Blacks as Humans

I wrote, “Savannah’s blacks are largely a poor lot, often more because of Savannah custom rather than of their own doing, and just about all black-owned clubs had begun reflecting the desolation that accompanies poverty.”

This is how, however, the piece appeared recently in the guest commentary: “Savannah’s blacks are largely a poor lot… and just about all black-owned clubs had begun reflecting the desolation that accompanies poverty.”

I am appreciative the editor let me have my say in a tribute to a famous Savannah-based musician who died tragically. My last job in my hometown was as a writer and columnist for the paper, and I hadn’t seen the musician, and successful businessman, since I moved to Atlanta in the nineties. This is what one must know about Savannah: There have been improvements, but race remains as thick as the legendary heat, and that the only difference is that you can usually avoid one during winter.

I also called him an “honorary white.” Among other things, he lived in an area of town where what I called Savannah “custom” generally prohibited blacks from living. I added, “It, as they say, takes two to tangle. But I’m not saying he sought being an honorary white person as a badge of honor. Maybe there was some tacit acceptance of the alleged accolade—-he had to be aware of the benefits—-but he was also a proud New Yorker and the unstated acknowledgement was probably also his New York way of announcing, ‘you all are not gonna treat me like you do all the others who resemble me around here.’”

That part of the piece also did not see print. .

Then, not long after, I saw this McClatchy article about the social ills that continue to dog the black community; it ended with a group’s recommendations to fix the disproportionate number of out-of-wedlock births, the decline of matrimony, et al. “The report calls for reducing structural barriers to black economic progress….”

I saw a connection in how those with the power to publish in the two pieces dealt with the effects of racism. They don’t. One flat-out removes language alluding to its damages and unnecessary tap dancing. The other uses a euphemism like “structural barriers” to represent systemic hiring on the basis of race, or unfair treatment in the justice system; the distance between those odious practices to the pathologies the article delineates is very wide

Everybody loves talking about what’s wrong with black people and that if only they did such and such, their lives would not be the mess they are. This criticism is some powerful stuff and apparently easy to slip into, even from none other than the president and from one as unapologetically “sista” as the first lady. However, if the laws of psychology mean anything, we may find that black behavior is similar, if not the exact same, to the similarly dispossessed, or despised, or to the not-as-free anywhere they may be located in the world, even to where they’re indisputably self-inflicted, and that the answer to solving these problems can likely be found in what too many in journalism and in other fields downplay, if not outright discount.