ROOTS by Jim Redwine


Gavel Gamut

By Jim Redwine

(Week of 19 January 2015)


A lot of non-African American citizens are angered and perplexed by events such as occurred in Ferguson, Missouri. So are a lot of African Americans. Anger is often easier to explain than puzzlement. We all experience anger frequently. Road rage, rudeness, leaking faucets, worthless warranties and countless other vicissitudes of life are endemic to being human. We recognize anger. Usually we do not analyze it.

On the other hand, when situations perplex us we do not know how to react. What we do not understand leaves us wondering how to proceed. In other words, who is to blame? We humans usually seek to place blame first and, maybe, we will engage in the much more difficult task of seeking solutions later. To solve a problem it always helps and often requires that we know what caused it. What in the past contributed to today’s situation? Why did this happen?

The standard questions of who, what, when, where, how and why that for many years made up good journalism and in-depth analysis have been degraded by technology. “Why?”, is no longer a media concern. Immediate blame placing is the Holy Grail of contemporary news organizations. The troubling issue of an incident’s cause, its etiology, is of no concern to the media, and therefore, of no concern to the general public. Unfortunately, that results in a lack of interest in a solution. It is sufficient for us to have a whipping boy to temporarily assuage our fears of perplexing behavior.

Of course, for Americans every complex problem must have a simple and immediate solution. Drive-by shootings call for drive-by responses. The hard work of peeling away the many layers of a sociological failure is just too hard; place blame and drive on until next time. But, just as it took many years for a lemur to write a sonnet, our cultural evolution is a multigenerational phenomenon. We have a ways to go. A half-black president is not proof that we have completed the difficult journey.

As a country, if we look at our history of racial upheaval at all, we normally point an accusing finger at Selma, Alabama or Jim Crow. But when eleven percent of Americans provide forty percent of our current national prison population we probably need to quit blaming “those people” and address the causes nationally.

What are the roots of our racial problem? They are not Ferguson, Missouri, O.J. Simpson and domestic violence in the NFL. Those are offshoots from the roots. The roots are four hundred years deep and have been nourished by our Constitution, the legal system of virtually every state and the federal government.

As we celebrate Martin Luther King’s service to America, a commitment to address the all important question of “why?” might be the best tribute.


  1. Did MLK serve America or just 1 race of people? He was a good man, who did some good things, but he did not serve America in any sense of the word. He was never in uniform, a great politician, an icon of business… He just served his race thats it.

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