NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

August 14, 2013

Takes more than laws to erase racism

(Continued)

Hostile fear is one instinctual response to the unknown, which is why we are defensively afraid of those who look, talk and act differently; those whom we can’t understand or relate to. Racism, in other words, is a lack of empathy.

Legislation does not teach empathy; conversation and storytelling do. That is why children are taught the story of Martin Luther King Jr. instead of the tenets of the Voting Rights Act. Symbols (in the form of people and stories) are just as, if not more, important than legislation in the context of social issues.

After all, race-related legislation is hugely indebted to the Dr. Kings, Emmett Tills, Malcolm Xes, and Trayvon Martins — that is, the symbols of unrest in America. Let us not forget, too, the artistic providers of symbols, the Langston Hugheses and Toni Morrisons and Biggie Smalls. For legislation does not humanize; humans do. Where would we be today if conversations sparked and influenced by these symbols were dismissed as inefficacious?

While I agree with Mr. Moskowitz that law ought to be an important concern in the Martin-Zimmerman crisis, the conversation ought to be allowed many more possibilities, lest faith in statist myths inhibit our progress towards social harmony.

Joe D’Amore Jr.

Groveland

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