The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update


July 16, 2013

Primus Mootry: George Zimmerman 'not guilty' verdict a call to action?


Oh yes, George Zimmerman may have pulled the trigger, but he did so in a legal, historical and cultural context that has for years insisted that black men are dangerous and prone to criminality. That is why, in 1857, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Scott v. Sandford that the "[black man] has no rights that a white man is bound to respect."

This decision flowed from long held beliefs that the African American was, and is, inherently inferior. These beliefs, or myths, have inflicted profound psychic damage on both blacks and whites down to this day. That is why, without getting into a litany of dreary statistics, many present-day researchers are referring to black males as "an endangered species." But that is nothing new.

A Swedish social scientist, in a voluminous 1944 study called "The American Dilemma: the Negro Problem and American Democracy," fairly accurately described the dire predicament of blacks in America and what to do about it. Surprise! He recommended better education, jobs, housing, health care, and other social and political interventions. The study was largely ignored by prideful blacks and squeamish whites.

In 1967, in the wake of a series of inner-city riots, President Lyndon Johnson commissioned an 11-member task force to study the problem and come up with solid recommendations for change. The report (known as "The Kerner Report" for its chairman, then-Illinois Gov. Otto Kerner) said: "Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white — separate and unequal."

The scathing report then warned of future "apartheid" in America and contained "get busy" recommendations that might have surprised old Gunnar Myrdal: jobs, housing, health care, and other public/private interventions.

Another surprise. In 1998, a former member of the commission, Fred R. Harris, co-authored a study finding that the racial divide had widened. America's inner-cities were worse off in ’98 than they were in ’67.

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