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Kamloops News

THOMPSON: Republicans campaign on lie that equality is a zero sum game

November 29, 2021 - 12:00 PM



“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

The quote - a favourite - is the opening line from “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens. I’ve read the book cover to cover four times since my first perusal in 1968. How ironic that Dickens’ words - from 1859 - fit so perfectly then…again in 1968…and even today.

Last week, when three white men were found guilty of murdering a Black man in Georgia…it was Dickens’ words that first came to my mind. The evidence was overwhelmingly in favour of convictions for the three men. But Georgia has never been known for justice…especially when it comes to Black folks.

That is not opinion…it is a matter of fact…going all the way back to 1788, when Georgia first became a state. It became a state again in 1865, when as a part of the seceding Confederate States of America, it was defeated by the United States. Georgia is second only to Mississippi in lynching black people. But you don’t have to go back in history to find blatant inequities.

I remember when Lester Maddox, who was elected governor in 1967, used to hand out axe handles - known as Maddox drumsticks - to customers at his "whites only" Atlanta fried chicken restaurant in the mid-60s. The drumsticks were, he said, for use against any Blacks who might try to come there and eat.

There is a difference between justice and accountability. The three white men found guilty in Georgia…that is accountability. It will be justice when a Black man can walk or jog any place in America, like Satilla Shores - the upper-middle-class neighbourhood outside Brunswick, GA - where the three white men chased down in their trucks and killed an unarmed Black man.

Black folks throughout America - not just the South - are long familiar with the injustices in their country. Police in Wisconsin, Georgia, Ohio, Alabama, New Jersey - every state - stop Black folks more than white folks. It happens so often, the “crimes” are called derisively by fair-minded people things like “driving while Black” and “walking while Black” and “shopping while Black.”

The inequities and injustices are not difficult to prove…official U.S. government statistics cite them…arrests and imprisonment, housing and healthcare discrimination…virtually every measure of life in America. But for too many in America…mostly white…mostly men…mostly Republican…these facts and truths aren’t accepted as facts and truths.

Some - like Fox News entertainers - present misleading half-truths at best…like saying the imprisonment rate for Black Americans has decreased 34 percent since 2004. That’s true…as far as it goes. Fox didn’t inform viewers that today a Black person is more than five times more likely to be imprisoned than a white person.

Others, like the two prosecutors in Georgia who recommended not filing charges against the three white men in Georgia…father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael and neighbour William “Roddie” Bryan…who in broad daylight tracked down and killed Ahmaud Arbery on Feb. 23, 2020…simply lie.

It took a national outcry after a video was leaked to the public for charges to be brought in the case…74 days after Arbery was shot and killed. Ironically. The video was shot by one of the murderers.

Otherwise Arbery’s killing would have been one of thousands of examples over decades of what is known as “good ole boy” justice…if you’re white and commit a crime against a Black person…it doesn’t really count.

The lawyers of the three murderers of Arbery cited a Georgia law from 1863 that allows Georgia citizens to make citizens arrests if they see a crime being committed. The problem…none mentioned citizen’s arrest the day they stopped and killed Arbery…only after they lawyered up.

By the way, that Georgia law - repealed after public outcry last year - was put in place solely to allow white folks to “arrest” runaway slaves…it was enacted just after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation during the Civil War.

Sadly, nearly half of white America continues to look the other way as Republican politicians that they vote for and elect do their damnedest to pass laws that restrict voting and subjugate people of colour.

These folks miss the days of slavery and Jim Crow. They never bought into the American credo…equal justice for all. Sure, they never owned slaves, they tell you, but my experience…oh, they miss those good ole days.

They believe one of the many Republican lies…handed down from old white men to old white men. Equality is a zero sum game…people of colour can’t have equality unless they take it from white folks. Republicans campaign and are elected on this lie…no one gives up anything for all to have equal justice…except in the minds of those who no matter how bad things might be…always consider themselves superior to people of colour.

It is up to all Americans to make their noble rights and privileges a reality rather than a dream. So, I’ll end as I began.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines.

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