2002-11-16 / Columnists

From the G-Man

By Gary G. Toms


Time To Take Out The Trash

Hey people! I have not addressed many of the letters that have been sent to me, particularly the nasty ones, because I have taken the attitude that being bashed by morons comes with the territory. However, I received a letter last week that I MUST response to. Here are portions of a letter submitted by Patrick Maher.

"I'm so sick and tired of reading about the "deballing" of America. What is your paper turning into? You have some dude that couldn't get a C in a high school English class, so busy patting himself on the back that he must have dislocated shoulders by now, as an editor. This guy thinks were going to draft all the poor people of color to go fight "our war" in Iraq. News flash G: African Americans make up 17 percent of the population and commit 50 percent of all crimes. Read that again, 17 percent and 50 percent."

Maher continues.

"A black male in Vietnam had a longer life expectancy then a black male in the projects. That is a fact. Look it up. A military career is really not such a bad option for a young man of color. A lot betters than "keeping it real." As in real dead or really in jail. Let's see an editorial on that."

After I finished wiping the tears from my eyes, from laughing hysterically, I decided that I could not let statements like this go unanswered. Let's start with the claim that I had a "C" average in English during my high school tenure. Hey dumbo! If you can track down two of the greatest English teachers in the history of Far Rockaway High School (Mrs. Simon, and Mrs. Bernstein- Class of '81) they will confirm that my average ranged from a "B+" to an "A-". Upon graduation, I was named as an Arete Honors recipient, and received the coveted Milton Held Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in English and Creative Writing. Mrs. Simon felt so strongly about my writing ability that she wanted to submit several of my essays into national writing competitions. I asked her not to, for reasons that I will not go into at this time. Several of my college professors used my essays as classroom examples of what they termed, "creative power." I could go on, but I'll stop there.

With regard to me patting myself on the back, what else do you expect me to do? I'm the first African-American editor in The Wave's 110 years, and even in the face of some of the racism I have experienced, I'm still managing to get the job done! I'm proud of my role, the paper, and my superstar staff. I also happen to be damn good at what I do. That's not arrogance talking, dumbo, it's confidence. Yes, I'm patting myself on the back, and I'm doing it BIGTIME! I can't expect people like YOU to do it, now can I?

If you want to throw around statistics about people in "the projects," and claims that they are largely responsible for crime, then you'd better be prepared to tell the truth about how the justice system has railroaded many innocent people or color since the 1930's. Get your pen and notebook ready, fathead! The G-man is taking you to school.

I have interviewed judges, police officers and lawyers (who prosecute and defend), and they bared their souls, and pain, over the fact that many of the kids they dealt with were in the wrong place at the wrong time and are now paying a huge price. Many of them have no history of criminal involvement, and possess excellent academic or athletic credentials. They have become part of the statistics that you cite, my dear Maher. Unsuspecting victims you might call them.

Next, look at all the innocent people of color that have been released from prison, or death row, because DNA evidence cleared them after being wrongly convicted. Many in the criminal justice system are now taking a second look at how cases, which predominately involve minorities, are handled and prosecuted. They too are included in your stats, Mr. Maher. Do you really think the stats hold up in light of these facts?

These numbers, which you support so strongly, were submitted to the public without consideration being given to the fact that other circumstances were involved at the time of arrest. Studies may have been conducted, however, I am certain that extenuating circumstances were ignored to a large degree. To consider them would have interfered with the desired outcome of those conducting the study, as opposed to gathering all of the relevant information needed to draw a true and final conclusion. This being the case, they are not true numbers, as we would understand them. Therefore, your statistics become reduced to nothing more than mere distortions of the truth, and the sole purpose for them being presented to the masses is to try and validate a system that is broken, corrupt and laced with injustice.

Finally, let's tackle this gross misconception, shall we?

"A black male in Vietnam had a longer life expectancy then a black male in the projects. That is a fact. Look it up. A military career is really not such a bad option for a young man of color. A lot better than 'keeping it real.' As in real dead or really in jail. Let's see an editorial on that."

First of all, the military as a positive alternative for young African-Americans was not the focal point of "It's Vietnam All Over Again." Read it ALL again Maher. You're not making a "collective interpretation." Ouch! Did I hurt you with that one, my dear Maher? My bad! Here are the facts that debunk your Vietnam versus "the projects" claim, as supported by the latest information appearing in the African-American Almanac; a book entitled "The African-American Soldier - From Crispus Attucks to Colin Powell"; and a State report issued on Black Vietnam Veterans and Congressional Medal of Honor Recipients of the Vietnam War. Don't cry Maher. It's going to be okay. Just read on and take it like a man.

During the earlier years of the war 1964-1967, of the Armed Forces in the combat zone, 9.3 percent were African American's, but made up over 15 percent of the infantry and accounted for 20 percent of battlefield casualties.

Mainly due to the disparities of casualties between African American and white servicemen, Vietnam became the first war in which African American leadership came to speak out against the war. In past wars, the African American leadership would have to fight to have our youth defend our country, now it found itself in a position of fighting to keep our youth from being killed. Ironically it was the militant, radical African American leadership, not the nonviolent leadership, who first spoke out against the war.

Malcolm X was one of the first, speaking out against U.S. involvement as early as 1954, and latter linking the war with racial discrimination at home, in 1964. Others eventually followed; such as Muhammad Ali, Black Panthers and the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee in (1966), and Martin Luther King, Jr. (1967).

By 1971, 83 percent of the African American population was against the war.  Astoundingly the government did respond to the protest coming from the African American communities. The services began to make changes so that African American did not take the brunt of casualties. By the end of the war the total African American casualties were 7,115 of 58,183, a little over 12.2 percent of all casualties. This percentage brought the casualty rate closer to African American population ratio, which was approximately 11 percent at the time.

I suggest you chew on this Maher, and I don't mean a piece of Trident. Don't ever make the mistake of thinking (generalizing) that ALL black men in the projects are going to end up in jail or dead, especially if you are relying on the silly statistics you cited earlier. Many are working to support their children. Many are working and going to school to earn a degree or trade. Many are walking their sons and daughters to school in the morning. I know because I see them. Sadly, these are the stories and images that never make the papers or TV news broadcasts. I don't expect you to know this though, because you're not living the black experience, and until you do, I think it would be in your best interest to not comment on black life in America. You have as much knowledge of what it is to be black, as I do of what it means to live as a Jewish man.

I grew up in the projects, and currently live in the projects. Guess what Maher? I outlived far more black men who served in Vietnam, and many others in the projects are as well. How's that, my dear Maher, for keeping it real?

See you next week!


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