Bob Franken




There are various degrees of bigotry. At the top of the dung heap are the perversely proud racists, those who used to dress in hooded robes. These days they are wearing camo and carrying weaponry that should be illegal but is not. They form militia groups and are usually white supremacists, and many have allies in police departments across the country.
Most of the members of law enforcement are conscientious first responders who take seriously their “protect and serve” mission. However, they are tarred by some in their ranks who have a twisted hatred of people of color, like Derek Chauvin. He took it upon himself to allegedly squeeze the life out of George Floyd on a Minneapolis street, just one of a series of murders of black citizens by violently abusive police.
Then there are the ones who often wear business attire. President Donald Trump and his henchman Attorney General William Barr fit into this category. They are insidious and perhaps more vicious. Oftentimes, they will pretend not to be racist. In the old days they were segregationists who would argue: “I’m not prejudiced. Why some of my best friends are …” And then they would usually use the N-word. These days, Trump will insist he’s “the least racist person” he knows.
There is a third group of bigots, although they would vehemently deny it. These are the ones who will acknowledge when confronted by a video of abuse that a cop might have been overzealous, but they cannot understand the rage of those who would destroy property or become violent in protest marches, no matter what the loathsome provocation by law enforcement.
They cannot understand the Black Lives Matter movement, and respond that ALL lives matter. This is a dead giveaway of maybe unconscious prejudice, and an absurd argument. Just how absurd was described in 2016 by AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, who is among the corporate executives who pays attention to social problems, not just the bottom line:
“When a parent says, ‘I love my son,’ you don’t say, ‘What about your daughter?’ When we walk or run for breast cancer funding and research, we don’t say, ‘What about prostate cancer?’ When the president says, ‘God bless America,’ we don’t say, ‘Shouldn’t God bless all countries?’ And when a person struggling with what’s been broadcast on our airwaves says, ‘Black lives matter,’ we should not say, ‘All lives matter’ to justify ignoring the real need for change.”

To put an exclamation point on this, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser renamed 16th Street, which leads up to the White House, Black Lives Matter Plaza, and ordered workers to paint the name on the street in big visible letters.
To be sure, it’s not that every American is a racist, although we have accepted a nation that since its beginning has had bigotry baked into its existence. But there have been many white people joining the protests nationwide, chanting, “Black lives matter,” fighting the battles with heavy-handed police forces and taking the life or death chance of being infected by the coronavirus.
One might think that the death of George Floyd, the horror that was captured on video, would be a turnaround moment in American history. But we have had so many turnaround moments that have sputtered. Some bring about minute changes; many do not. They simply harden problems like bigotry into the national infrastructure.
It will will require that people of good will get off their sofas and keep the pressure on a society that accepts racial discrimination as a given. “Tolerance is for cowards,” Stephenson continued.
“Being tolerant requires nothing from you but to be quiet and not make waves.” To erase this stain that is spread over our society, the so-called tolerant must remember the murder of George Floyd, and at the very least turn out on Election Day to vote the bigots out. That will be a start. But only a start.

© 2020 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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