SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — As the nation has watched the last two weeks of grief, outrage and sometimes violent clashes in Ferguson, Missouri over the police shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown, there’s been a push to re-examine whether racial progress has really been achieved in America, even with the election of a two-term black president.
Brown, who will be buried Monday, was black; the police officer who shot and killed him is white—a set of circumstances that has been repeated often in the recent past.
President Obama has called for finding common ground through dialogue, but Professor James Taylor, Chair of the Department of Politics at the University of San Francisco told KCBS In Depth host Jan McMillan that it may be necessary to start by re-tooling the language we use in discussing race, including the term “racism” itself.
“When we talk about racism, it’s so generic, it really doesn’t get to the nitty-gritty, to the precision that is necessary to talk about in our context and so I think people should use terms, like for example, anti-black racism or anti-white racism or anti-Latino racism. Because anytime somebody like Glenn Beck can go on national television and say that he’s a victim of racism, then we need to throw the word out,” he said.
“If a powerful, wealthy person can say they are the victim of this instrument, then perhaps we need to redefine the whole concept itself.”
Taylor also points out that basic economics as one of the major forces at play. He cites other groups, like the Chinese, Indian and Sikh communities in the Bay Area, which have strong economic bases.
“The black-American community with the Civil Rights Movement was integrated from a standpoint of dependency and almost relying on the goodwill of whites and the goodwill of government, and I think that’s what weakened them,” he said.
To under understand the anger and frustration that many black American feel about recent events, Taylor said, it’s import to look back at the 1955 mutilation and murder of 14-year-old Emmet Till in Mississippi, after he flirted with a white woman, and the acquittal of those responsible.
“I think in some ways, when you look at the black reaction in America, to this this sort of emotional outburst that you see in Ferguson, the one thing that they share in common is the same thing that you see present in Emmett Till: innocence, youth, criminally uninvolved”
Listen to the entire interview here: