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POULSEN: Racial conflict still ravaging American dream

Image Credit: Chuck Poulsen
May 07, 2015 - 9:53 AM

The politically correct are relentless goblins, demanding rules of taste and semantics even amid death and riots in the race-torn U.S.

In their latest crusade, the PCs are deeply offended by use of the word “thug” during the Baltimore riots.

"These are not thugs, these are upset and frustrated children," said Rev. Jamal Bryant. "'Thugs' is the 21st century word for the n-word.”

The rioting followed the in-custody death of Freddie Gray. The thug controversy started after President Obama used the thug word to describe... thugs.

Webster defines thug as: “A violent criminal; brutal ruffian or assassin.” The youth who rioted in Baltimore are violent criminals.

Charleston, South Carolina police officer Michael Slager shot Walter Scott in the back as Scott ran away. The video told no lies. Slager is an assassin, i.e., thug times 10.

Thug is the right word but there are more important things to worry about down south. Let’s not go on the warpath over a word that doesn’t matter, if I may use the word warpath.

There were also the police-involved deaths of Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner of New York. The current state of U.S. race relations is remindful of the riots of the ‘60s.

I grew up in Racine, Wisconsin, 60 miles north of Chicago. Racine circa ’50s and ‘60s was “Leave it to Beaver” land, at least for me and the entirely white population that lived on the west side of the city.

There were no threats to our safety so our parents let us go off on our own. All the time, anywhere. And that included the black part of town.

Racine has a lovely setting on Lake Michigan and back then so much industry – including the headquarters of Johnson’s Wax and the production of most tractors sold in the U.S. – that any dad could have had a good-paying job unless he didn’t want a job at all.

The grand Venetian Theatre in Racine was torn down because people became afraid to go downtown.
The grand Venetian Theatre in Racine was torn down because people became afraid to go downtown.

Things started to change about 1970. One example: They tore down two grand Italian renaissance theatres, including the Venetian, which was as splendorous as the Orpheum that was saved in Vancouver.

People had become afraid to go downtown at night.

The decay of Racine, both downtown and now even the suburbs, is too long a story for here so I’ll try to summarize the demise - typical of so many U.S. cities - with two simple statistics: When I was 10 (1956), the population of Racine was about 78,000. Last year, the population of Racine was about 78,000. How many cities do you know that have the same population they did 60 years ago?

It’s been about race, all about race. White people got out of Racine and, most importantly to them, got their kids out of the Racine school system. White people left like an exodus.
The worst crime in the cafeteria of my high school was someone throwing a hot dog bun. Today, that same high school cafeteria is guarded by an armed officer.

A bit about my liberal creds before you start calling me a racist.

As a university student, I marched in civil rights demonstrations. On one occasion, I was smacked with a club upside the head by a cop and tossed in jail for the night. My crime was to hold a sign. I understand about police brutality.

Last summer, I went back to Racine for my 50th high school reunion. I had lunch with my buddy from high school; I’ll call him John. There are beautiful old brick homes south of downtown Racine, on or near the lake. Most have a wide porch.

John and I were taking a drive. I noticed a half dozen young blacks hanging out on a porch, another half dozen on the porch next door.

Said John: “We call them porch monkeys.”

This is not a gratuitous use of that expression. That comment didn’t come from a redneck. It came from my old friend, who is a life-long liberal Democrat. He still thinks Obama is a good president; that’s how liberal he is. I repeat his use of such an unpleasant expression as an example - a striking example, I think - of how badly race relations have deteriorated.

It’s been 51 years since Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. There have been notable improvements for African Americans, in the spotlight of business, sports, and politics.

But day-to-day, street level, everything race-wise has gone screwy.

Said John: “It’s worse. Worse than when we were in school.”

How can that be? I have no clue.

One further thought: The prosecutor in Baltimore laid charges against six officers in the death of Freddie Gray. That is trigger-finger speed for six charges, including murder. Six charges in circumstances that at this point are, to say the least, muddy. Three of the officers are black. Confusing?

It has, of course, raised the question of whether charges were laid just to stop the rioting.

After 9/11, the mantra in the U.S. was to carry on life as usual “or the terrorists would have won.”

In Baltimore, the Orioles’ game was played to an empty stadium for fear of thugs, the only time that has happened in the long history of baseball.

Have the charges against Baltimore police been laid without judicial merit, just to appease the thugs?

Have the thugs won?

— Chuck Poulsen is a retired newspaper reporter who lives in Peachland. He can be contacted at poulsenc30@hotmail.com.

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