

    “…the problem for Republicans is that substantive questions about their policy proposals end up sounding like hostile attacks — but that’s because the policy proposals are ridiculous, not because the questions are actually unfair.”


    BTW more evidence that Ted Cruz could win the nomination in the article, he really does get to the heart/gut of GOP primary voters.

    • 1mime says:

      Griffin, Vox provided an interesting analysis of the GOP candidates’ tax plans but I would also want to see these plans scored by a second, non-partisan entity to offer a comparison to the one by The Tax Foundation. It is worth noting that Republicans plans incorporate a new way of calculating economic growth (dynamic scoring) which is greatly disputed by economists.

      Never the less, here are two other points of view. If someone here has a subscription to the WSJ, I would like to read their assessments of all the candidates – both parties.



      Lifer, which agency would you respect most for scoring all the candidates tax plans ?

    • Rob Ambrose says:

      Speaking “getting the guts of the GOP” this author sounds like she basically gets it.

      Change is coming fast and hard driven primarily by demographics. Basically, all the Conservatives are dying and nobody is replacing them. The lunacy we are witnessing now is the death throes of the far right. The crazy extremes they’re pushing back currently is only quickening their marginalization in the political process.

      After a devastating defeat in 2016, the GOP will realize without doubt the Southern Strategy is dead. Panderng to the religious right is now a liability, not an asset.

      • 1mime says:

        I agree with much of what he suggests. What I didn’t hear him comment on are the White, 40-50 year old hard right conservatives such as those who comprise the HFC, Tea Party, and several of the GOP candidates. I know many young men of this age (our children’s friends and neighbors) and they hold exactly the same view as the old, White Republican males Greenberg . He doesn’t really address how they fit into this “dying” group of conservatives and I don’t see them riding off into the sunset willingly.

        I listened to the audio of the interview in addition to the article. It was much more expansive and made me want to order his book, Ascendant America. Greenberg really does know what he’s talking about…whether things will work out as he prophecies will be interesting to see. I like what he foresees so I hope he’s right.

  3. 1mime says:

    This is a fairly long read, but I hope you will make time for it. You may not agree or like what it suggests, but it will make you think.


    • Excellent article
      The US system is a good example of “what not to do”
      Trouble is I don’t see a route to a more sensible parliamentarian system

      • 1mime says:

        Read Chris’ new post and you will see “shadows” from the Atlantic article (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/10/our-fragile-constitution/403237/) in the current splintering of the GOP by the HFC (House Freedom Caucus) which emerged from the Tea Party. Their effort mimics the parliamentary process whereby a faction challenges based on particular interests, divorced from party loyalty, etc. I don’t know where things will go here, but it seems obvious, that the Republican Party is at a real crossroads. In comparison, the Democratic Party of “dull” appears to be the party of reason and stability, whether or not it really is. Relatively speaking, Dems at least are not in open revolt with party leadership and are mostly consistent in their platform views.

        The recent GOP debate hosted by CNBC, resulted in the candidates angrily demanding of the RNC Chair, Reince Priebus, that the Feb debate scheduled with the CNBC be cancelled. Further, the candidates and their campaign coordinators (principally led by four of the 14 remaining candidates…guess the others are passively on board), dictated that the RNC was NOT to be in charge of negotiations of who would take CNBC’s place and what the terms of the debate would be. The candidates will arrange their own terms (Trump, after all, is the “master” of negotiations and is one of the revolt’s leaders). The remaining scheduled GOP debates as arranged with the media on terms negotiated by the RNC via Preibus, may be re-negotiated by the candidates. Do the candidates get to proof the questions that will be asked (since this was a major complaint), or will they lay down such limiting terms that moderator questions will be non-consequential and thus insulate candidates from any substantive inquiries? What will the logistical terms of the debates themselves look like (time per candidate, opening/closing remarks/follow up questions, etc)?


        Fundamentally, at least on the issue of the debates, there are simply too many candidates. It is impossible for the media who is coordinating arrangements and footing the bill, to make the candidates happy, advertisers happy, and, the GOP candidates’ sponsors and constituents happy. By its lack of control over the number of candidates, the GOP/RNC has created a monster that is a logistical nightmare. Once again, you see a faction within the party – this time the candidates themselves, seizing control. This marks the second major challenge to the status quo following the Speaker’s ouster within a two-week period within the GOP structure.

        What’s next? The “what’s next” is what is really dangerous under our existing Constitutional process as the Atlantic article points out, as the whole thing could devolve into a hostile stalemate and cause the process to implode. Think about what would happen if the Republicans in the House/Senate refuse to raise the Debt ceiling or approve a budget? Dems don’t have enough votes and the process outlined in the Constitution doesn’t have a solution for this. What is so concerning, from my perspective, is what all this shake up portends….those in the HFC don’t care how they are perceived by anyone – they may not even care if they are re-elected. They are focused solely on their personal objectives come hell or high water….even if the “high water” means government collapses. Think it couldn’t happen?

        We agree, therefore, Duncan, that it is going to be a rough ride. The only hope that I can see to maintain some semblance of under the existing Constitutional framework, is for Dems to re-take the Senate and the Presidency. This would at least buy some time to allow things to settle; however, that is far from assured. I don’t think we can stuff this genie back into the bottle. What is left in its wake is going to be real messy. What could happen is even more unsettling if not downright scary. Chris’ new post really develops the potential ramifications of party fracturing within the GOP much better. I simply am concerned and speaking out.

        Sorry for the extra long post, but I’ve been thinking deeply on this and it just took a lot of words to express.

  4. vikinghou says:

    A couple years ago I was in the Randall’s parking lot loading groceries into the trunk. I drive a Mercedes SL550 roadster. Suddenly this black man approached and began asking me questions about my car. I was uncomfortable because I immediately assumed he was going to try to ask for money, etc. I was pretty cold to him. But then it became clear he was a fellow Mercedes owner and was just curious about my experience with the car, where I had it serviced, etc. A very pleasant guy. I was ashamed of myself for my initial demeanor.

    • 1mime says:

      Viking, I think most women would be uncomfortable if ANY man approached them while alone and loading groceries in a parking lot. We’ve all been warned about these kinds of things. That your experience involved a Black man may have added to your concern because that is the scenario that our societal norms have told us to fear. I agree with Tutta that it is probably impossible for any of us (especially those of us born/raised in the South) to not have some racist tendencies; however, it is also our responsibility as adult human beings to overcome these tendencies and teach our children to be better people than we are. “Who you are, is what you were, when” is still a pretty powerful sociological predictor.

      Thanks for sharing that experience.

      • Doug says:

        “I think most women would be uncomfortable if ANY man approached them while alone and loading groceries in a parking lot.”

        That’s only because most women are sexists.

      • 1mime says:

        You may be right, Doug….beats the alternative (-;

      • 1mime says:

        I may be missing the boat here. If a strong guy approaches me while I’m unloading groceries, I’ll simply ask him to load my case of water…put ’em to work, right? if he gives me a funny look, I’ll drop teh case of water on his foot….

      • Griffin says:

        Doug, while your opinions are as crazy/hilarious as ever I nevertheless find it refreshing that you are willing to post a comment on something unrelated to global warming denialism. I would give you a slow clap but you honestly don’t deserve that either.

      • Doug says:

        I just don’t see why mime would judge all men like that. It hurts my feelings every time I suddenly approach a woman in a parking lot and they get all afraid and standoffish.

      • Doug says:

        I mean, yeah, *statistically* I’m more likely to harm her, being a man and all, but we’re not supposed to make generalizations, are we? Come on, talk to me a little bit before making a decision. The sound of your door lock really hurts.

      • Griffin says:

        I’m sorry your feelings are hurt when women are scared they might be assaulted (or worse) when they’re alone in a parking lot with a guy they don’t know who’s probably stronger than they are. Clearly you are the real victim here.

      • Griffin says:

        Oh I see you were making a “clever” wingnut talking point. I take back my original compliment on this thread good job for staying consistant in your trend of having never contributed anything of value to any conversation on this site.

      • Sir Magpie De Crow says:

        One of my glorious experiences: I remember recently in early July I was walking down the road from my house in my suburban community. I had a hoodie on because… who wants to be eaten alive by mosquitoes.

        I ran out of bug spray.

        Anyways a pickup truck flew by me as I was heading to another exciting night of Big Lots! window shopping and the occupants inside yelled “Go get a job!” that sounded like an agitated drunk gym coach vocalizing sweet nothings into my ear.

        Needless to say I didn’t appreciate it, especially since I was working on a independently contracted gig and I was baby-sitting two children for a sibling… who use to be in the military… who has had trouble getting a good job after graduating from college.

        To reemphasize, I had two jobs.

        Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to flip them some birdage or at least show them my resume. So, ten minutes later I arrived at Big Lots!, bought an SD memory card (that I could use to back up my latest project)… but as a precaution I decided to call some one to pick me up.

        This was mind you a time where the massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church was still on everyone’s mind.

        So I really didn’t know that if those pickup truck knuckle draggers might come down the road again and try to curb stomp my head into oblivion “American History X” style. That night I didn’t want to take any chances.

        My frustration is not unlike the athlete John Henson in the post… What do I have to do to be treated like everyone else?

        What do I have to do to protect myself from people’s worst assumptions?

        …and if I am walking in my community in the early evening (to go to a store for legitimate reasons)… do I now have to wear a business suit to show I am employed?

        …and what the F@*K does not having a job have to do with getting yelled at by a couple of “Real American” rednecks in a pickup truck for walking down the side of a road?!

      • 1mime says:

        Indeed, Crow. At least your experience didn’t end in violence…only anger at bigoted people. You handled it well. I’m surprised any stores carry hooded sweat shirts anymore given how negative they are perceived…never mind that the hoods serve a practical purpose! So sad.

  5. Anse says:

    Thinking about racism as it relates to the tensions between the black community and police and the courts, I just read an article about the atrocious crime lab scandal unfolding in Massachusetts. A single crime lab employee may be responsible for mucking up thousands upon thousands of cases. Apparently she did everything from forging drug test results to faking signatures on documents to God knows what else. We’ve seen these scandals erupt in other places, too; the article noted that 20 states have grappled with similar problems. (There was one in Houston some years ago, I believe having to do with DUI testing machines that weren’t properly calibrated and results forged or skewed. I think it involved thousands of cases, too.)

    Put this problem into this context. Surely a lot of those convicted on these falsified or compromised lab results were actually guilty of their crimes anyway. But then you have to imagine many, many others were not guilty of anything. Those wrongly convicted people must harbor some very deep resentments, and for good reason. Chris talked about the Black Lives Matter movement in another post a while back, and he noted that black Americans do not trust that they can receive fair treatment from the judicial system. These cases of crime lab malfeasance are one thing that goes to the heart of that distrust. And we’re talking not about a small number of isolated incidents, but a huge, huge number. The number of innocent people sitting in jail right now could be staggering, both white and black and Hispanic inmates, of course. But it must strongly reinforce these sentiments of distrust among black Americans.

    • tuttabellamia says:

      Speaking of a lack of trust in the police, I’m reminded of the case of a White man who was found guilty but was granted a new trial. He kept insisting that he had been framed by the police, and his lawyer argued that he deserved a new trial because there had been no Black people on the original jury, and Black people would be more likely to consider the possibilty that he had been framed, even in the case of a White defendant.

  6. Tuttabella says:

    I like how Lifer refers to WE and US when discussing the problem of racism.

    I agree that there are different levels of racism, but it’s important to acknowledge that pretty much everyone has at least a teeny tiny bone of deep-seated beliefs that could be attributed to racism, that it’s not just “other” people who are racist while we are scot-free.

    White people keep appearing in the race narrative, but what about Hispanics? Not just as targets of ethnic prejudice, but also as sometimes having racist tendencies towards Blacks themselves. I’ve always felt that we are somewhere in between the White and Black communities, able to identify with either side, depending upon the circumstances.

    • Crogged says:

      I am guilty as charged. I generalize. I assume knowledge/experiences I don’t have. When I was bussed to a formerly segregated school-I got lucky and wasn’t bullied or had an experience which could have changed my perspective. Rather than solve, I too often ignore-which is just as complicit. I love golf more than I should………..

      A friend of mine posts ‘black on black’ statistics and all these videos which are quite disturbing on FB. But then he posted this long rant against defending the cop who attacked the student-it had to have a greater impact than anything a smart ass liberal could accomplish in a thousand snarky or heartfelt pleas. Progress is slow-but it does and will happen-my kids are way better and smarter than I am about this subject.

      • 1mime says:

        Crogged, proud to share that our fifteen year old grandson is a fine golfer and hopes to attend college on a golfing scholarship. He is ranked in the top six in Golfweek, top nine in AJGA/Polo, and top twelve in Junior Golf Scoreboard for his 2019 graduation class in America. Overall for all junior boys (not collegiate), he is in the Top 200. I’m just as proud to say he is a fine scholar which should help him in his scholarship quest as well.

        I’m a proud grandma (-:

    • tuttabellamia says:

      Crogged, I don’t know if I can say that my mom did not have a racist bone in her body, but she was always very sympathetic to the plight of Black people, and when I was a little girl she spoke to me about the struggles of the Black community and how they had suffered throughout history.

      My immediate thought as a little girl was — But Black people look so happy, always smiling and friendly, much happier than White people. How can that be? Are you sure??

      I was about 6 or 7 then.

  7. Crogged says:

    I’m at the golf course with you, I’ve been in the bar with you. We’ve sat next to each other in many places.

    I look like you.

    We’ve talked and you send me your emails and make your face book posts available to me after we become friends.

    Here in the post Walker Percy South and in the good ol liberal gay marryin’ North, the racism is so thick and obvious. Daily. Everywhere. It’s justified, I’m supposed to sympathize with it. I’m not a racist, but, and the punch line never fucking works. If someone has a good bit from the Comedy Channel on it-please post it.

    That girl should have just done what the teacher and principal wanted-and the South Carolina legislature told her she could go to jail for disrupting class. It’s on her.

    • Crogged says:

      Is Black Lives Matters dangerous? Yes, of course it is. BLM makes white people uncomfortable and those uncomfortable white people just can’t be trusted.

    • Anse says:

      That incident with the girl in South Carolina was just awful. That police officer should have never been called to the classroom. The teacher, from what I’ve heard, didn’t fly off the handle and tried to deal with it calmly, but he/she made a major mistake in turning the cellphone into a major confrontation.

      I’ve worked as a teacher. A couple of things about that story leaped out at me. First, the other kids in the class told interviewers that she was a new student. Whether that means it was her first day in class or her first week, I don’t know. But when I was teaching, I expected pretty good behavior from my students that first couple of weeks of school; same with new kids who enrolled later. It is just very, very rare for a kid to be that defiant that early in their relationship with the classroom teacher. That would send up a red flag to me that the student has a problem and it probably has nothing to do with me.

      Turns out my suspicions were correct. The lawyer for the girl says now that she is in foster care. I had a few kids (these were high school students) who had been in foster care. Let me tell you, these are *damaged* kids. Many of them have been through hell. They’ve seen things many of us can barely imagine. And they often behave the way that girl did.

      A teacher has an obligation to every single student, including the “bad” ones. That girl did not learn any lessons about respecting authority. She only received confirmation for things she probably learned already: that adults are assholes, and she can trust nobody.

      • Crogged says:

        But in 25 years they are gonna owe 28 trillion dollars! Get your priorities straight and focus on the real issues here.

      • 1mime says:

        The real priority here was the policeman was 200 pounds and used brute force in a very dangerous way on a student who couldn’t fight back. He was a bully and he took advantage of his size and the situation. He deserved to be fired and he should find another line of work. Bouncer?

      • Crogged says:

        1. South Carolina needed to arrest students for ‘disruption’ since liberals made assault and murder legal in public schools (think it was during the ‘liberal’ Bush administration-George couldn’t reverse it via executive order) and the benefits of everyone having a handgun haven’t trickled down into our schools. Yet.
        2. The school policy is thou shalt not have a cell phone NOW. RIGHT NOW.
        3. If only we went back to things the way the nations founders did it-she wouldn’t have been in school and this couldn’t have happened.
        4. The only victim here is that poor girl.
        5. Nothing like this is a daily occurrence across this nation while we wonder why not paying for good teachers hasn’t led to good outcomes-where are my libertarian brothers here. We might go broke since nobody knows how to fix the printer.

      • Anse says:

        I don’t know how they do it in South Carolina, but in Houston, campus police officers are not there to handle teachers’ classroom management issues. They do not deal with cases of misbehavior. They’re there to handle campus security and acts of actual criminal behavior, like drug possession or violence. It’s a fine line sometimes. Fights are going to happen on almost any campus, or anywhere that teenagers gather on a regular basis. They’re teenagers. It happens. So I’m not sure I like police getting involved to the point of pressing criminal charges against kids for stuff like that, but then there are serious cases in which something beyond the school’s disciplinary code are warranted. But this criminalization of teenage behavior is a real problem.

        This kid was not a criminal. She was a poorly behaved brat. The cop didn’t handle the situation well at all, but then he shouldn’t have been there anyway. I would have quietly told the kid that there would be repercussions for her unwillingness to comply and then taken it up with her foster family and the campus administration.

      • Crogged says:

        The girl wasn’t ‘wrong’. The school has a policy. She didn’t want to follow this policy-which then states the alternatives-and I’m certain school policy did not include having your arm broken by a 200 pound man.

    • 1mime says:

      The girl was wrong. Dead wrong. But, if you dig a little deeper in this story, Crogged, you will maybe understand why she was so stubborn. I “get’ what you are saying, but the policeman went way beyond what was necessary and he physically endangered her. Flipping her over in the chair on her back? Dragging her like he did? Nope. He could have cuffed her in the chair if she wouldn’t stand. Charged her with disrupting the class. Whatever. The officer’s actions were excessive and brutal. The girl was wrong to not comply and make her case at the next level…But, this was a young woman whose mother had just died, she had been placed in a foster home, and there was a whole lot going in this young woman’s life. THAT never makes insolence – quiet or loud – acceptable, but it also never makes brute force justifiable.

      I’m not with you on this at all.

      • Crogged says:

        And because my answers usually come disguised-I’m totally in agreement with you Mime. The story is outrageous-because it has been building for years. Bad legislation, bad policy at school. Even a kid who is just being defiant for no good reason-doesn’t deserve to be treated as a defiant, criminal, adult. Brute force conduct with kids is only necessary if they are actually engaging in brute force criminal behavior. They didn’t have to force a confrontation-I thought there were adults in the room-in this case-there weren’t.

  8. Rob Ambrose says:

    Thus is really cool, very well done, and also fun. An interactive bullshit app where you listen to sound bites of your favorite Republican and guess bullshit or not and then get an explanation.

    I think he’s gonna do this for all debates, including the Dem ones. An important service.


  9. stephen says:

    About two decades ago I went to a Republican straw poll in Orlando. During that time I rode the tourist bus to the convention hall and back to my Hotel room. Early one morning , it was pitched black, I waited at the bus stop to go onto the convention hall. A middle age woman was waiting for the same reason. I struck up a conversation with her. She was afraid of me and told be to get away from her which I did. I was a young white big rough looking man and she most likely thought I was a predator preying on tourist. At that moment I had an epiphany. It never occurred to her I was a delegate to that convention. I had just got a small touch of what Black men deal with constantly.

    I am that older white parent who is from the deep south. But I was brought up as a Navy brat who associate with all kinds of people. And I went early on to Catholic School which had Black Students mixed in with White Students and this was in the fifties.

    I cannot fix what maybe an ancestor of mine did to a Black person last century. Only God can bring Justice there and He will. But we are responsible for what we do in our generation and time. I have lost promotions because I objected to racism. And have took stands against racism in my private life too which brought ridicule. And Black friendships help provide a life line to me to help stay the course. But over time as more and more people are won over we do change our societies. One of the most powerful agencies of change is the Church. It is no accident that Obama as a community organizer had alliances with the Catholic Church and other religious organizations. Note not all religious organizations follow the teachings of Christ.

    There is no reason why a new winning coalition for the GOP which includes Blacks and Hispanics cannot replace the dying one of the Religious intolerant and old white bigots. I was attracted to the pro-commerce and fiscal conservatism I perceived the Republican Party to be. The current crony capitalism , racism and lack of any true Christian virtue is a huge turn off for me. We are becoming a minority majority country. My community (Orlando Florida) is already there and our political leaders reflect our diversity. Republicans have took their fair share of leadership but that is being damped out as the party gets more and more radical.

    The South will be changed by changing demographics. I just return from visiting my mother in law who lives in the Atlanta area. Even there I hear Spanish speakers who have a different view of black and white. The southern strategy is now a slow death. If the GOP does not abandoned it then people will eventually abandoned the party.

  10. objv says:

    Lifer, Interestingly, I read this article yesterday:


    Was skin color the only reason these men were profiled? If so, why was this lady able to rob jewelry stores and get away with it (for the most part) for over 60 years?

    • Griffin says:

      Didn’t we just go over red herrings on the last post objv?

      • objv says:

        Griffin, I’m just trying to get you guys to think instead of just responding in the usual knee jerk manner. Is my example a red herring or is Lifer’s? He is dragging that smelly fish across the ground and you are following like trained hounds.

        Could it be that the store manager is concerned with more than race in profiling the men? Google smash and grab jewelry store robberies. The men’s actions were typical of what happens when thieves target a store.


        I’m not saying that racism doesn’t exist, but if there was a group of tattooed, young Hispanic or white men with the same pattern of behavior, the store clerk might have had the same reaction.

        The African-American jewel thief didn’t fit into a particular category that would raise any red flags and was successfully able to get away with decades of thievery despite her skin color.

      • Griffin says:

        Yes the fact they were African American men played into it as well, if they were African American women it would have lowered the chances of them being reported just as it would have if they had been white men. So both racism and sexism figures into this, is that what you’re saying? But if you think the chances of them being reported would been even close to the same had they been white men you’re in denial.

      • objv says:

        No doubt, Griffin. Categorizing people based on appearance and actions is common. Say, you were planning on going to a restaurant and saw 50 Harleys in the parking lot. Would you change your dinner plans?

        My husband rides motorcycles. Last summer, we were staying at a hotel in Ouray. We went into town in my car and when we came back we saw two Harleys squeezed into the same parking spot as my husband’s BMW motorcycle. Two youngish, muscular, tattooed and pierced, white guys had dragged hotel chairs out by the bikes and were smoking and drinking beer.

        Were we intimidated? You bet. Motorcyclists typically leave lots of space between their bikes so they won’t get accidentally damaged and there was no shortage of parking spaces.

        My husband and I drummed up our courage and approached the scary looking, beer guzzling dudes and asked if we could move my husband’s bike to get something out of his saddlebags.

        “Well, sure,” they said in heavily accented German. They were part of a larger group of Germans who had rented Harleys and were touring the West. They were used to parking their motorcycles close together, because parking was more of a problem in Germany. They had seen the BMW and were reminded of the bikes they had at home and parked there for that reason. We ended up having great time talking to them.

        Yet, we had profiled them based on what we knew about motorcycle gangs in our area. They fit into preconceived notions we had.

        Race, sex, clothing, accent, educational level and type of vehicle driven, all figure into how we profile people. We can’t continually blame every incident on race instead of trying to see a situation in a more nuanced way.

    • Bobo Amerigo says:

      Oh, not-objv, you’re so depth-y.

    • goplifer says:

      Look, it just doesn’t get any simpler than this. Come on.

      • Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

        It is amazing how hard people will look for things to not be racism.

        “See, one time, a Black person wasn’t considered a jewel thief, so this can’t be racism”
        “See, we have Carson, Rubio, and Cruz as candidates, we can’t be racist”
        “See, Obama was elected, that proves racism isn’t a big deal”
        “I see White people getting arrested too, so the police aren’t racist”
        “One of the police officers is black, so this cannot be a race issue”
        “It was not that the person was black, it was that they were not doing what the police told them to do, and that is why force was used”

        I freely admit there are folks who likely see racism when racism doesn’t exist, but folks willfully put blinders on when it comes to these issues and blissfully attribute them to an astonishingly wide array of causes.

        I’m not popular for saying this, but folks who happily deny obvious situations of racism are racist as hell because they are actively propping up an corrupt system and attempting to invalidate the experiences of others.

      • objv says:

        Is it really that simple?

        Would the sales clerk have opened the store if instead the people waiting outside had been …

        Four black, young women pushing strollers
        Four older, black women dressed for lunch out
        Four black men dressed in business clothes
        Two nicely dressed black couples who could possibly be buying rings
        Four young black men arriving on bikes wearing white shirts, sensible pants and backpacks …

        For all I know, racism could be the sole cause the sales clerk freaked out, but it’s far more likely that it was a combination of factors.

      • goplifer says:

        It is that simple. The fact that you dig so furiously for excuses doesn’t change how utterly simple it is.

        Yet more evidence that only a generational turnover is going to bring some improvement here.

      • Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

        OK….obj…if it makes you feel better, sure, it likely was a combination of racism, sexism, and classism…so I guess you win your argument?

        Still, it was racism (and a bunch of other stuff that makes folks feel better to think about).

      • objv says:

        Homer, yes it does make me feel better. 😉

        Lifer, Racism isn’t simple. During fourth and fifth grade I went to a school that was half black, half white. A group of black girls decided I was a great target for bullying. Was it because I was white or was it because I was a skinny, weak-looking kid with thick glasses? I weighed in at a whopping 55 lbs. in fifth grade and some of the other girls weighed twice as much. Was I wrong for avoiding them? Later in life, I worked with many black nurses. I never felt the need to associate them with the childhood bullying. They were coworkers and friends.

        On a trip to NYC, my husband and I were walking through a crowd to the subway when my husband staggered. A black guy had punched him. Was it because my husband was white or was it because the other guy just felt like punching someone and my husband was a convenient target? Who knows? It didn’t matter what the race of the person doing the punching was. All my husband knew was that his shoulder ached for days. Will he be more careful when walking through a crowd in a big city. You bet, but is that racist?

        During one of my husband’s assignments, we lived next to an African-American guy who owned a martial arts studio. Groups of young, black guys came and went all the time. They were nice. They were friendly. Never, for a moment, was I ever afraid of any of them. Maybe under different circumstances, I would have been. I don’t know.

        Perception is not simple.

      • goplifer says:

        Black guys calls jewelry store to ask about hours. Jewelry store closes because a black guy is coming. Jewelry store clerk still refuses to let the guy in even after the cop interviews him.

        You’re making this harder than it is. Ask yourself why. The rest of this is noise.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        NOISE???!!! WHAT NOISE???!!!

        Hi, OV. 🙂

      • tuttabellamia says:

        Lifer, criticize OV all you want for coming up with all these scenarios, but a little mental exercise never killed anyone. If so, all of us on this blog would be dead.

      • Griffin says:

        These are hardly mental exercises, it’s just a stew of strawmen and red herrings in one big pot of Gish Gallop. Lifer never said people aren’t categorized based on class, sex, or that blacks can’t be racist against whites and so on, he is focusing on instances where whites can be racist against blacks and that’s it. Everything else here is just an obvious attempt to drag the conversation away from that.

      • objv says:

        Tutt: We are a noisy bunch!

        Lifer, just curious, would it be fair to say that the bullying I experienced in elementary school was all due to racism? Was my husband punched because of racism? Would saying so constitute “white fear” or would it be understandable?

      • Griffin says:

        I can answer that for you Objv. If they bullied you because of your race than yes it was racism. If that man punched your husband because of his race it’s racism. Stop wasting his time with this mundane bullshit.

        “Here is an instance where a black man was clearly stereotyped due to racism, and this had happened before and can happen again because XYZ”
        “Are you saying that literally everything is caused by racism?”

        He can not defend an argument he was never making.

      • goplifer says:

        Why, in response to a clear demonstration of the scope and power of racial discrimination, do you find yourself compelled to squirm like this? Why wouldn’t you simply reach the obvious conclusion: “Gee, that sucks. Never thought of it that way before. I don’t want to perpetuate that kind of nonsense”

        Instead, we are lost in some bizarre, nested series of unrelated hypotheticals. Why is this happening? Seriously, ask yourself this question. Why is it so uncomfortable to confront this?It’s important.

      • Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

        Yes obj…you and your husband are victims of racism.

        In addition to those examples of Black folks being mean to us White folks, Blacks folks have held the institutionalized power, established over centuries, to their prejudices and preferences on us White folks.

        Sure, just about everyone has preferences and prejudices. Some are based on actual experience, others based on fear, misinformation and disinformation.

        But racism against us White folks is a problem of institutionalization, where Black folks have used their power to take its prejudices and exercise them with impunity under de facto color of law (regardless what the laws on the books actually are).

        Oh, wait, it isn’t like that at all.

      • objv says:

        Griffin, The “bullshit” on this blog consists of knee jerk accusations of racism. I’m tired of it.

        Tutt is right in saying we need mental exercise. It’s easy to automatically blame every act on racism. It’s even easier to blame a certain group of people of racism – which is discriminatory in and of itself. It’s much harder to explore how we come to conclusions about groups of people and how we can change our perceptions.

        True, the young men were black. They were also physically intimidating quite apart from being black. A smash and grab robbery can cost a jewelry store hundreds of thousands of dollars. Videos of these robberies typically show hoodie-wearing young men (and a few women) smashing cases of jewelry and making off with the most valuable items. If there had been robberies in the area, I would not blame the clerk one bit for being cautious. I do think she was over-cautious and possibly profiled the men because of their race, but there may be more to this story.

        Jewelry store owners are justifiably skittish when letting people into their shop. When a store is in a free-standing building with no security guard, the owner often has the door locked and will check who is outside before buzzing customers in.

        Again, it is easy to say a matter is cut and dried when it fits a narrative which is being promoted. If we want to come to an understanding of race and reconciliation in this country, we need to stop jumping to immediate conclusions.

      • objv says:

        Homer, in my own opinion, it is not clear if my husband or I suffered in any way from racism. It’s not possible to look into someone else’s mind. Kids bully. The fact that I was white and they were black doesn’t matter. Some kids will take advantage of a weakness in another child to boost their own self esteem. As far as my husband is concerned, racism is not definitive there either. For all we know, the guy delivering the punch may have had another target. It would be wrong for either of us to base any kind of judgement on African-Americans as a whole on a few incidents.

      • flypusher says:

        “True, the young men were black. They were also physically intimidating quite apart from being black. A smash and grab robbery can cost a jewelry store hundreds of thousands of dollars. Videos of these robberies typically show hoodie-wearing young men (and a few women) smashing cases of jewelry and making off with the most valuable items. If there had been robberies in the area, I would not blame the clerk one bit for being cautious. I do think she was over-cautious and possibly profiled the men because of their race, but there may be more to this story.”

        It’s pretty obvious that in THIS CASE, these potential customers were racially profiled. Also, if your accusation of knee-jerk cries of racism on this blog are going to stick, you are going to need to supply examples of people here crying racism without merit. So provide your evidence.

      • objv says:

        Fly, will you give me a nickel for every time someone says Republicans are opposed to Obama is because he is black?

        From https://goplifer.com/2015/09/11/a-little-sympathy-for-ben-carson/ :

        “Needless to say, the far-right can’t get enough of Ben Carson. There is nothing a racist loves more than a black man who agrees with him.”

        Since there are a multitude of reasons to admire Ben Carson and wish for him to be president, I consider the above comment to be offensive.

      • flypusher says:

        ‘“Needless to say, the far-right can’t get enough of Ben Carson. There is nothing a racist loves more than a black man who agrees with him.”

        Since there are a multitude of reasons to admire Ben Carson and wish for him to be president, I consider the above comment to be offensive.’

        Seriously, there are some people out there who fit Chris’ description perfectly. So why should you be offended by such a statement of the obvious? Do you think that comment was directed at YOU? Do you think that Chris is assuming that would be the one and only reason that anyone would support Carson? Methinks thou doth protest way, way too much here.

        But as for wanting Carson to be President, I see zero good reasons, even if you are conservative. However accomplished the man is at neurosurgery, he is absolutely clueless about things you should know to actually govern, and he indulges in too much revisionist history- seriously, he’s railing against the very social programs that helped pull him out of the cycle of poverty?

      • 1mime says:

        Carson couldn’t even explain his tax plan….which didn’t surprise me. He is not qualified for President. He is qualified for brain surgery. The two are not synonymous.

      • flypusher says:

        “Fly, will you give me a nickel for every time someone says Republicans are opposed to Obama is because he is black?”

        Also do you deny that there are any GOPers that fit that description? SOME of the opposition to Obama is indeed racial. Think back to multiple instances of idiot GOP staffers getting caught e-mailing very racist anti-Obama stuff among themselves. If people HERE were saying that EVERY time someone opposed/ criticized Obama it was ALWAYS 100% racist and there was never, ever any other reasons for it, you’d actually have grounds for your complaints. No doubt that people elsewhere have pulled out the race card for situations that didn’t merit it. But Chris and the other people here are not responsible for that. Take your grievances to the people who actually do that.

  11. BigWilly says:

    Bleeding hearts and fountains. The light flickered in the elevator as the door closed in front of me. Little did I know that when the door opened, it could open to any possibility.

    Yeah, that sounds like Whitefolks Bay, WI. I can’t really blame them. The denizens of Milwaukee’s inner city have a fearsome reputation. Some of it is deserved, some not. Did he mention he was John Henson of the Milwaukee Bucks?

    It’s a posh liberal/dem enclave. He would’ve gotten better treatment in Tupelo.

  12. Shiro17 says:

    I think, just like any fear or phobia, one of the best solutions is desensitization therapy. Put simply, white people just need to get to know African-Americans as people, not canned tropes on TV. The more that people are exposed to real people, the more they’ll probably realize that the Black community as a whole isn’t out to get them in their sleep.

    • BigWilly says:

      It’s not a phobia when someone pulls out a broken bottle and threatens to gut you like a fish.

      • Rob Ambrose says:

        But that could happen to/by anybody.

        There is nothing inherent in the color of someones skin that makes them more likely to do that.

      • n1cholas says:

        Well, that isn’t at all racist.

        I mean, of course black people are going to pull out a broken bottle and gut you like a fish.

        I mean, they are black and stuff!

        Please tell me you haven’t bred.

      • BigWilly says:

        Hey, idiot, it’s a true story. They got my bag of chips, my bottle of beer, my newspaper, $5, my wallet, and then threatened to shoot me.

      • 1mime says:

        BW, That must have been a horrible, frightening experience, and I am sure it has made you more skittish around Black people. But, thankfully, you weren’t hurt, and life goes on. All Lifer is saying is to not color your whole life’s experience with one bad experience. That is easier said than done, but, for your own happiness, you need to try. I’m sorry you experienced this and I know you’ll never forget it. There are bad people out there of all races, and there are more good people. Surround yourself with the good guys (and gals).

        Have you decided to teach music to the kids in your neighborhood like we talked about earlier? I think that would be such a great experience for you and the kids. Let me know how that is going, BW. We all care about you.

      • Turtles Run says:

        BW – let me get this straight. They threatened to gut you with a broken bottle and then they threatened to shoot you? What the heck did they need a broken bottle if they had a gun?

      • goplifer says:

        ***It’s not a phobia when someone pulls out a broken bottle and threatens to gut you like a fish.***

        Um. No. It isn’t a “phobia” until you extend it to every black person you see. Those words they use for phobias can be pretty complicated. What’s it called again…arachnophibistic, trageopho… no wait, I remember – racist.

      • BigWilly says:

        BW – let me get this straight. They threatened to gut you with a broken bottle and then they threatened to shoot you? What the heck did they need a broken bottle if they had a gun?

        How the hell would I know. I’ll let you fathom the mind of a juvenile crook.

    • Rob Ambrose says:

      They have those already. They’re called cities. Why is it that, without exception, the large cities are all liberal/tolerant of diversity, and almost without exception the opposite is true in the rural areas. It’s not a coincidence.

  13. irapmup says:

    I am not defending what is certainly being construed as racism in this instance, but it could also and easily be construed as simple, if overwrought, caution.

    The assumption of a black voice on the phone is a bit of a stretch and four men of any color pacing outside a jewelry store at closing might be reasonably considered as claimed. Add to this equation the concern if not fear many women may carry simply as a result of being a woman in our less than respectful male culture.

    And as you are certainly aware Wisconsin is neither the most politically progressive State in our Union, nor, with a population of over 87% White, the most integrated.

    I’m not trying to slam your reasonable thought, but I do think some contextualization is in order.

    • Griffin says:

      On the one hand you’re saying that it’s probably not racism because she would have done the same if they were white. On the other hand you’re implying that because Wisconsin is an example of white conservativism it probably was racism? Can’t it only be one of those things?

      • irapmup says:


        I just don’t think it is cut and dried and while my reasoning or lack thereof may be wrong, my immediate thought is she was first and foremost responding as a woman and not as a racist.

        Hopefully Wisconsinites and the rest of our still great nation will come to their senses and get rid of the deadheads in both political parties who gravitate to the state capitols and instead of bringing progress seek to turn back time.

      • 1mime says:

        We should feel sorry for everyone here. The shop girl who was afraid (regardless of the reason/justification), and the black man/men who were profiled. At least no one was killed. America is in a hell of a state right now. But, I can tell you this much with conviction, all of us who were born White were damn lucky. Did you know that seven Black churches have been set on fire in St. Louis this month? That’s like, October, 2015? Just a few months after 9 Black people were murdered in their church in SC? How can anyone here not see the racism around us. We need to hear these things and we need to learn from them, and then we need to speak out against racism in any form.


    • pbasch says:

      If I understood the story, they were pacing because the store was closed when it was scheduled to be open. I’ve done that. They probably also cupped their hands around their eyes against the glass and tried to see inside. Threatening behavior!

  14. Rob Ambrose says:

    Powerful piece Chris. Good thing you hate unions so much, or we’d mistake you for a flaming Liberal around here 😉

  15. texan5142 says:

    Read about this a few days ago, utter racism, for lack of a more intelligent response. Shit is going backwards as far as I am concerned, or maybe it’s coming to a head. Get it out in the open were the sun can sanitize it.

  16. 1mime says:

    On a positive note, the SPLC, which works incredibly hard to protect discrimination in all forms, has put together a DVD for law enforcement as a tool to help them identify lone wolf extremists. This is one of many constructive steps in the effort to combat violence through education and training.


  17. 1mime says:


    Loved this: “Racism is the most universally potent cultural force in American life that allegedly doesn’t exist. ”

    What I really want to know is: Did Henson tell the jewelry store where they could stick their rolex?

  18. Griffin says:

    I’m increasingly annoyed by the people who say that they don’t consider these incidents racist because they’re “color blind” and if you see the obvious racism in it then you’re the real racist inciting these incidents. It’s such an obvious cop out and yet the most common conservative counter-argument to these situations amounts to “ignore it and it will go away”.

    • 1mime says:

      That is precisely Lifer’s point: these people don’t even recognize racism unless it is so extreme (think 9 murdered black worshipers in SC, or a cell phone video of a Black student being man-handled in a classroom) that the truth can’t be ignored.

      • Griffin says:

        Yeah I know Lifer has actually written about how conservatives tend to blank out if minorities complain to them about racial problems. It’s not just conservatives in that case though, in my experience alot of people tend to get defensive when you bring this stuff up because they assume you’re calling them racists by pointing out racism exists, as odd as that sounds.

      • 1mime says:

        In that case, I would highly suspect they could be racists. Why else would they be so defensive/uncomfortable on the subject?

      • Griffin says:

        I think they assume that when you say there is still residual racism in American culture they assume that because they’re part of American culture they’re being held personally responsible. Also they would have to achknowledge they were born with some advantage over other people and that their success early in life was partly thanks to winning the genetic lottery rather than entirely thanks to personal achievement and that tends to get under people’s skin as well because they assume you’re saying they haven’t worked for anything.

      • Rob Ambrose says:

        I think Mime, the issue is these people think that only racists can behave in a racist manner. As Lifer said, it’s quite likely this particular woman is not “racist” in the traditional sense. She may be good friends with the elderly black couple at her church, for example.

        She is not self aware enough to recognize her own implicit biases (admitedaly a very tough thing to do).

        But most of the racist acts today are more systemic racism then personal (for the perpetrators. For black folks, I would imagine that EVERY racial incident is personal). Do I think that the majority of Republican lawmakers bear personal animosity towards black people? No, I don’t. But are they directly responsible for keeping in place the incredibly racist status quo in the justice system, economy, education system? Definitely, even though they are likely not aware of it.

        It takes deep thinking and an unerstanding of nuance to see how prevalent racism is today. The standard GOP view of never seeing nuance, everything is always black and white (the good guys are all good and bad guys all bad) means that as long as Rodney King isn’t happening, racism isn’t real.

        I kind of think that the fundamental problem is one of class warfare (Marx was right). However, because of the racist system designed to perpetuate the cycle of poverty, class warfare and race warfare are in practical terms indistinguishable from each other, as the ones who bear the brunt of it are disproportionately black. But that’s a whole other discussion.

      • 1mime says:

        And the problem is still the same.

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