Bold Talk on Race
The Director of the FBI, James Comey, spoke yesterday to students at Georgetown University on race relations. He was candid and bold as he talked about our choices on issues of race.
“As a society, we can choose to live our everyday lives, raising our families and going to work, hoping that someone, somewhere, will do something to ease the tension—to smooth over the conflict. We can roll up our car windows, turn up the radio and drive around these problems, or we can choose to have an open and honest discussion about what our relationship is today—what it should be, what it could be, and what it needs to be—if we took more time to better understand one another.”
He delivered his speech in the magnificent Healy Hall, named for Georgetown’s 29th president.
Comey said, “Healy is believed to be the first African-American to earn a Ph.D., the first to enter the Jesuit order, and the first to be president of Georgetown University or any predominantly white university.” He added that Healy was born into slavery, the son of a white plantation owner and a slave.
“Given Georgetown’s remarkable history, and that of President Healy, this struck me as an appropriate place to talk about the difficult relationship between law enforcement and the communities we are sworn to serve and protect,” Comey said.
Comey’s speech came on Lincoln’s birthday. Comey used the occasion to say about Lincoln, “He spoke at Gettysburg about a ‘new birth of freedom’ because we spent the first four score and seven years of our history with fellow Americans held as slaves—President Healy, his siblings, and his mother among them. We have spent the 150 years since Lincoln spoke making great progress, but along the way treating a whole lot of people of color poorly. And law enforcement was often part of that poor treatment. That’s our inheritance as law enforcement and it is not all in the distant past.”
Comey says we must address this inheritance as a nation, talk about it, and deal with it. You can watch the video of his speech on the NYTimes website. Or you can read the whole speech here. I highly recommend it.
I had seen comments on the speech yesterday in The New York Times. I was impressed. But Dan Woog’s blog today brought it home more strongly. And I learned from Dan that Comey has a home in Westport, Connecticut where I live and blog.
I trust that our TEAM Westport (Together Effectively Achieving Multiculturalism) meeting in early March will talk about this speech. I hope we will find a way to use it to promote conversation in our town about the difficult issue of race and racial bias. And now that I know Comey has a home here, I’ll suggest that TEAM Westport invite him to give a repeat of his speech right here!
Two Views on Nigeria’s Election
Chimamanda Adichie, author of Americanah, had an excellent article on the postponement of Nigeria’s elections in The Atlantic. As I told you in my last post, the presidential election, scheduled for this weekend, is now to take place in six weeks. The electoral commission said the military requested the delay because they could not guarantee safety and security in the country when they had to battle Boko Haram.
Adichie says, “Even if the reason were not so absurd, Nigerians are politically astute enough to know that the postponement has nothing to do with security. It is a flailing act of desperation from an incumbent terrified of losing.
She left little doubt about her preference – it’s not the incumbent!
My daughter-in-law is of the same opinion. She said in an email to me yesterday, “Are you following our politics here? Four years to prepare and a week to elections you discover, oh my gosh, we are not ready! Unreal, but expected.”
I would guess her comment captures the way many people feel.