I was a white paperboy delivering the news in a little West Allis, Wisconsin trailer park when the front pages day after day were filled with the poor and in those days 99 percent black crowds running, police and firemen, eventually 700 National Guardsmen on site as downtown Milwaukee along with many other American inner cities burned. The photos of flames shooting out of (largely) slumlord run “rathole” low-rent apartments was then branded in my mind. The key issues? Police brutality and housing.
I heard and read countless calls for law and order- only the law and laws on the books did little to nothing for poor blacks living in such white run and owned buildings often with leaking roofs, lousy boilers so in freezing winter and that hot summer, between general apparent indifference, money-focused white folk and broken justice for poor blacks, a great deal of the nation exploded in riots.
If you were “living” in those slums there wasn’t much mystery as to why people finally had enough and decided to trash, loot and burn. I heard again and again, always from whites in the working class suburb of West Allis where we lived -how they just could not understand why “those people could do such horrible things to their own homes!”
Put bluntly, even as a 14 year old kid it struck me how terribly ignorant and privileged white people (and I’m clearly white!!!!) were and God help us all, too many still are today, 53 years later.
The repeating narrative of a fair number of white folks? “They live
like savages, see, LAW AND ORDER!!” when they have so often been
either ignored, out of sight out of mind or killed/lynched/you-name-it by white folk for the length of our nation’s history.
How convenient to simply send in more cops, troops, elect tough-guy phony saviors who will demand the authorities arrest more people, lock and load. Gotta be tough on crime (unless it’s white voter’s blue collar crime). Others form or join a militia, play the neo-nazi white power game who in their sin, ignorance and their own hypocritical rejection of law and order proclaim this is all happening because “THEY asked for it!!”
Well when the Black Panthers launched and began to openly walk around with guns, when I unofficially joined (to be honest rather thin though sympathetic) the White Panthers it was in direct result of the continual blindness, often outright vitriol of the whites I heard say things such as this literal quote on my paper route “Just let ’em come out HERE!” as he took his afternoon paper with one hand and lifted a double barrel shotgun up in the
As God is my witness I have no idea what my expression looked like, but I turned and before I hit the bottom step outside his double wide trailer my brain said “And if they do I’m going to be in the front row when we get to your place. YOU are the reason they finally lose it and burn the place down. Don’t you GET IT??!”
A few years later after coming to Jesus in faith one of the personal
assurances I had a genuine relationship with Him came was when I realized I no longer dreamed of ways to destroy such hard-hearted, thick-headed, fearful and arrogant armed whites.
In light of yet another death of an unarmed black victim, as black
folk riot, beyond lamenting George Floyd’s murder I believe 3 other
things must be said:
*The black AND white community sorely need a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to organize peaceful but direct protests in all appropriate places regarding true and not merely “white justice”
*From the White House to State Capitols to Cities change of who is in charge based how they speak, act (with or without genuine respect for ALL Americans) -and all citizens must demand they change and enforce laws in such way law enforcement actually SERVES and PROTECTS black, brown and other people of color
*Lastly, excessive force nearly always comes back in our face as a nation and until we realize it some of this is reaping the fruit of injustices that white, privileged people have sown since before the founding of our nation
Repentance starts with me, with the Church, not “them“.
I close with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. regarding the 1967 riots:
“When we ask Negroes to abide by the law, let us also declare that the white man does not abide by law in the ghettos. Day in and day out he violates welfare laws to deprive the poor of their meager allotments; he flagrantly violates building codes and regulations; his police make a mockery of law; he violates laws on equal employment and education and the provisions for civic services. The slums are the handiwork of a vicious system of the white society; Negroes live in them but do not make them any more than a prisoner makes a prison. Let us say it boldly that if the total slum violations of law by the white man over the years were calculated and were compared with the lawbreaking of a few days of riots, the hardened criminal would be the white man.”
As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn