Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Comparisons are odious

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Back in 1978 I was walking along on my own down a street in San Francisco when I was beckoned by an African-American man who was working under the bonnet of his car on the side of the road. I felt most uncomfortable. I had seen enough TV dramas to know that blacks in America were all criminals and I was certain that I was about to become another victim of a violent crime. I was probably going to be bashed and robbed of my exiguous wallet, or perhaps even kidnapped and my family asked to pay an iniquitous ransom they couldn’t possibly hope to raise.

I was in a catch 22 situation. If I ignored his beckon and ran there is no doubt he would shoot me with a hand gun he was certain to have in his pocket and I would be lying dead on the sidewalk with passers-by doing just that - passing by.

And so I accepted his invitation with fear and trepidation. He asked me if I would sit in the car and turn the motor over so he might determine what was causing it not to go. This was even more terrifying. Was he going to push me over from the driver’s side and drive off and subsequently murder me and bundle me into the trunk?

However I did as I was asked and used the starter motor to turn the engine over without it firing. After a few minutes he came over to the driver’s side, shook my hand through the window and thanked me profusely for my help. He said he would have to get a mechanic to determine what was wrong and after a few minutes of conversation I found him to be a genuinely nice person as of course the vast majority of black Americans are.

I walked back to my hotel feeling thoroughly ashamed of myself. I had fallen for the stereotyping that I suspect still prevails in America today.

“Black Lives Matter” scream the signs as protestors, African-Americans and liberal whites, line the streets of the cities where black citizens have been shot by police recently for seemingly minor misdemeanours.

Retaliations have been swift. A lone African-American sniper gunned down five Dallas policemen and then an ex-marine named Gavin Long, (relation?) who is said to have been eager for black people to take a strong physical stance against mistreatment by “the people that run this country”, shoots two police officers and a sheriff’s deputy in Baton Rouge.

To some extent America is its own worst enemy. A couple of weeks ago I was watching a movie on Sky where the criminals were vile African-Americans torturing their victims in the most hideous manner. There was one “good” black person, part of the law enforcement team who were examining the crime, but this was a flagrant imbalance. If this is nightly fare for the rank and file American then many will still harbour the same fears I had back in 1978.

In an effort to quell the dissent U.S. authorities claimed that the number of citizens killed for the six months ending 30th June of this year is 238 white people, 123 black people 79 Hispanics and 69 others of unknown race.

America has a population of 320 million, ours is 4.5. Last week our own “unarmed” police shot two citizens.

San Francisco is looking safer by the day.

“I hear that melting pot stuff a lot, and all I can say is that we haven’t melted.” - Jesse Jackson

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