Where’s the outrage?
A neighborhood organizer is shot dead in the middle of the day just beyond the unwritten boundary of her multi-racial oasis of a neighborhood, somewhere in that war zone known as Oakland. Very sad.
But you needn’t bother wondering about whether chanting marchers are going to break windows tonight as they fill the streets and shriek their outrage into a willing camera lens while demanding some fuzzy, inarticulate brand of “justice.” That isn’t going to happen. The victim, 66-year-old Judy Salamon, was white.
The authorities don’t know as this is written if this was a robbery or if she was singled out for her organizing efforts — she wanted to arrange a security patrol for her street and had recently been posting fliers recommending the same. Or was it was just simply the sort of dumb bad luck that routinely and randomly connects the good with the bad in places like Oakland, Detroit or Chicago and snuffs out the former’s life “just because.”
It would be tempting in this age of easy answers and facile conspiracies to theorize that a white woman pumping for proactive, Zimmerman-like neighborhood security would fall victim to someone seeking redemptive revenge for the acquittal of a Hispanic community watcher a continent away. Maybe that’s what happened. But it seems unlikely.
A targeted hit like this requires more thinking and planning than is easily associated with the sign-toting drones who mill around a city’s downtown district at the drop of a racist statement, intimidating shoppers as they use a bull horn to interrogate each other with inane questions. This while the film-at-eleven vultures wait to see if the protesters’ manufactured anger is going to make some glass company’s day and their station manager’s night.
None of this much matters to the dead woman, of course. Though she might be pleased to know that her death moves us inexorably closer to resolution of the lingering “race problem,” which, ludicrously, is somehow still alive in America (albeit clearly on life-support) almost 400 years after the first African slaves were brought to these shores.
This killing — an inner-city murder but one which cannot be usefully spun to rationalize the sad state of today’s self-segregated African-American population — is another brick in the wall in this country’s learning process. Bit by bit, the general public (i.e., the law-abiding and the well-meaning, whatever their “socio-economic” standing and whatever their skin color) is realizing there exists a “them” and an “us,” and the dividing line isn’t race, and it isn’t found in the tax code. The line is between right and wrong and the real and the made up.
The head of the NAACP in Norfolk, Va., stunned his followers with a tweet that agreed with the Zimmerman verdict and urged his flock to “think logically, not racially.”
There is an emerging understanding that there is no room in America for unequal treatment for anyone, for any reason. It isn’t always easy to see, but there is a dawning realization that bad people come in all colors. There are self-made losers in all colors, everywhere. You don’t have to align yourself with any of them just because you share skin pigment.
In point of fact, it seems astonishing that in 2013, 50 years after George Wallace stood in a school doorway and kept three black kids from registering for college, and 49 years after the fire hoses of the Civil Rights Act began to wash the Wallaces and the Maddoxes and the goofy, sheet-wearing Grand Lizards off the sidewalks and into the gutters where they belonged, that people can continue to point to their skin color and demand allegiance from like-hued beings.
It still happens, but the race-baiting dinosaurs, once exclusively white and now more typically black, are becoming increasingly isolated by their indefensible actions and their absurdly self-contradicting rhetoric.
We are making progress, but we still have a way to go. We might start by demanding to know where the outrage is over the murder of this white community organizer. And where the outrage is over the murder of some unknown black kid, a boy who will be killed today in some city by some other black kid for his basketball shoes, or perhaps because he had the temerity to study for today’s school exam.
And, while we are on our horse, we might even demand that Chris Wallace and Nancy Grace and the other TV blowhards explain how they select which victims to eulogize.
Marc Rogers lives in Nevada City.
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