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Optimists See the Donut, Pessimists See the Hole

If most whites were racists Barack Obama would never have been elected President of the United States.  That isn’t to say that the 2008 presidential election cleansed our country of racism. IT DIDN’T.  In our class-divided society it might even have fueled delusion among some of the most enlightened and tolerant Americans who supported candidate Obama.  In their daily lives they seldom encounter the racists described by former President Jimmy Carter and tend to see most accusations of racism as hyperbole or "isolated incidents".  Unfortunately, too many of them mistake their secluded reality for the universal reality.
Oh the other hand, millions of African Americans don’t enjoy daily interactions with such enlightened and tolerant white peers, but too often must deal with white authority figures (and others) who still harbor racial stereotypes.  It is the existence of these starkly different realities that inspired me to respond to Bob Herbert’s recent column in the New York Times.
My letter, published in today’s Times (9/22/09), is enclosed below:

September 22, 2009


Different Black Perspectives
To the Editor:

Re: The Scourge Persists by Bob Herbert (column, Sept. 19):

Claims of racism and the reactions to them remind me of the responses in the black community to Bill Cosby’s criticism of urban black youths and their parents a few years ago.

Many African-American beneficiaries of the civil rights movement (as was I) fortunate enough to live apart from the troubled neighborhoods Mr. Cosby described were vehement in their responses. They didn’t know any such people and accused him of cruel exaggerations. But those who lived in the neighborhoods and dealt daily with widespread unemployment, drugs, soaring dropout rates, youth violence and all else that propagates from them held different views. They often packed meeting halls to hear Mr. Cosby’s message and strongly supported him.

The differing views on racism in the greater society are similar and remind me of a saying from the Montgomery bus boycott: Where one stands on the issue depends on where one is sitting.

David L. Evans

Cambridge, Mass., Sept. 21, 2009

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