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Tommy Carcetti

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Member since: Tue Jul 10, 2007, 03:49 PM
Number of posts: 42,263

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Trying to understand current race relations without historical context is the height of insanity.

(Caveat: I am white. So I can't avoid the fact no matter what, I'm coming at this from a white person's perspective, and inevitably someone might accuse me of suffering from white guilt, even though no one in my family ever owned a slave and half my family was barely in this country long enough for the Jim Crow era. Still, I think I've studied enough history that I believe I know enough to speak out on the topic.)

So often I've heard the question--usually directed towards blacks and minorities although usually not expressly so--"Why do people still bring up issues of race? Can't we get beyond black and white?"

And on the surface, it might be a fair question. Consider this: If someone hypothetically had zero knowledge of history--say they were an alien from another planet--and they came across this country and they heard people talking about how people with one skin pigmentation see things differently than people with people with another skin pigmentation, they'd think we'd all be completely insane. Such a biological difference would seem so utterly trivial, so minute that it would seem--without historical context--nonsensical. I mean, besides a random corny blonde joke, do people obsess over hair color? Do people obsess over eye color, or a person's dominant writing hand? Yes, we're all technically One Human Family and none of these things should ever matter.

The problem that we cannot get around, however, is that in terms of skin, those things did matter. We live in a country that all throughout its colonial gestation and for nearly the first century of its existence allowed the enslavement of individuals exclusively with black skin. Parts of this country, including its capital city, were very literally built with slave labor. And then after slavery was finally abolished (only after the most tumultuous 5 year period in the country's history), for another century we saw laws on the books that legally sanctioned the segregation and disparate treatment of people based on skin color. And when those laws were challenged, people were beaten, sprayed with hoses, attacked with dogs and even hung from trees. Did we really expect that Brown vs. Board of Education or the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would act as a light switch that would instantly turn off all of these problems that had been festering in this country for centuries?

The fact that African Americans in this country in its present date disproportionately make up a greater percentage of people living in poverty or incarceration is no coincidence at all. But we're told over and over again that the past is in the past, slavery is long gone, Jim Crow is long gone, etc., so having race "matter" is only causing further division.

In 2015--only half a century removed from LBJ signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964--we're told race shouldn't matter. The problem is, for roughly the first 200 years of the country's existence, we were told that race did matter. We were told race mattered over and over and over again. That fact was drilled into our heads. Race was everything for that period.

In clinical terms, that's what's referred to as bipolar disorder.

I love America. I love the City of Baltimore, a city that I have a deep familial connection with and without any irony whatsoever my favorite city in the country. That we still have to have a discussion about race in 2015 infuriates me to no end. But history demands that we do, so we can attempt to reach that "more perfect union" that has been sought for over 200 years.
Posted by Tommy_Carcetti | Thu Apr 30, 2015, 09:55 AM (3 replies)

If there's one thing I simply cannot stand, it's poverty shaming.

Recently a person on my Facebook page indignantly posted her dismay that when driving by the local food bank, she saw a woman pick up food and put it in her late model car. The obvious insinuation there was that this individual had the money to spend on a new/newer car but couldn't be bothered to pay for her own groceries, and perhaps even that she was somehow gaming the system.

Of course, such a knee-jerk reaction (with emphasis on jerk) immediately discounts other logical possibilities:

1. The woman was picking up food not for herself, but for someone else who didn't have access to a car.
2. The woman didn't own the car herself but was borrowing it from a friend for need of transportation
3. The woman had recently been able to afford to buy a new car but due to a sudden change in circumstances (job loss, illness, etc.) was in need of financial assistance.

And there are other possibilities as well. People in poverty can still drive cars, even newer model ones. That doesn't make them poor, nor should it disqualify them from financial help.

The bottom line here is simple: If you don't know the circumstances behind what you are seeing, kindly shut up. It's none of your business and it's inappropriate to pass judgment on someone who very likely is struggling immensely and whose life may be a living hell. I'll freely admit that I sometimes give a dollar to the person on the street corner with a "Hungry, Please Help" sign. Yes, I know there's the possibility that person may use that dollar for alcohol or drugs instead of for food. Yes, it may be possible the person actually isn't homeless and is playing a scam. But you know what? It's a dollar. A dollar of mine that probably would go towards buying a candy bar that would go to my waistline. If the person is in fact scamming me, that's on their conscience, not mine. I won't miss that dollar, and if the person is in fact in need of help and would use that dollar wisely, I'd much rather give them that dollar than snidely pass judgment on them.

Now there's efforts afoot in numerous states to prohibit people on food stamps from buying certain items of food such as steak or seafood. Because God forbid they or the family eat the same food as the rest of us.

Some of these people, I swear, I think they think you aren't actually poor unless you are wearing a potato sack and eating nothing but bread and water. And if you are wearing a potato sack and eating only bread and water, they'd still knock you for being "lazy". It's a total lose-lose.

What makes some people feel the need to be so callous to pass such judgment, and to assume that if you're poor, you're either a fraud or lazy and unmotivated?

Posted by Tommy_Carcetti | Thu Apr 9, 2015, 12:28 PM (91 replies)
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