In his commentary (“The Daily News is just fanning the flames of hate,” The Daily News, Sept. 28) George Grace asserts those who have posed legitimate questions regarding the arrest of Donald Neely “fan the flames of hatred and mistrust.”
To be sure, some may have rushed to judgment regarding the mounted Galveston police officers’ leading Neely by a rope for several blocks.
The officers involved apparently followed prevailing official protocols for such an incident, but that doesn’t preclude our dispassionately reexamining the propriety of those protocols. As suggested by local historian Sam Collins III, even if you leave race out of it, it’s fair to ask whether this was the right thing to do (“After arrest, isle must do some diversity repair work,” The Daily News, Sept. 26).
The fundamental question is whether this is the way we, as a community, should treat any fellow human being who happens to suffer from mental illness or is homeless.
Yet Grace, unlike the officers, appears unable or unwilling to grasp the understandable reaction the images of Neely’s arrest might provoke. The grim historical legacy that those images recall is reflected in the chillingly similar 1832 engraving of a kidnapping for enslavement presented when entering “the abduction of Sidney Francis” in a web browser.
That Grace would use an analogy of managing cattle in reference to such handling painfully hearkens back to the conception many whites had of non-whites during the slavery era.
As often noted, slavery was America’s “original sin,” dating from earliest European settlement. Slavery stole people’s most valuable possession — their lives — from them. Enslaved persons didn’t own their own person and had virtually no ability to direct their own existence. Add to this dehumanization the physical and sexual violence and the forced family separations that were so often inflicted on the enslaved.
Grace suggests that “racism” ended in the U.S. in 1865 with emancipation, and that continued use of the word has been “weaponized.” A fair definition of “racism” would be: Perceiving or treating another person in a negative manner solely based upon that other person’s being of a different race, color or ethnicity.
Certainly, when slavery ended, it became illegal to own or convey others’ lives as commodities. But, in its wake, Jim Crow laws, lynchings, segregation, separate but “equal” schools, redlining, voter suppression, profiling, environmental discrimination, mass incarceration, all have adversely and disproportionately affected persons of color.
Regrettably, not all of those practices are “closed books;” some of these injustices continue to stain our nation’s honor and prevent us from living up to our stated belief that all are created equal. The abuses of slavery and its successor practices have often been experienced by many generations. Can it be any wonder that the descendants of those tormented generations are hypersensitive to potential wrongs?
Grace finally laments that “there will always be injustice and prejudice in this imperfect world,” accepting this as an inevitable, permanent condition. In honesty, however, it’s appropriate to label racism as such, wherever it appears, rather than mask it with the soft, catch-all of “prejudice.”
And it’s never improper to continue seeking justice for all.