Is it fair for Democrats to characterize Republicans or conservatives as racists or racially insensitive without taking their share of the blame?
My home town newspaper published a front-page photo on Wednesday with a caption about protests against "systemic police brutality against people of color."
Systemic racism is being discussed a great deal in the wake of George Floyd’s death under the knee of now-former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
The video of Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, as Floyd repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe, has ignited protests peaceful and violent, with the tragedy also being used by some as a way to destroy, steal — and worse. In one case, looters in St. Louis shot and killed David Dorn, a highly respected black retired police captain, as he was trying to protect a pawn shop
It’s likely — just as it’s likely the sun comes up in the west — that when a good many people say “systemic racism,” they’re not including the politicians they like and the political party they favor.
One way to tell? Their attitude toward who has been running the systems.
On social media the other day, in discussions of George Floyd’s death, I saw an increasing number of references from Democrats and Democratic friends about the problem of systemic racism. I wrote the following post, citing only a few municipal examples:
“Below are pertinent questions, given the way the Democratic Party defines itself as being the party of tolerance and inclusion, and many Democrats' characterizations of Republicans or conservatives as racists or racially insensitive.
"Minneapolis, Minn. has been under Democratic control since 1978. Chicago has been under Democratic control for 89 years; its present mayor is a black woman. Philadelphia has had Democratic mayors for 68 years; three of its last five mayors have been black men. Six of the last seven Atlanta, Ga., mayoral administrations were led by black Democratic mayors, and the present mayor is a black woman.
"A city runs its police department and other services; therefore, if there is so much 'systemic racism' in these organizations, why hasn't it been corrected over so many years under Democratic leaders?
"Why aren't these cities garden spots of racial tolerance, understanding, and virtue?"
There have been no answers.
In the wake of the 2015 riots in Baltimore after the death in police custody of a black man named Freddie Gray, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo interviewed black Baltimore City Councilman Nick Mosby, a Democrat.
Mosby’s answer, particularly to Cuomo’s last question below, is instructive, in that it’s clear he wasn’t expecting it:
MOSBY: This is much more than Freddie Gray. Freddie Gray was the culmination of, again, decades – the young guys out here showing their frustration and venting, being angry and doing it in an unproductive way, they are carrying their father's burden. They're carrying their grandfather's burden. Again this is generations old of failed policies and broken promises.
CUOMO: You are a Democrat, right?
CUOMO: Is this on you guys? The mayor is a Democrat, you're a Democrat, 50 years of Democratic rule here, and is this an idea that you haven't gotten it done as a party, as a structure here, and is that the focus on the blame?
MOSBY: Leadership is not based off of party lines, and at the end of the day, have individuals failed in this city, in this state, in this country? Yes. Have there been failed policies? Yes. Have things adversely affected places like Baltimore? Yes, whether you're talking about Reaganomics, whether you're talking about the contraband where they talk about stop and frisk procedures or mass incarceration. All of these things directly play into recidivism and play into the things that plague these communities. So it's all about leadership and not necessarily about parties.
That’s a lengthy, rambling way around the barn to say he wasn’t going to give a specific answer to a direct question, because it’s about the party to which he belongs. However, if you go to the City of Baltimore’s website and click on the government directory, under "P" you’ll find the Baltimore Police Department, because it’s the city of Baltimore’s responsibility.
Cuomo’s question was pertinent. It went unanswered.
Why do we not want a knee on George Floyd’s neck? Not only because it’s wrong, but because we don’t want one on ours. If we want our rights respected, we must respect — and protect — the rights of others.
Unfortunately, in too many cases when people say they want an open and honest discussion about race in America, what they mean is they want an open and honest discussion only about what they say is wrong with people who aren’t them.
When people talk about the need to deal with systemic racism, if they’re not willing to talk about the systems run — often for generations by the political party or politicians they support — they aren’t interested in an open and honest conversation; instead, they want only to use the issue as a club against people who aren’t them.
If that’s the case, we’re condemned to never get off this tragedy of a merry-go-round.
George Korda is a political analyst for WATE-TV, hosts “State Your Case” from noon to 2 p.m. Sundays on WOKI-FM Newstalk 98.7 and is president of Korda Communications, a public relations and communications consulting firm. This columnfirst appeared in the Knoxville News-Sentinel.