Monday, December 7, 2015

EXTRA: We’re not just a black and white society, no matter how much some of us wish it could be

All of the activity in recent weeks surrounding the deaths of teenage boys by Chicago Police officers has caused its share of attention to be paid to the current state of white and black racial relations in Chicago.

ESCALANTE: Top cop, for now
Yet it has me wondering where Latinos (who do comprise just over one-quarter of the city’s overall population) are going to wind up falling into this potentially toxic societal brew.

FOR AS I observe the status of all these cases where young black men were killed by police officers (who claimed they were merely doing their duty to protect the public from dangerous elements), I couldn’t help but notice the most recent incident.

On Monday, State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez announced there would be no charges against the officer who shot Ronald Johnson to death – even though there’s also a police squad car dashboard video depicting the moment of his fatality and activists claim there’s no real difference between his death and that of Laquan McDonald that has become internationally viewed on video.

But in the case of Johnson’s death, the officer in question is named “Hernandez.” And while there may well be white people who think the world is them and everybody else lumped into a single group, I’m also aware there are activist types who will have no problem viewing this as evidence that the Latinos are against the blacks and might as well be one with them racially.

This could get stupid and ugly, and probably not as comical as one time many years ago when a black man standing around State Street and Chicago Avenue insisted on shouting ethnic slurs at me for the fact that it was the Spanish who enslaved black people.

NOW I’M NOT about to try to speak for every single Latino on the face of Planet Earth. For one thing, it would be overly presumptuous for me to try to do so. I think many of my ethnic brethren are completely full of caca on several issues – and I don’t doubt the feeling is mutual.

There’s just too many of us who think too differently to try to make a generalization. Although that is what too many activists – both liberal and conservative ideologue – try to do!

It also reminds me of an episode of the old West Wing television series – in which a black person in Los Angeles was killed by a cop who was Latino, and Jimmy Smith’s “Matt Santos” character had to somehow come up with a statement putting everything into perspective; while also resenting the fact that anybody expected him to have to say something at all.

But it won’t shock me if some people in coming days or weeks start to try to create an issue out of this ethnic/racial dividing line – even though I’d argue only a fool would think all Latino and all black people ought to somehow be united.

I’M ALSO WONDERING if there is potential for tensions out of the fact that Mayor Rahm Emanuel last week picked an interim person to run the Chicago Police Department until a permanent superintendent is found to replace Garry McCarthy.

After hearing several activist-types talk just the day before about how the new superintendent preferably ought to be a black person, Emanuel picked second-in-command John Escalante to be in charge.

He’s a 29-year veteran of the department and on paper his choice as a temporary fill-in until a permanent boss is picked makes total sense. But then again, sense often goes out the window when tempers flare such as they are these days in Chicago.

How long until the ethnic resentment stirs up because of this pick – particularly since Escalante himself is physical proof that not all Latinos are little brown people? So much for the idea of a “person of color” becoming the head of the police department!

THIS PARTICULAR BRAWL provoked by the police shootings may be a black vs. white fight for now, but it may only be a matter of time before a Latino front winds up developing.

And I’m not about to predict who it will wind up taking sides with.

What we may be learning is that our society is multi-faceted and complex, and nowhere near as simple-minded as some within it would seem to prefer.


No comments: