By Shedrick Byrd
In the local daily newspaper on October 7th an article was written by Eric Hartley about Norfolk City Councilwoman Angelia Williams Graves’ speech at an NAACP luncheon at which she said that KKK’s racism lives on in the justice system. Hartley wrote that Graves also said that modern racists have taken off their white hoods and sheets and put on “police uniforms, suits and ties and robes.”
The article said that Norfolk’s Sheriff Bob McCabe, who was at the luncheon, said he and other law enforcement officers were offended by the Ku Klux Klan comparison. McCabe said he wouldn’t have expected that from a city leader. Graves said that her speech was meant to highlight the ways in which racism has changed.
Many Blacks share Graves’ sentiments and for years have been expressing those same feelings among Blacks but never had a voice to express them beyond their own communities. Therefore few whites heard those expressions by Blacks. Some whites who did hear them reacted in a defensive way as did McCabe. They tend not to accept the true behaviors and actions of our society and just defend the good old USA.
What Councilwoman Graves said may not have been politically correct in the eyes of McCabe some others, but it was on target and the truth. This presented a problem for McCabe because it was out of the norm. Most Black Americans are tired of politicians hiding behind political correctness when it comes to dealing with the issues of racism. It seems that political leaders will do almost anything to avoid talking about racial issues.
Thanks to Councilwoman Graves for stepping outside the politically correct norm. We need more voices of leaders speaking to issues of racism. Being politically correct when it comes to race accomplishes nothing. Every day Blacks are dying because of racism and no justice is done. With cameras and media coverage, the world is seeing how Blacks are being mistreated. They are witnessing murders of Black men by policemen and they can see how unjust the supposed justice system operates.
Whites need to stop being so defensive when Blacks tell them how racism is impacting their lives. If they have any interest in ridding the country of racism they should do something about it by not denying it exists and taking action to challenge it where ever it raises its head.
Our entire judicial system needs a cultural change starting with how the system mistreats Blacks in America. When I say cultural change I don’t mean just physical training alone for policemen. I mean training that changes the mental thinking as well and results in social acceptance of Black people. This will eliminate their fear of Black people and help them to see Black people as human beings. If Sheriff McCabe and other elected officials understand, embrace and give voice to Graves’ statements it would be a great step toward ridding us of racism in our communities.
Shedrick Byrd is a frequent contributor to the New Journal and Guide and a former Human Resource Director and Deputy Equal Employment Opportunity Officer for the Naval Supply Center Norfolk.