“..I know something was wrong when a little pretty White Girl ran into a Black Man’s arms..“
The missing commentary in the “missing and found” Cleveland scenario involving Mr. Charles Ramsey reveals the need for a serious conversation about the role of race in America. And despite possible challenges to his “hero-hood” that are the result of what has emerged in Mr. Ramsey’s own past behavior towards women; his comments do open up an opportunity to reflect on the state of race relations in America. He is as has been said; the proverbial “stopped clock that is correct twice a day.” And so I reflect on his comments not because I think he has earned the right to serve as a knowledgeable, well informed commentator and spokesperson on the question of U.S. race relations. Rather, it is his honest and focused assessment of the obvious that is so powerful. Don’t get me wrong I love the poetic politically positive elucidation of Prof. Michael Eric Dyson; the consistent commitment of a Marian Wright Edelman on behalf of the children of the politically disconnected and disinherited; the probing, challenging questioning of MSNBC’s Rev. Al Sharpton and Melissa Harris-Perry.; The literary editorial eloquence of Ta-Nehisi Coates and Charles M. Blow. They are scholars all when commenting on this difficult and persistent state of racial inequality. We have had the opportunity to analyze such events as a distinguish Black Harvard Professor’s arrest while trying to get into his own home; and a Oscar winning actor frisked while shopping while Black (or is that shopping as Black); this demeaning act taking place in the sanctuary and safety of U.S. liberal thought—Manhattan. But nothing at least in my recent memory generates the level of serious silence about race in America as Mr. Charles Ramsey’s unrehearsed and unedited riff as to what clued him to the fact that something was “seriously” wrong with the young lady he assisted in escaping from that horrific Cleveland situation. Putting aside the wonderful rescue of these women, and the important story-line message of not just looking away from a problem; whether it is on your block, in your neighborhood, or a neighborhood in Bangladesh. His very honest exclamation of the tipoff that things were very bad was the willingness of a White Girl to run away from danger and into the arms of a Black Man speaks volumes about where we are as a nation. It is not that the comment is so extraordinary and rare. In fact had he not said it I suspect that in some Black barber shops and beauty parlors across this nation, the very same words would (and will) have been expressed. What made his comments so different and powerful was the fact that they were expressed in an “open” forum. It was if he shared an inside joke/truth with the White members of our U.S. family. We have for many years lived in, to borrow words from the great American playwright August Wilson; living in a place where “two trains are running”; perhaps moving in the same direction but definitely traveling on different tracks. And to continue the metaphor; honest talk about race across the racial divided has become the proverbial ‘third rail’ that promotes, and protects a fake and inauthentic relationship. We try hard to have ‘honest conversations’ about topics like “stop and frisk laws”, or the “role of professional networking” by engaging in a dishonest practice of pretending that race is a non-factor; when it is very much a central factor in these types of discussions. We deftly dance around an authentic discussion about race by having substitute diversionary and non-serious conversations about the “relationship” between then candidate Barack Obama and the Rev. Wright. After this distraction reached the height of foolishness; candidate Obama gave a speech that called for a national honest dialogue as to how people living in the same country may feel radically different as to how they do or do not, fully enjoy the fruits of this nation because of their race. And yet, not even a person who occupies the most powerful position in the world can talk openly and honestly about the high concentration of unemployment and economic hardship, early death and the destruction of young dreams that exist in the Black Communities of America. There is the missing conversation, and missing public outcry about Black missing children; the freighting mathematical predictors as early as the third grade that graphically displays the prison pipeline system for Black males; the daily casualties of war in our inner cities where young Black people going off to school each day play a deadly game of : “Bye Mom and Dad, hope I survive and come back home today”. And finally in my own field, where we do such a terrible job with Black students who are on and above grade level; giving a new meaning to the phrase: “at risk”. The primacy of the fake and manufactured “achievement gap”; that we know is in reality an opportunity, good school, competent teacher and parental resource gap. This “achievement gap” is designed and maintained because there is simply more money generated by Black student failure; then can be found in their academic success. The cynical surrender of the education of Black children to adventurous amateurish and uninformed “reformers”, this done very often with the encouragement and consent of Black elected officials. Black children in particular have become subjects of unethical educational experimentation; that sadly ends with just simply the closing of their schools (lacking the knowledge as to how to improve them); and then shipping the children off to a hungry crowd of educational profiting privateers. The commercialization and commoditization of Black children and their education in this country greatly harms those children for life; but it also harms our nation’s ability to build a strong and viable generation of citizens who will be able to solve future problems, some of which are outside of our present thinking. Whatever you think of Mr. Ramsey’s style and Phraseology; he is I believe, onto something. That something is speaking the truth about race. It is how our continued failure to have this conversation, to in fact pretend that no racial problem exists; prevents our nation from reaching its true potential. The hurt and harm visited upon such a large segment of our population can’t be kept in isolation, can’t be kept hidden. America should follow Mr. Ramsey’s example; don’t ignore and walk away from the pain of our national neighbors; don’t say: “well my kids are safe so..” The truth is that if all children are not equally cared for, not equally educated, not equally encouraged, not equally nurtured, not equally safe, not equally searched for when missing. Then all children are in danger. The ironic and tragic reality is that a world that is unkind to a selective group of children; places all children at risk of unkind treatment. What will it take for us to realize that for many citizens in our land, the present social-economic conditions are really bad, discouraging and painful; and will we as a nation ever gather the will; and extend our arms to embrace and rescue them?