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Mon Apr 19, 2021, 12:15 PM

"If we [African-Americans] seem paranoid to you at times, just remember this:"

"If we [African-Americans] seem paranoid to you at times, just remember this: there is nothing you can imagine that hasn't been done to us, again and again. Nothing."


The above quotation is one that made a great impression on me when I first read it in a local African-American newspaper in the mid-1990's, and it has haunted me ever since. It is not taken verbatim, and I can provide no link, but I have paraphrased it to the best of my memory.

My recollection is that this was a statement by a gentleman named Gary Sudduth, who was president of the Minneapolis Urban League. It was made at a time when the public and the media were preoccupied with the cases of O.J. Simpson and Michael Jackson, two Black celebrities who stood accused of very serious crimes.

The punditry devoted much time to commenting on the disparate views of white America and Black America on these cases. Poll after poll seemed to show that most white people were inclined to believe that the two were guilty, and most Black people suspected that both were being persecuted and railroaded.

The plain truth of Mr. Sudduth's patient explanation of that disparity hit me with a heavy thud. The dim 15-watt bulb over my head flickered to life, and I thought to myself:

Good God. It's so true. There's nothing I can imagine, no matter how horrible, that has not been done to Black people, over and over again. And the things so horrible that they are outside my ability to imagine? Those have been done again and again as well.

That knowledge is carried by Black folks every day of their lives, isn't it? They're crushed under the burden of that knowledge every moment of their lives. And when they're not forced to contemplate the sheer horror of the most extreme examples, they're being ground down by the petty, pervasive, day-to-day racism they experience.

Would that shape my perceptions if I were in their place? Well, HELL YES it would. Would it pre-condition me to sense the deadly threat of racism lurking around every corner? Well, HELL YES it would. If it didn't, then I would just be blinding myself to the awful reality.


Lately, I've watched with pain and sorrow as we armchair investigators on DU have dissected the recent shootings of Duante Wright and Adam Toledo, and debated whether these shootings fit the universally-observed pattern of police mistreatment of African-Americans across this country, or are just outliers, tragic blunders on the part of the officers involved.

Those debates have shown me again the great gulf between the perceptions and experiences of African-Americans and those of whites. Although AA DU'ers have been measured and restrained in their comments, the unfathomable pain from which they are speaking has been impossible for me to miss. I've had no heart to prod those deeply painful wounds by discussing these events the way I would discuss the freeze-frame play-by-play of a disputed referee call from last Sunday's football game.

This seems to me to be sort of a microcosm of the state of things across the USA. It's said that justice delayed is justice denied, and on the matter of police racism, justice has been delayed for so very, very, long that it amounts to justice forever denied. I don't know what can come of it all. I don't know what people whose desperate need for justice has been so long denied are supposed to do or think or feel or say.

Only this tiny thing can I suggest: that everyone, everywhere try to carry Mr. Sudduth's simple words in their mind and their heart, as I have these past twenty-five years.




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Reply "If we [African-Americans] seem paranoid to you at times, just remember this:" (Original post)
Mister Ed Apr 2021 OP
sop Apr 2021 #1

Response to Mister Ed (Original post)

Mon Apr 19, 2021, 12:23 PM

1. I can't begin to imagine the fear and dread parents of young black men must experience.

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