Black People : War In Iraq Points Up Racial Divide...

Discussion in 'Black People Open Forum' started by Aqil, Apr 14, 2003.

  1. Aqil

    Aqil Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    WAR IN IRAQ POINTS UP RACIAL DIVIDE

    By Alfred Lubrano
    Philadelphia Inquirer

    PHILADELPHIA - The war in Iraq is illuminating a racial divide in America, a profound rift in thinking between Blacks and whites. Different histories and different experiences are bringing many people to different conclusions. Among African-Americans, just 29% support the war, while 78% of white Americans do, according to a March 28 Gallup poll.

    Many African-Americans see wrongs in the conflict that white Americans often cannot discern, African-American scholars and analysts say. For one thing, many Black people say their history makes them especially sensitive to the spectacle of a dominant entity asserting its will over a weaker minority.

    Then, too, the U.S. policy of pre-emption - attacking Iraq without provocation - smacks of a kind of harassment with which many African-Americans say they are all too familiar.

    Finally, there is President Bush himself, excoriated by many Blacks as the victor in a contested election in which Black votes reportedly went uncounted; as the former Texas governor who executed many Black convicts; as an allegedly insensitive leader who used Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday as the time to express his opposition to affirmative action - an issue coincidentally being taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court as fighting rages in Iraq.

    "If anything," says University of Pennsylvania sociologist Elijah Anderson, "Bush puts forth an agenda seen by Black people as antagonistic. That accounts for a huge amount of alienation in the Black community. That makes so many Blacks turned off by this war. These days, Blacks have an especially critical eye on Washington."
    Many blacks find themselves in a quandary - opposing a war in which a disproportionate number of those in the military are Black. Though they are 12% of the general population, Blacks make up 21% of the U.S. military. This has created a conflict for Black families who want to support dear ones in the killing zone but cannot condone the war.

    Black America is hardly a monolith, and those blacks who do support the war have no problem standing up for their beliefs in the rightness of the mission. "I really do believe Saddam Hussein is a dangerous man," said Tracy Price-Thompson, 39, a retired Army lieutenant who lives in Fort Dix, NJ with her Army husband. She is the author of Black Coffee, a novel about Blacks in the Army. "I've heard Black people say, 'This is not our war.' If you look at this as an American, then this is your war."

    For some Blacks, there's an additional complication in all this - what National Public Radio's Tavis Smiley calls the "tricky conversation" regarding Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, African-Americans who are among the Bush administration's most visible players in the war.

    The polls demonstrate that among African-Americans, much antiwar sentiment is directed toward the president - and that the enmity is widely held. "Bush is more of an immediate threat to me," says Quintel Harcum, a 21-year-old philosophy student at Lincoln University, one of America's oldest Black universities, tucked into southern Chester County, Pa. "He's against affirmative action."

    It is not lost on many African-Americans that the war is raging at the precise moment the U.S. Supreme Court is contemplating the future of affirmative action. "Nobody minds us fighting and dying," says William Spriggs, executive director of the National Urban League Institute for Opportunity and Equality in Washington. "But everyone is up in arms about our going to college." He was referring to those opposed to affirmative action at the University of Michigan, whose entrance policy is part of the Supreme Court case.

    At a more basic level, many African-Americans still question the legitimacy of Bush's presidency. Citing the reported disenfranchisement of numerous Black voters in Florida during the 2000 election, sociologist Anderson said the disputed vote "still sticks in the throat. It's caused huge African-American alienation toward Bush."

    So profound is the animosity, in fact, says historian Manning Marable, director of African-American studies at Columbia University, that many Blacks believe "regime change should begin at home, because the guy was not democratically elected."

    Asked whether she voted for Bush, Lola Moore, 59, who runs a Camden health clinic based in Woodrow Wilson High School, seems incredulous. "Are you kidding? He never impressed me as a very bright person. Seems to be fighting this war on behalf of his father...what his daddy couldn't do."

    Bush is also criticized for "despising" Bill Clinton, a president admired by African-Americans in large numbers, according to David Bositis, senior political analyst at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, an African-American think tank in Washington.

    Beyond Bush, the sight of American treasure being expended to fund a war rankles people who see where the money could be better spent. "We have war going on in our neighborhoods," says Stephane Coney, 39, of Camden, PA, founder of the National Stop the Violence Alliance, a grass-roots antiviolence group. "We have war going on in our schools." Brandon Bigelow, a 20-year-old Lincoln University student, agrees. "What I'm against is the U.S. saying it's taking care of all these countries when there are things to be fixed at home."

    Historically repressed by slavery, prejudice and limited choices, African-Americans are uncomfortable witnessing the "might-makes-right" perspective, according to sociologist Darnell Hunt of the University of California at Los Angeles. And why intervene when oil is on the line, and not Black people's lives, as in Rwanda?, asks the Rev. Steven Lawrence, president of the Metropolitan Christian Council of Philadelphia.

    For years, says Ron Walters, professor of African-American politics and culture at the University of Maryland, "war has been made on us. Our mentality is that of a defeated people, and we tend to identify with many of the oppressed and defeated groups around the world. "But though we are jaundiced, we participate," Walters asserts. In fact, Blacks have been fighting for the country since the Revolutionary War, and nowadays, the racially diverse military is an attractive career option for young African-Americans who find less luck breaking into the corporate world.

    The American decision to attack Iraq pre-emptively, without proof that Saddam possesses weapons of mass destruction, reminds some African-Americans of hostile police behavior. "It rings of the experience of cops' saying, 'I thought I saw a gun' to justify the shooting of an unarmed Black suspect," says the Urban League's Spriggs. "You gotta give us more evidence than, 'I thought I saw a gun.'"

    (Knight Ridder Newspapers correspondents Dwayne Campbell, Vernon Clark, Murray Dubin, Rita Giordano and Elizabeth Wellington contributed to this report.)
     
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