I would like to dispute the morally muddled reflections on race by John Hubbuch in his “Just once, consider the other point of view” column in the Jan. 14 edition of Wednesday Journal Viewpoints.

At this time of celebration of MLK’s birthday, a suggestion for you, Mr. Hubbuch: the next time the impulse to reflect on race relations moves you, consider substituting King’s 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” his answer to the eight fuzzy-thinking clergymen urging consideration of the “other point of view.”

The column’s title itself is objectionable in its implications, but then Hubbuch writes, “Both sides fall back on the prejudices of family and friends … [and thereby demonstrate] … inability to understand and empathize with conflicting world views on race.” This is an assertion of moral ambiguity or equivalence entirely inappropriate to the question of racial justice.

Are we really to “consider” the other point of view on this issue? The only question should be what exactly is at the core of that other point of view? Is it anything more elevated than this: skin pigmentation as provocation, serving as the foundation for repressive public policies and angry, murderous resistance to efforts to redress the inequities? “Affirmative action” as “reverse discrimination,” and all the associated crap. 

OK, duly “considered” and, at even a youthful age long ago, rejected instinctively. Call that “prejudice,” but prejudice in the service of equality.

We’re not post-racial. Sociological data on education, health, incarceration rates, income and wealth, broken down racially, demonstrate this conclusively. In this “land of equal opportunity,” which conservatives are so fond of asserting (their smugness rides on it), those who refuse to abandon this myth are left with only racist explanations to explain the statistical imbalances.

Still in circulation are the overt assertions of actual racial inferiority (the more organized proponents are thankfully monitored by the Southern Poverty Law Center who “consider” the “other side,” then sue them into financial ruin). Also circulating are the stealth-racist explanations of, for example, FOX’s Bill O’Reilly, who pompously blames these statistical disparities on inferior parenting or deficient aptitude for O’Reilly’s superior virtues and cultural preferences.

Then there are the conservatives who affiliate with a racist point of view. The association is even ideological. Proponents of the vile inequality produced by raw capitalism, these conservative office seekers employ Lee Atwater’s rhetorical tactics to harvest the vote of disgruntled whites as part of their “Southern Strategy” (Ronald Reagan); praise dried-up segregationists (Trent Lott/Strom Thurmond and Ted Cruz/Jesse Helms); complain of a “war on whites,” are straight out of the 1915 movie Birth of a Nation (Congressman Mo Brooks); address white supremacist gatherings (Congressman Peter Scalise) or otherwise associate with the like-minded (Rand Paul/the “Southern Avenger,” Jack Hunter); and then give consideration to policy recommendations from think tanks employing racist intellectuals (the Jim DeMint-led Heritage Foundation/Jason Richwine). Predictably, once in office these conservatives promote policies operating to preserve racial and class imbalances.

 And (perhaps finally) there are the conflict-adverse, fuzzy-thinkers living their comfortably cloistered lives blaming both sides for disorder, taking a stance midway between right and wrong. Although not the engine of racism, their moral equivocation fuels persistent injustice. 

In the 1896 “separate but equal” Plessy v. Ferguson SCOTUS decision, there were seven fuzzy thinkers (being overly generous here) reaching a “middle ground” of sorts and only one clear thinker: the lone dissenter, John Harlan Sr. In the arena of constitutional law, it took almost 60 years for this country to proceed beyond that pernicious majority opinion and even then there was pushback from, for example, future conservative Chief Justice William Rehnquist, clerking for Robert Jackson at the time of Brown v. Board of Education. 

Obviously there is room for greater understanding. Welcomed would be an appreciation for the very human provoked anger in the African-American community, together with outright awe for the divine forbearance in that same community. However, hope resides not with the expectation that hearts and minds will change. The hostility seems too locked into immutable personality. 

Rather, hope lies in the intertwined dynamics of the more communal elements of the electorate being sufficiently aroused, our civilization continuing to advance in the face of conservative opposition, bigotry being not so easily passed along generationally to ultimately sustain it, and racists and their affiliates living out their natural lives, better sooner than later.

Gregg Mumm has been a resident of Oak Park since 1992.

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