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Everyday Racism, White Liberals & the Limits of Tolerance
Posted: Monday, June 18, 2001

By Time Wise
Let me get this straight: if three white guys chain a black man to a truck and decapitate him by dragging him down a dirt road, that's a hate crime; but if five white cops pump nineteen bullets into a black street vendor, having shot at him 41 times, that's just "bad judgment?" And what's more, we should pass hate crime laws that require enforcement by the police? Call me crazy, but something about this brings to mind the one about the foxes and the henhouse.

Now don't misunderstand: I realize there are horrible acts of violence perpetrated every day in America against people of color, not to mention gays and lesbians, women, and religious minorities. And I have no problem in principle with passing special laws to send a message that such hatred won't be tolerated. But is this really the point? Does it do anything to address the larger issues of racism, sexism, or homophobia that plague our society? And will it save Amadou Diallo, or prevent Abner Louima from getting a toilet plunger shoved up his ass by bigots in blue uniforms? Of course not. Hate crime laws make us feel better. But in the end, the biggest injuries suffered by people of color continue: job and housing discrimination; unequal access to health care; and the development of a prison-industrial- complex that is locking up black and brown people faster than you can say "three-strikes-and-you're-out;" all of which could and would persist, even if there was never another cross-burning on a black family's lawn, or another violent assault on an immigrant.

And this is what's wrong with the "national dialogue on race," as our therapist-in-chief calls it. It only takes place in a comfort zone where pretty much everyone can agree. More

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