Government Cannot Change ‘Cellular Level’ Racism in US

By Agency, Tribune Content | AZ Daily Star, June 3, 2020 | Go to article overview

Government Cannot Change ‘Cellular Level’ Racism in US


Agency, Tribune Content, AZ Daily Star


The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer:

It was a night I shall never forget.

The date was April 4, 1968. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated in Memphis, and I was flying home to Washington, D.C., from Atlanta. As the plane descended over National Airport, I could see flames. Part of the city of my birth and capital of the nation was on fire.

The riots and looting in several U.S. cities after George Floyd was killed by a white Minneapolis police officer whose knee cut off his airway while he was subdued by handcuffs and lying face down in the street, reminds me of those days. When the protests started, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz blamed domestic terrorists and possibly international forces trying to destabilize the country for fomenting violence and destruction of property.

TV images overwhelmed the just cause of peaceful protesters. Similar scenes helped Richard Nixon win the presidency in 1968 on a “law and order” platform.

Why does this happen again and again? Leaving aside the charge of domestic terrorists and outsiders for the moment (though violence and looting solve nothing and obscure any cause), discrimination and racism have scarred America since slavery. Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., who is African American, had his own experience when he was arrested by a white police officer in Cambridge, Mass., after a neighbor reported a black man was trying to break into someone’s house. It was Gates’ own home.

I asked Gates for his reaction to Floyd’s killing. He responded: “Racism has been part of America’s cultural DNA since before the ink dried on the Constitution. Dominant in some and recessive in others, it’s a gene that has mutated over time yet remains part of the inheritance weighing us down, one generation to the next. The damage it has done is systemic and goes all the way down to the cellular level.”

Gates, whose PBS series “African American Lives,” and “Finding Your Roots” (pbs. …

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