AN INSIDE LOOK - Commentary and opinions on local politics and life in general in Southeastern Massachusetts! Featuring the writings of Bill Gouveia, newspaper columnist for the Sun Chronicle and local cable TV talk show host. Feel free to read, comment and enjoy!
Friday, December 5, 2014
Remaining Silent On Racism Is Not The Answer
This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Friday, December 5, 2014
AN INSIDE LOOK
By Bill Gouveia
town of Ferguson, MO isn’t just located in America – it is America.It is a typical example of what is going on
in this country with regard to race, life, policing, the legal system, the
frustration of citizens, and the delicate and subjective concepts of fairness
can’t do justice to the many complex and complicated issues going on
there.I can’t properly analyze the many
forces at work, both good and bad.
qualified nor equipped to properly and completely assess the impact of events
which have crippled a town, made us question our values and systems, and
created a public dialogue that is either helping the situation or destroying
the country, depending on your personal perspective.
all I am left with is my own point of view – that of a relatively privileged
white person in a liberal state who has never had to personally endure much
when it comes to discrimination.I have
never had to fear for my life as I walk down the street at night because I
might look out of place.I have never
had to be a law enforcement officer and risk my life every time I answer even a
relatively simple call.
have not been a part of a community where the police are viewed as the enemy,
where their very presence is a threat whether or not there is any wrongdoing.I have not had the experience of working
within the public safety sphere or the court system, where there is constant
exposure to people who commit crimes and pose a real threat.
there are some things I know.I can’t
explain to the satisfaction of all just how I know them, or why I am convinced
of their validity.But I am – and for
the purpose of this discussion, that is what is important.
know racism is something deeply ingrained into our way of life.I know it permeates many of our institutions
in ways both obvious and subtle.I know
it unfairly affects those who are both victims of it and collateral damage of
attempts to end or correct it.
know the bombing and burning in Ferguson is wrong.I also know it is a symptom, not a
disease.It can’t be tolerated, it must
be stopped.But to concentrate on that,
to make these destructive acts the focus of what is happening there, is a
mistake of serious proportions.
know there is a large African-American population in Ferguson.I know a large percentage of criminal
activity there is committed by people of color, in large part as a result of
that percentage.But I also know that
should not and cannot be reason for police officers to profile black people in
general as more likely to be criminals.
know the grand jury process is the way the law works in Ferguson and other
places.I know that system is often
nothing more than a tool for the local prosecutor, who controls what the grand
jury gets.I understand that if the
prosecutor wants an indictment, he/she will get an indictment.And if he/she doesn’t – they won’t.
know white police officers in Ferguson and elsewhere are not racists simply by
virtue of their profession.I know their
job sometimes casts them in an unfair light.But I also know they are trained in a system that often seems to excuse
racism in the name of safety.I know
neither safety nor freedom should be determined by your race.
know there are criminals looting and burning in Ferguson, and they should be
jailed.But I know they are not
indicative of the majority of those standing up against injustice and inequality,
going far beyond what occurred between a Ferguson teen
and a police officer.
I don’t know is how to attack the real problem of racism in all its forms, not
just the most obvious and visible ones.I don’t know how to fix it, to make it fair, to make it right.
for now I will try to be a part of the discussion, to keep a dialogue
going.I don’t know if that will work.
I know remaining silent won’t.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and
longtime local official.He can be
emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at