2002-06-01 / Columnists

From the G-Man

Gary G. Toms

By Bill Bradley& You Were Right!

I' m going to ask all of you to reach into your memory banks for a moment. C' mon folks, get those brains in gear. Ready? Think back to the Democratic debate between Al Gore and Bill Bradley during the 2000 Presidential contest. The event was held at Harlem' s famed Apollo Theater, and was carried by a number of network and cable news stations. When it was over, an overwhelming majority of Americans felt that Gore whipped Bradley in the debate, but I felt the opposite. I felt that Gore was all fluff and no substance, whereas Bradley was tough, straightforward and no-nonsense. Hey, remind you of anyone?

I was particularly engrossed with Bradley because of an answer he gave to one of the questions posed by a panelist. "Candidate Bradley, what do you feel is the most important issue that America will have to deal with in the next century?" asked a reporter. He responded by stating, "I think that race is the most important issue facing America in the next century. We have to find a way to get past the differences and hatreds between cultures or we won' t survive." He was honest and candid, unlike Gore. I thought it took real "onions" to say something like that. Many people, in the political and news arena, regarded the comment as an attempt to get the black vote, since the man was speaking at the Apollo Theater. Others, who were more levelheaded and sensible, like myself, applauded Bradley just for having the courage to say what so many people refuse to acknowledge in this country. Don' t get me wrong. I know that he was New Jersey' s leader when the issue of racial profiling came to light, and I hold him accountable for that. Still, with this specter haunting him, he tried to bring a very important topic to the forefront, and he deserves credit for that.

Whether you agree with Bradley' s comment or not, the fact is he was absolutely right. There are testimonials all around us at the present time that validate what he said. One example is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The two warring factions are literally trying to wipe the other off the face of the earth. The murdering extremists on both sides use terms like exterminating, eradicating and "cleansing", which convey hatred so intense that it mirrors the disdain that Hitler had for the Jewish people. If you think race is not a component in this war, you are mistaken.

The attack on the World Trade Center is another example of how the issue of race can be factored into the most heinous attack in the history of this country. In this case, the extremists Muslims were out to vanquish America and Americans, who many regard as "white devils." Those of color who perished were expendable or casualties of war as far as they were concerned. Their sole purpose is to crush America, its wicked system of capitalism, and many of the so-called sinful practices it engages in. Since whites have always been the ruling power, dating back to the Europeans, the targets of their hatred, in large part, are the "white devils" or "the corruptors."

The tensions between India and Pakistan can be included as well. These two regions hate each other so much that they are shooting missiles near each other' s borders. Each states that they are testing their nuclear capabilities for the future. I don' t know about you, but if somebody were coming that close to taking me out, and laughing about it, I' d be pretty pissed too. Like the Middle East, these factions want to destroy one another for the right to claim territory. The terms extermination and genocide have been mentioned in the rhetoric of extremists on both sides in this example as well.

Now, let me bring it all home for you. Bradley touched a pretty sensitive nerve when he made the comment, and as usual, it was not given the attention it deserved. Since then, many high profile figures, from Senator John McCain to USA Today' s Dwayne Wickham, have said, in print and electronic media, that there are many people all over the world who have a deep hatred for America. They noted that we are hated because of what we symbolize, what we look like, the customs and religions we practice, and the way we think. The last time I checked, that was the definition of prejudice, and prejudice is often associated with race.

I imagine that Bradley is sitting back somewhere and shaking his head over the developments of the last eight months, here and abroad. I' m not saying that if we had taken the comment more seriously the attacks on the WTC would have been prevented or that the Middle East conflict would not have reached a near-war status. I' m positive Bradley would not say that either. However, I do believe that if we had looked a little deeper into what he was trying to say to us, maybe, just maybe, we would have begun to take a serious look at the issue of race and how it has affected the country, and the world, over the years, and how it is affecting us now.

See you next week!

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