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Published: Saturday, 4/5/2008

Enough rashness to go around

BY ROSE RUSSELL

NO ONE group has a corner on imprudence.

Take the black judge in Georgia who put all the white lawyers out of his courtroom while he chastised young black defendants.

Didn't hear about that? Imagine the uproar had a white judge put all the black attorneys out of a courtroom.

Superior Judge Marvin Arrington, of Fulton County, which includes Atlanta, was frustrated seeing the same mostly black defendants repeatedly in court.

Believing a stern "what are you doing with your lives?" scolding would have a greater impact if no white attorneys were within earshot, he cleared those lawyers from the courtroom on March 27 and gave his lecture.

He wanted to avoid insulting the defendants, but in his exasperation, the judge obviously forgot that it's no secret that many young blacks are among those wasting their lives, and that he's not the only one upset about it.

Besides, a good dose of humiliation from him in front of everybody might have done the defendants some good.

That kind of thing doesn't happen in a vacuum, and Judge Arrington has since apologized and promised to deliver the same message to everybody - whites included.

In another case of absurdity, Missouri Rep. Emanuel Cleaver said Sen. Barack Obama will likely get elected.

Why? Whites like him, the congressman said, because he's "articulate." His prediction, though, hasn't made him switch from supporting Sen. Hillary Clinton.

And to show how skewed Mr. Cleaver's views are, he said the Illinois senator's speaking skills don't compare to some other black leaders.

Nope. I don't make this stuff up.

Here's what else he told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.:

White Americans "are looking at Barack Obama and saying, 'This is our chance to demonstrate that we have been able to get this bogeyman called race behind us.' And so they are going to vote for him, whether he has credentials or not, whether he has any experience - I think all that's out the window."

Please. What credentials and experience got Mr. Cleaver elected to Congress?

And I'm trying to understand why CNN's Lou Dobbs needed to lambast Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for comments on Senator Obama's noted address.

She was right when she said Europeans came here by choice and Africans in chains, and that both founded America.

"That's not a very pretty reality of our founding," she said. And so it's difficult to discuss, "and hard for us to realize that it has continuing relevance for who we are today."

Mr. Dobbs insisted it's a problem when race is discussed "without fearing recrimination and distortion and someone using whatever comments are made for their own purposes." Surely he was talking about politicians.

He was also right that this is a diverse nation on most fronts. But pols, he said, shouldn't talk about how difficult it is to talk about race.

If not them, then who?

Mr. Dobbs added: "And I can guarantee you this. Not a single one of these cotton-, ah, these just ridiculous politicians, should be a moderators on the issue of race."

Was Mr. Dobbs about to label Secretary Rice a cotton picker? Check out YouTube for yourself.

A lot of people don't like talking about race, and you don't have to be white to wish it would go away.

But one way or another, the issue is often put on blacks, who are forced to deal with it and therefore discuss it.

After Mr. Obama's attempt to quell the racially charged uproar over his former pastor, McLaughlin Group commentator Pat Buchanan stirred it up again, saying this is the best country for "black folks."

"We hear the grievances," Mr. Buchanan said.

"Where is the gratitude?"

Why thank you, massa, for saving us from ourselves, chaining us like animals; treating us as property; putting us on auction blocks; selling us; making us endure the humiliation and misery of an earlier holocaust, the Middle Passage; stripping us of our dignity; giving us your names; ripping our families apart; for beating, lynching, segregating, oppressing, and suppressing us, and for letting institutional racism thrive.

It is true that the black community has major issues. So do other communities.

And former presidential candidate Buchanan - whew! Glad that went nowhere! - is correct that some whites intervened to do the right thing, becoming abolitionists and civil rights activists.

But if he's expecting a thank you card with an X representing a big smooch, he's got another think coming.

Rose Russell is a Blade associate editor.

E-mail rrussell@theblade.com



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