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Citizen Servatius

Don't Do It

A few years ago, standing in line at the grocery store, I noticed this kid, about 16 or 17, in line behind me. He was of mixed race, and he had the most gorgeous eyes I'd ever seen, so feline and exotic it didn't seem possible that they were real. I didn't want to stare, so I kept sneaking glances at him while the cashier rang up my bill, trying to determine if they were tinted contacts or the real thing. I was so entranced by them, in fact, that I forgot I'd left my purse on the conveyor belt.

"Look," he snapped at me. "You don't have to keep watching me. I'm not going to steal your damn purse."

For a few seconds, I had no idea what he was talking about. Then it dawned on me.

"I'm sorry," I said. "I didn't mean to stare, but you've got the most beautiful eyes I've ever seen. I was trying not to be rude."

"You do have beautiful eyes," the cashier chimed in.

That kid's jaw dropped, and he shook his head slightly from side to side, but no words came out. That was understandable. His whole worldview had just been rearranged in the space of a few seconds. He caught up to me in the parking lot. "I got them from my grandmother, I think," he said. "Lots of people tell me that. Thank you."

For me, it was a powerful lesson about the racial distrust simmering deep inside some people, where no one can see it, waiting to boil over. It didn't matter what I really thought, because people of other races who didn't know me might be writing the script of my thoughts for me, and to them, their script was the only one that counted.

That's exactly how they want it, the race-baiters in high positions in our society. They want you to believe that racial tensions are far worse than they actually are, that we're making no progress, in fact slipping backwards, and that they are the only ones who can save us from ourselves. Yet it's often the same people who preach that recognizing racial and social characteristics is a sin who use those same defining characteristics to segregate a group for purposes that benefit them politically.

Why? Because if whites and other minorities, particularly blacks, stopped distrusting each other, the baiters' political goose would be cooked. These days, the politics of race is hardly about race at all. It's about numbers, as anyone who has run a political campaign knows. If African-American voters don't show up at the polls in significant numbers, white and black Democrats lose and Republicans win. To get them to the polls, black and Democratic leaders play off racial issues, which they often hype during election time. Ironically, in comparison to the significant role that African-American voters play in electing Democrat officials, they are largely forgotten until it's time to re-elect those officials.

There are various subtle ways politicians and the media fan the flames of racial mistrust and tension. It's not part of a conspiracy, it just makes a better story, or helps drive home the immediacy of getting oneself elected. But it has the same effect.

Coverage of race and the death penalty by a local paper focused on the fact that defendants are 3.5 times more likely to receive the death penalty for murdering whites than for killing blacks and other minorities. It left as a footnote the fact that regardless of their race, in capital cases, defendants who have prior homicide conviction records are the most likely to be sentenced to death -- a full 19.4 times more likely than their cohorts. I'm still waiting for the official release of a study, completed this summer by a judicial watchdog group, that showed that race was not a predictive factor in who gets ticketed by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers. They didn't get the results they wanted, results that would have proved racial discrimination, so they buried the study.

Nationally, coverage of hate crimes is heavily publicized when the victim is a minority, but when the perpetrators are minorities and the victim Caucasian, race isn't mentioned. This creates the perception that hate crimes against minorities are more prevalent as a percentage of all crime than they actually are.

Take the murder of 81-year-old Elizabeth Tate last December. Tate, a white woman who headed a group that campaigned for the closing of America's borders to immigrants, was abducted by a group of Hispanic men, dragged down the stairs of her San Antonio home, locked in the trunk of her car, taken to a cemetery, beaten nearly to death, doused with gasoline and burned alive. The motive was listed as car theft, not race, which was never even considered as a factor by law enforcement or the media. The San Antonio Express made no mention of the race of the victim or the assailants, and the national media blacked out this heinous hate crime altogether.

Ironically, when the body of an unidentified African-American woman who had been burned to death was discovered in Los Angeles, CBS automatically reported it as a hate crime before the race of her attackers was even known. It was later discovered that they were also African-American.

This double standard is getting out of control.

In Charlotte, the city leaders who insist we need a racial profiling policy -- police officers must fill out a two-page document for every person they come in contact with -- because police supposedly target minority drivers, are the same folks who want to target minority businesses and award them with contracts earned by the sole fact that they have managed to exist, some of them for the last 20 years. What is the inherent message in that? We believe that minorities can drive, but they can't run a business without government help?

Beyond political gain for those who stand to benefit from racial tensions, I'm not sure what the point of all of this is anymore. The same could be said of recent whispers of a possible boycott of Charlotte businesses over the termination of a minority-and-women-owned business program by the Charlotte City Council. African-American leaders supposedly angered over the situation met Tuesday to decide whether to go forward with a boycott. They should know better. The council scrapped that program, which helps assure minority contractor participation in city contracts, not because it wanted to, but because a pending lawsuit is forcing it to. According to the Supreme Court and other case rulings against these programs across the country, the city's program wouldn't stand a chance before a judge. It has to be revamped or it will be destroyed in court, and that will take the city awhile. Respect and fairness toward minorities and women had nothing to do with the council's decision, and this city's Democrat and African-American leaders know it. How they will play it to their constituents, and whether they will capitalize upon it, particularly in an election year, is another story.

So for what it's worth, I'll remind them of that kid in the line at the grocery store. He doesn't need any more hatred and paranoia in his life, and neither do I. Find another way to get yourselves elected. *

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