Like wet clothes hung in the rain -- it's the disparity

by Frank Harris III

In my mind the words hung -- like dripping clothes fresh from the wash being pinned on a line in a torrential rain.

What exactly is the point?

The fountain of my query were the words of the ''Good Morning America'' newscaster who at the conclusion of his report on the school shooting in Georgia said the young shooter was reportedly on Ritalin.

He said it with such finality that the implication was that Ritalin was the reason for the shooting. The shooter couldn't help himself.

The shooter was sick.

Which takes me back to the words of my father at an NAACP meeting in August of '66. My father was the president of the local chapter in my Illinois hometown. He was talking about the disparate way in which whites who did something wrong were regarded in comparison to blacks.

''When a white man climbs atop a tower and kills a bunch of people, he's called sick!'' he said. ''If a black man does it -- he's called an animal!''

He was referring to Charles Whitman, the sniper who shot and killed 16 people and wounded 31 from atop the University of Texas tower before being killed by a policeman. It was arguably the nation's first mass murder by a lone individual. Later it was said Whitman had a tumor in his brain that opened the floodgates to his violence.

I was 9 in '66 and in the decades since, there has been little in the stream of life to disprove my father's words. It remains so in the wake of the recent school shootings.

It's a tragedy? Yes, I agree.

Race has nothing to do with it? Hmm. So if the shooters in all these school shootings were black, it would not be regarded a drop differently? It would not lead to the maligning of young black males even more than they already are?

A recent story in a national newspaper described the strong economy and the positive effect it has had even on the employment of young blacks males, who, according to the article, are the most ''economically disadvantaged, socially alienated group in America.''

While I am no longer a young black male, I remain a black male with all the slights, assumptions, obstacles, and restrictions that accompany it. Yes, I reap the negative actions and imagined actions of other black males, young and old, even though the actions are ones I may not have individually sowed.

Yet, the fact that it is young white males who have been the shooters in the terror and slaughter at schools over the past few years will cast no social stigma on other white males.

There is no exodus from private, predominantly white schools in the city and public, predominantly white schools in the suburbs to escape the seemingly dangerous young white male.

There is no trepidation when a young white male steps on an elevator, gathers in a mall, rides around in a car, or comes to school.

If I were in the process of wrestling a gun from a ''sick'' white male, young or old, I can calculate with utter certainty upon whom the arriving officers' guns would be trained.

There is no fear of the white male that is there for the black male.

It is part of the rights and privileges of being the majority in America.

Race has nothing to do with it?

The killers in such shootings have been white. That does not mean it will stay that way. Nor does it submerge the fact that althoughblacks have not engaged in the type of mass school shootings, there nevertheless are the frequent one-on-one, two-on three shootings that take their toll.

It's just looked upon differently.

Race has nothing to do with it?

Of course it doesn't. It has everything to do with it:

How we respond to it and how we don't. How we react to it and how we don't. And won't. Then turn around and swear we can't.

Can't understand.

Can't understand why wet clothes fresh from the wash get wetter when we pin them on the line in the rain.

It's the disparity, darn it.



Frank Harris III of Hamden, Conn., is an assistant professor of journalism at Southern Connecticut State University and the author of the book, ''In My Own Words: Race, Humor, Life.'' Readers may write him at P.O. Box 4500, Hamden, Conn. 06514., or e-mail him at

Frank Harris III's award winning In My Own Words column appears each Sunday in the New Haven Register. He is the author of the book In My Own Words: race, Humor, Life, and is an assistant professor of journalism at Southern Connecticut State University. Readers can email him at Click here for information about ordering an autographed copy of his book.

The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of GriffinDesigns or

| Home | TheBlackMarketPlace | Classified Ads | Resources |
Black History | Monthly Columns | Contact Us | Advertising | Y Black |