ADDIS ABEBA, Ethiopia – Traveling abroad allows the opportunity to look at America with the eyes of others. And this is what I see. In this age of 24/7 news cycles, internet based news outlets, blogs and more it is amazingly easy for millions of people to get the wrong picture about what is really going on.
Take the ripple effects of the protests in the US in the aftermath of a few African-Americans killed by police. No matter what actually occurred in each instance, no matter what several investigations and grand juries came up with, the almost unanimous conclusion is that America is a profoundly and openly racist society. At least this is what you get watching the BBC in your hotel room.
In America, Blacks lives do not matter. In dealing with Blacks, the police can do pretty much what they want, with the certainty of no retribution. In fact this is not at all strange, comments a young Black man interviewed by the BBC. Police brutality against Blacks, and that includes frequent killings, is part of White domination –he says. It is all about keeping Whites in power and Blacks oppressed. Thank you BBC. This is really telling it how it is. A good, objective picture of today’s America.
Is this just like segregation? Well, not formally perhaps –argue analysts interviewed by major international media– but in substance yes. The fact that so many African-Americans are in jail is evidence that they are targeted. There can be no other explanation.
So, there you go. The landmark civil rights legislation passed in the 1960s that formally ended segregation –according to these well-informed experts– in substance changed nothing. The fact that there are Black Mayors, Governors, Congressmen, Judges, Generals and Admirals, CEOs, Ambassadors, Cabinet members and, in case you forgot, a Black President, is apparently perfectly consistent with the fundamental “truth” that America is a deeply racist society. Now this is really wrong, not to mention stupid. And yet this stupidity is main stream thinking in Europe, and elsewhere.
Needless to say, this is what some Americans –those who protested in Ferguson and elsewhere– also believe. But the fact that some people believe something does not make it the truth.
However, when the rest of the world chooses to believe what is held as the truth by a small number of people, what you get is grotesque distortion.
How do you fix this? It is almost impossible. Despite the opportunity to consider the facts, as opposed to emotional interpretations, millions around the world tend to prefer the emotional interpretations that reinforce their prejudices.