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Davis Journal

The fight for justice means making calls both ways

May 06, 2021 12:28PM ● By Bryan Gray

Given human nature and the mere fact of observation, I am not sure America can ever become a truly racially unbiased society.  But as we fight for justice and racial/ethnic equality, we must, like a fair referee, call it both ways.

Not every traffic stop or aggressive police action involving a racial or ethnic minority is a stain on law enforcement. Not every Black American is a saint and not every white cop is a trigger-happy racist.  Not every police shooting is an invitation to riot, and looters are criminals, not “anguished” citizens fed up with ill treatment. 

The reality of racial inequality cannot be ignored.  When Trayvon Martin appears “threatening” for holding a pack of candy, when a Black man is killed for the crime of selling unlicensed cigarettes, when another is riddled with bullets for trotting away from police officers in a public park, or when George Floyd is murdered by an officer with a checkered history of assault, there is ample reason for demanding reform. When a survey finds that minority men and women are some three times more likely to be convicted than whites charged with the same crime, only the stupid cannot acknowledge a problem.

But that doesn’t mean that every aggressive action is unjustified. 

Last week a Black teenager in Columbus, Ohio was shot and killed by a white police officer. The teen was attempting to stab another girl; the officer had some 11 seconds to make a judgement call. In the end he killed one Black girl – and saved another. We will hear about the dead girl, Ma’Khia Bryant, but I doubt we will hear much about the teenager the officer saved, Tionna Bonner. 

Yes, we need to call it both ways. And this extends to other areas as well. 

Last week, many celebrities were bemoaning the fact that the “favorite” to win Best Actor at the Academy Awards, the recently deceased Black actor Chadwick Boseman, actually lost in the balloting to an aging white man, Anthony Hopkins. At the same time, Viola Davis lost the Best Actress trophy, even though most critics praised her performance.

Some will connect the results to racism.  But if that were the case, Black actor Daniel Kaluuya would not have won Best Supporting Actor, Regina King would not have been selected to deliver the opening speech, and two Asian women would not have taken home statuettes for Best Director and Best Supporting Actress.

From my non-Hollywood perspective, Viola Davis should have won, but then again the Los Angeles Dodgers – presumably the best team in baseball – would have won the World Series three years in a row.  In the case of Chadwick Boseman, his death of cancer at the age of 43 would have made his win a sentimental great Hollywood story. His acclaimed performance also made him more than deserving.  But that doesn’t mean the winner only won because Boseman is Black.  As movie critic Wesley Morris said following the show, “It makes all the sense in the world that Anthony Hopkins won. His (performance) is titanic.”

Racism is too serious an offense to be tossed around casually. I’m all in favor of banishing and even imprisoning overly aggressive police officers.  

In entertainment, the days when Charlie Pride’s face did not appear on his first few albums for fear of offending white fans is over.  And there is a Black teenager alive in Ohio because of a white cop.