, Newburyport, MA

July 30, 2013

Law, not conversation, brings about change

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

I admire Joe D’Amore Jr.’s attitude and understanding that the issue in the Trayvon Martin shooting is more than the unnecessary killing of a young black man. D’Amore and his generation are far more tolerant and accepting of racial differences than my generation. The attitude toward minorities of too many Americans born sometime in the early 20th century was far different.

His prescription for eradicating racism falls far short of what is needed, though. To propose “conversation” as a way of accomplishing this goal is to imagine that bigotry can be erased through rational discourse. History certainly shows us that that is not the case. What did occur over the years that has led D’Amore’s generation to have strikingly different attitudes was legislation, court decisions and presidential decrees that did change generations’ minds.

For instance, one has to understand the impact of Truman’s desegregating the military, eliminating the poll tax, the Supreme Court’s decision (Brown vs. the Board of Education) desegregating schools, anti-lynching laws, the Voting Rights Act, antidiscrimination laws in employment and housing, etc. It was legislation forbidding discrimination that forced Americans to behave in a different way. It didn’t matter what one’s prejudices were — one had to act lawfully.

In a democracy, the ideal is to treat all in a fair and equal way. D’Amore’s generation grew up with the general acceptance of these principles that were instilled in American society through law — not conversation.

Alfred Moskowitz