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SIMMONS: Looking inward to draw lessons from a tragedy
And hopes and dreams? Suffice it to say that the crux of one young woman’s comments about low expectations and the failure to teach youths common courtesies were eye-opening to the scores of attendees.
“I come from the ghetto,” the 25-year-old said, before adding that youths should “mentor and tutor” one another and that young people need to be taught “how to shake a hand and look another person in the eye.”
Others were more self-critical, including one man who said Americans have been tolerant, perhaps anesthetized to violence in general and urban violence in particular, while another said the Martin/Zimmerman case is but one battle in a “race war” that began during slavery.
D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the city’s lone congressional wolf who convened the commission, was diligently taking notes the entire time. It became apparent that the specters of black-on-black crime and racial profiling, which a few members of the audience had raised, struck a nerve with the true-blue Democrat.
Saying the forum was the first for the commission since Trayvon’s Feb. 26 slaying, she thanked attendees for “comments that were self-critical” and characterized the remarks as having a “no-excuses attitude” and a “no-tolerance attitude.”
Mrs. Norton also revealed her own and-justice-for-all attitude by saying racial profiling “is not a passive subject.”
“Racial profiling,” Mrs. Norton said, “is the last remaining vestige of discrimination in our country. We’ve got to lick this one, too.”
To that end, she plans to introduce legislation next week that would re-establish a non-mandatory federal grant program for states “to develop racial-profiling laws, to collect and maintain data on traffic stops, to fashion programs to reduce racial profiling, and to train law-enforcement officers.”
The program expired in 2009 and there’s little doubt that heightened racial fears across the land will lead to considerable support.
The Norton forum preceded the 14th annual convention of the National Action Network that opened Wednesday here in Washington, where for three days Trayvon’s parents and others will discuss America’s race issues and where U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. promised that “preventing and combating youth violence and victimization is, and will continue to be, a top priority” while he is head of the Justice Department.
But let’s be real: We can pretend that whites and blacks do not share a common fear factor - a mistake that would leave Freud himself shaking his brilliant noggin - or we can acknowledge that deep-seated racial stereotypes do exist and find common ground to alleviate them.
After all, hoodies don’t kill people.
• Deborah Simmons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...
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