Bruce Levenson email shows we still are not living in a post-racial world

By Saba Long

Being a person of color is at times a weary experience and, with age the burden of misunderstanding gets a little heavier. My generation, the Millenials, is supposed to make up the façade of a post-racial America, but I’m afraid that notion need be reserved for the likes of my four-year old nephew.

On Sunday, the Bruce Levenson email came to light when the co-owner of the Atlanta Hawks (at least for now) lamented the adverse impact of black basketball fans showing up to games. He plainly stated a fact that is still evident in neighborhood subdivisions across the country.

Although I recognize we’ve a long way to go before we move out of a “black and white” mindset, it’s terribly disheartening to hear such language come out of someone who owns part of an Atlanta team. As one local technology leader posted in an online discussion awhile back, “We need another Martin Luther King, Jr.”

For the record, Levenson has represented the ownership group from the Washington, D.C. area that owns a majority share of the team. The Atlanta ownership team – which includes Michael Gearon Sr., Michael Gearon Jr., Rutherford Seydel and Beau Turner — have not been tied to this racial controversy.

But both here and across the country, we’re dealing with racial prejudices disguised as business concerns, inexplicable murders, and post-death character assassinations.

In a finite window of time, society has grappled with the deaths of African-American males who, given the circumstances surrounding their deaths, should still be among the living.

Watching someone struggle to breath as a police officer puts him in a chokehold over allegedly selling loosies (single cigarettes) is troubling. Watching a community have to demand due diligence from the Sanford police department to investigate a shooting is troubling.

Perhaps more troubling than these terrible incidents are the extremist, inaccurate responses from the likes of talk radio and yes, even people of color. Rather than uncover the dark truths that have resulted in these tragedies, some pivot to a debate on “black on black” crime.

Statistics show crime is a segregated matter in which victims are most likely to targeted by a member of their own race than another. For African-Americans, that number hovers around 94 percent and for Caucasian, it’s just shy of 90 percent.

In his email, Levenson argued the problem was racial perceptions and how they impact the behaviors of white fans. A recent study from Sentencing Project shines some light into this issue. It states, “Widespread consequence of racial perceptions of crime is the overrepresentation of people of color in prisons, jails, and under community supervision. A less common but more acutely tragic outcome has been the deaths of people of color due to distorted assessments of threat by police officers and armed civilians.”

It continues: “Whites’ associations of crime with people of color have helped to make the criminal justice system more punitive toward people of all races, and especially toward racial minorities.”

To be sure, some unlikely allies, including Gov. Nathan Deal, have begun to address the errors of our existing criminal justice system. Their policy changes are making a difference, but more must be done.

Implicit biases remain. Even media coverage of DeKalb County’s Elaine Boyer’s fall from grace has been covered with an overt racial tone in which folks feign surprise that a White woman could intentionally cheat taxpayers because in the Atlanta region, that’s something black politicians do.

So I’m a bit weary right now of the barrage of troubling actions both here and across the country. Yet I remain hopeful.

We’re not in a post-racial America, but maybe by the time my nephew reaches my age, we will be.

Saba Long is a communications and political professional who lives in downtown Atlanta. She serves as the senior council aide and communications liaison for Post 2 At-Large Atlanta City Councilman Aaron Watson. Most recently, Saba was the press secretary for MAVEN and Untie Atlanta -- the Metro Chamber’s education and advocacy campaigns in supportive of the Atlanta Regional Transportation Referendum. She has consulted with H.E.G. an analytics and evaluation firm where she lent strategic marketing and social media expertise to numerous political campaigns, including that of Fulton County Chairman John Eaves and the 2010 Clayton County transportation referendum. In 2009, Saba served as the deputy campaign manager for the campaign of City Council President Ceasar Mitchell. Previously, Saba was a Junior Account Executive at iFusion Marketing, where she lent fractional marketing strategy to various ATDC technology startups operating out of the Georgia Tech incubator, ATDC. For the past two years, Saba has presented on online marketing and politics to the incoming fellows of the Atlanta chapter of the New Leaders Council.

1 reply
  1. Equitable says:

    The problem isn’t racism, it’s whiteness. Right now there are white people reading this muttering to themselves – “black people are always so angry . . .” and “well, black people are in the prison system because they commit crimes.” The problem is that the logic of whiteness is both circular and unconscious. A society built over 500 years on dividing labor classes based on skin color has lead to deep layers of fear and scorn in white people of all classes. When a criminal “justice” system is born in the fear and scorn of whiteness it is pre-arranged for black people to fail. Surprise; some black people fail. But unconscious whiteness precludes white-oriented people from taking their share of responsibility for this failure. Most white-oriented people have no black friends who can tell stories to counter their stereotypes so instead of facing the pain it’s much easier to say “it’s not my problem.” 
    But in order to achieve true criminal justice, and untap the tremendous potential of an interracial society, whiteness has to go.

    We help speed the end of whiteness when white people begin listening. This is incredibly hard but a necessary first step. Once we can really listen without being defensive, we can start to look within ourselves at the oh-so destructive but utterly commonplace attitudes that keep us in the white box and others, especially black people, outside the box. Taking a cue from none other than Ronald Reagan speaking in a different but applicable context — “Mr. Levenson, tear down these walls!”Report


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