Thursday, July 14, 2016

Rules for Civilization in Black and White

This is to continue the conversation from the last post. Not exactly a part II, but more thoughts following last week’s tragedy in Dallas.

First, some family history. I’ve mentioned before, I’m mainly descended from fairly recent Swedish immigrants. My father’s father immigrated to America in 1906. My grandmother was born here, but her family immigrated from Sweden before she was born. My dad grew up speaking Swedish and English in the home, and he later served as a missionary in Sweden, before WWII, and again for a shorter mission a decade later.

I have a little more variety on my mother’s side, but the direct line immigrated from Sweden in the 1850s. This ancestor met his wife immigrating, on the same ship, from Norway.

All of these ancestors immigrated directly to what is now Utah, which never allowed slavery either as a territory or a state.

The earliest Americans I know of on my mother’s mother’s side were located in Illinois in the 1840s. Their northern location leads me to believe their ancestors came from other northern portions of the early United States. And if we could go back far enough, we would find a few ancestors from England, Wales, Scotland, and France.

None of my known ancestors was a slave owner. I’m unaware of any living in a place where slavery was legal. If you go back millennia, you might find some Vikings who enslaved someone. I don’t know that history well enough to know. But I’m pretty sure the Vikings never enslaved Africans.

Until I moved to Texas, I’d never lived anywhere that slavery had ever been legal. And when I arrived in Texas, slavery had been illegal for over 130 years. Civil rights laws had been enacted—by Republicans pushing for it—more than 30 years earlier.

I only know about slavery from history. I only know about racial bigotry from history, and historical novels. It’s foreign to me. That kind of thinking is foreign to me.

So I ask: How did I become guilty of racism? And since the accusation comes without any negative behavior or even thought on my part, what am I supposed to do to earn a racial clean bill of health?

I’m not saying racial prejudice is extinct; I have become aware of some people with those beliefs. But they are anachronisms. Their beliefs are unacceptable is civilized society.

Except—black-toward-white racial prejudice. That is fairly common. And it seems to be getting more common, rather than less, under the current administration, who was supposed to heal all wounds and prove that we were post racial.

I mention the history above to show that it is irrational to assume that a lighter skinned person is de facto racist. And it is irrational to assume that someone who not only has no history of racist behavior, and no history of racist thought, ought to be held guilty or pay reparations for something that happened centuries ago.

Except for those illegally enslaving people in our day, who should be stopped and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law (what they are doing is nigh unto murder), no one today is guilty of the nation’s slavery. And no one today was one of this nation’s slaves. In fact, a bloody war was fought to free the slaves and make them full citizens. The United States was among the first nations in the more civilized recent history to do away with slavery that had existed in most parts of the world for many thousands of years, including by Africans who enslaved other Africans.

We would have been happy if slavery had never been part of this country’s history, but at our founding it was already a common belief that it was wrong. While the writers of the Constitution were unable to immediately outlaw slavery, as many desired, they designed it with the intention to do away with it within two decades. If that intention had been followed, there would never have needed to be a Civil War.

Condemnation of this country is wrong; gratitude and admiration are more appropriate.

Taking things from people is theft. Reparations, then, would be taking from people who did no wrong and giving their property to people who had not been enslaved.

So let’s set that aside and talk about a few other racially related things.

There’s this famous quote from Benjamin Netanyahu, to the Knesset in 2006:

The truth is that if Israel were to put down its arms there would be no more Israel. If the Arabs were to put down their arms there would be no more war.
Let me rephrase that for our racial situation here in the US. The first part may apply, so far, only to the recent war on police officers, because blacks have been stirred up to believe there is some racial war going on against them:
I took this photo in September 2014, on the spot where
Martin Luther King said it. I wish it were clearer.

The second half can be more universal:

If the blacks were to stop throwing down the race card, there would be no more racism.
It might not be a perfect world, but it would be better. Much closer to what Martin Luther King said,

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
Rather than what Obama said, when he had an opportunity to offer healing, Tuesday at the memorial service for the slain officers in Dallas:

We flood communities with so many guns that it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book.
So, he used the deaths of police officers to further his anti-second-amendment agenda with a lie. The guns he’s talking about (to teenage gang members, apparently) are already illegal guns. More gun laws pressing down on the backs of law-abiding citizens lowers their defenses but does nothing to prevent guns getting into the hands of those who already get them illegally.

This Martin Luther King quote was used a lot this week.
I took the photo at the MLK Memorial in DC.

And really, books are harder to come by? They’re free in every school library, and in every public library. Library cards are free. And you can buy used books for as little as a quarter at some used book sales. And people can share them friend-to-friend—legally. This is true even in inner-city Chicago, the president’s home turf, where a couple of dozen young black men are murdered—by other young black men—every weekend.

What was the purpose of this lie at a memorial service for officers slain in the line of duty?

In scripture stories we often read about people being stirred up to anger. In the Book of Mormon, the two groups are Nephites and Lamanites. During the millennium of history, there are times when “goodness” changes sides, but generally the Lamanites go to war against the Nephites, trying to subjugate them. Sometimes dissenters from the Nephites go over to the Lamanites and stir them up, like this example from Alma 63:

14 And it came to pass also in this year that there were some dissenters who had gone forth unto the Lamanites; and they were stirred up again to anger against the Nephites.
Someone is always doing the stirring up. And we’re seeing that today. And what we know about those who stir up anger is that their intention is to rule over their enemies.

One of my favorite quotes from the  MLK Memorial
We, non-racist people of whatever color, have reason to be concerned. Our president stirs up anger. An entire party stirs up anger. The party that insisted on enslaving blacks, and then insisted on holding them down socially—that party. And this racial group that claims to want to be freed from ongoing oppression votes for the oppressing party at rates well over 90%.

So, when I meet a black person, I have a 9 out of 10 chance of being right if I assume they are against the Constitution and the freedom it protects. I don’t bring it up, because I don’t want the contention. Instead, I look for places where we can agree. Sometimes that is the value of families and faith in Christ.

When blacks declare themselves to be conservative, they are welcomed with open arms—at Tea Party meetings, at Republican conventions, and anywhere else we gather. And we’re always glad to see that their numbers are growing among us. They face some discrimination and a lot of false accusations (from that 9 out of 10 of them) just to stand firm for truth and freedom, and we applaud them.

I feel pretty safe in my neighborhood, but in more urban areas, I might not feel safe walking alone no matter what color of person I meet on the street. Forget the hoodies—this is Houston; if someone is wearing a hoodie when it’s over 90 degrees at 10:00 at night, there’s something very suspicious there. But just having someone young, big, and strong coming at you in that setting can feel threatening.

But if I were to look at statistics, I would be justified to have greater fear if that young, big, strong person coming at me is a black. While only 13% of the US population, they commit 50% of murders.[i]
One more MLK quote from the Memorial

The same fear I would feel should be what a black person walking the street alone would feel. Maybe they would feel more fear, since more blacks are murdered by blacks than any other race. It’s not irrational bigotry; it’s rational fear.

It isn’t about skin color; it is about character. How do we develop character? Write down this big secret:

The way to develop character in a population is to have a vast majority of children raised by their married mother and father, and taught to honor God as well as family, life, freedom, property, and truth.

Those of us who have these advantages want them for everyone. We rejoice when others have these blessings as well. Our heart aches for children brought up in fatherless poverty, with the social chaos that is so hard to overcome.

If there is something the more blessed of us can do, it is to share the message of what brings civilization—and happiness—in a challenging world. No amount of money handouts can bring people out of economic and social poverty. Only obeying the laws of civilization will do that.

[i] The piece by Larry Elder I quoted earlier this week contains this paragraph: “Here’s what those promoting the ‘police disproportionately kill black people’ narrative consistently omit. Whites, despite being almost 65 percent of the population, disproportionately commit less of the nation’s violent crime–10 percent. Blacks, at 13 percent of the population, disproportionately commit more violent crime. As to murders, black commit nearly half. Yet whites are 50 percent of cop killings.”

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