by Daryl Gale, The Philadelphia Tribune
It doesn’t take some folks much to get all riled up — especially when it comes to the subject of race.
There is, and always should be, a contingent of strong voices who rise in righteous indignation when an act of racism is committed.
Last week’s victims of foot-in-mouth disease, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, are perfect examples. When Santorum said he wouldn’t help Black people by giving them other people’s money; and when Newt opined that he’d give Blacks janitorial jobs instead of food stamps — you know, so “those people” can learn some sort of work ethic — they were slapped around by everyone from the NAACP to members of their own party.
Both were hauled in front of the cameras and forced to backtrack, explain, and further clarify their idiotic statements until they were blue in the face, and I loved every minute of it. When you say stupid, racist things simply to pander to stupid, racist voters you should be called on it.
But then there is another contingent — with voices just as strong, but whose poor research skills and convoluted logic has them grasping vainly at phantom racist bogeymen. Searching high and low for racism in every dusty corner, they scream “Aha!” with delight when they discover that green olives are sold in clear jars but black olives are sold in cans — no doubt, they argue with satisfaction, because olive packers are ashamed of Blackness and want to hide it from the public.
You know a few of these folks — we all do. They mean well, and God bless them in their constant vigilance against racism, but when raw emotion trumps common sense, then they’re just not helping the cause.
On Jan. 15, 1999, David Howard, a white aide to Anthony Williams, the Black mayor of Washington, D.C., used the word “niggardly” in reference to a budget issue. This apparently upset Marshall Brown, one of his Black colleagues, who interpreted it as a racial slur and lodged a very vocal public complaint. Ten days later Howard tendered his resignation, and Williams accepted it.
Never mind that anyone with a dictionary and half a brain can tell you that niggardly has nothing to do with race, and nothing to do with the unfortunate word that sounds something like it — not even remotely. It means stingy or miserly, and Howard was using the word correctly and in context.
Marshall Brown, who I’m sure is a good person, would probably say he was simply being vigilant about rooting out racism. But that’s not what he did. What he did was get a guy canned for no good reason, and prove his own pitiful lack of vocabulary. He didn’t advance the cause one iota.
I fear that may be the case this week with all the hue and cry over Microsoft’s new GPS application, dubbed Avoid Ghetto by journalists and bloggers. That’s the first important distinction — Microsoft never called it that, it’s just kind of how things end up getting labeled these days.
When downloaded to your smartphone or GPS, the app uses crime statistics, similar to programs used in maps for law enforcement, to help the user avoid “bad” neighborhoods. It also does the same for bad weather, but it’s the crime aspect that has the contingent up in arms.
Crying foul, they have decided that high crime equals Black, and therefore the app is racist.
Here’s the problem with that: The app maps crimes, not ethnicities. It has no idea who lives in the area, just that there’s a high incidence of crime. By hopping up and down to complain, it is the complainers themselves who draw the parallel between race and crime.
We can all name middle and upper class Black neighborhoods that are perfectly safe to walk through, and lower class white areas which are not safe at all. Now, if the app reflects that, and simply shows high and low crime statistics, I have no quarrel with it.
People have a right to decide to avoid high crime areas just like they have a right to avoid traffic jams or road construction if their GPS re-routes them. And don’t think for one minute that Black folks won’t be downloading that app, because plenty of us will. I think women, of any race, who frequently travel alone would probably find it quite useful.
So save the righteous anger for a legitimate race issue. I’m sure you won’t have to wait long — probably just until the next time one of the GOP candidates opens his or her mouth.
— as part of a special partnership with The Philadelphia Tribune