Bowens: Detroit, London, Grosse Pointe -- It's not Black vs White, it's everybody vs racism

March 11, 2021, 10:26 PM by  Greg Bowens

Greg Bowens, a Deadline Detroit contributing columnist, is a civil rights activist, public relations professional and former Detroit News reporter. He is co-founder and past president of the Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods NAACP Branch.

In case you forgot, the events of the last few weeks should serve as a reminder: Black is Black.

Black is Black in London: Prince Harry and his biracial African-American wife Meghan Markle had to flee England to get away from a racist press and an indifferent monarchy. 

Black is Black in Detroit: Mike Duggan, the white mayor of a Black city, had to walk back remarks he made that reflect the distrust African Americans have towards the medical establishment, about not giving people what some consider a second-class vaccine.

The honeymoon's long been over for Harry's biracial wife (DepositPhotos)

And Black is Black in Grosse Pointe Park: After hundreds marched to declare that hate has no home here in the wake of a KKK flag display, businesswoman JeDonna Dinges and neighbors are still fighting an uphill battle to diversify the public safety department.

Each of these events remain opportunities to move forward and declare the fight is not Black vs. white, it’s everybody vs. racism.

Oprah Winfrey gasped for all of us when Markle said some in the royal family discussed how dark-skinned her child might be, and the implications that would have for the country. She and her husband also revealed their son would inherit neither title nor security – which his cousins enjoy by birthright. Somebody in the royal household needs to fix this quickly.

Instead, they released a short statement saying racism is a “concern.” The hashtag #BlackRoyalLivesMatter has got to be coming.

Black is Black again as Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan reshaped issues through the lens of equity several times during his State of the City address Tuesday night. Employment, education and housing opportunities are not really opportunities for all unless we recognize the racist structural barriers preventing people from getting a fair shot at those things. That was powerful stuff, which the mayor backed up with examples. But when it came to explaining his reluctance to distribute the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, he apologized for not reading up on the science better. Huh?

We know the science because the trial test results have been drilled into our heads. The J&J vaccine has an efficacy level around 66 percent, while the two-shot vaccines have efficacy levels of at least 90 percent. Any school age kid knows getting an A on a test is better than getting a D.  

Even a vaccine has racial implications, as the mayor knows (File photo)

Mayor Duggan was right to push back. The fears are real. He should have continued to shape the issue through the equity lens. His point would have been more powerful if he would have simply said “I was concerned people would think the J&J vaccine is the cheap stuff being pushed off on the black community based on the previously reported efficacy numbers. But it’s not and here’s why…”

That was a missed opportunity. Until we see the rich and connected fighting to get the one-shot vaccine like they were cutting lines to get the two-shot vaccine, skepticism will likely haunt the distribution process. In the meantime, they all work. Take the shot you're given.

Finally, nothing says Black is Black better than a good old fashioned Ku Klux Klan flag display aimed at JeDonna Dinges and her family. The resulting protest and outrage by Grosse Pointe Park residents made national news. Public pressure for a more diverse cop shop is boiling with the search for a new director of public safety, expected to be completed in April.

"Hate has no home here," but a POC as police chief would help, too (File photo)

But fear stalks both sides of the issue. Some residents don't trust city manager Nick Sizeland to conduct a fair process, despite changes he made to diversify the pool of qualified candidates and an advisory panel. Still, that's not enough for some who want a resident on the panel and more transparency in the process. The denial of these requests is taken as evidence the fix is in for maintaining the status quo.

Meanwhile, some former city officials and current residents say while the department should be more diverse, the interim chief should not be sacrificed in the process. They allege Grosse Pointe Park is being painted as a racist community over the outrage about the KKK flag display and the critique of the public safety department's ability to handle the situation appropriately. Stop attacking the police with the race card. Say what?

Who's really playing the race card here? The hand residents have been dealt is one supporting policies that created and maintained an all-white male patrol force for nearly a century.

Supporters of the status quo shake off that shameful legacy. Creating a diverse pool of qualified candidates is nothing more than race baiting and they aren't falling for it. Move along. Nothing to see here.

Black is Black.

That truism will never change until we realize our struggle is not Black vs. white, it’s everybody vs. racism.

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