Homage to Steven Utash: Reverse Racism in Detroit

Steve Utash is a white man who did the right thing in Detroit when he stopped and got out of his truck to help the 10 year old black kid named David Harris, who ran out in front of the truck that he (Utash) was driving, and so whom Utash accidentally hit.  The reports make it clear that Utash was not in any way at fault.  Alas, the behavior of various black people, on the other hand, is utterly despicable.  They kicked and hit the white man to such an extent that he is in such critical condition; and it is not at all out of the question that as a result he might die.

We all know if that things were reversed and a black truck driver had accidentally hit a 10 year old white kid in a like manner and a bunch of white people kicked and hit the black man until the black man’s very life was in jeopardy, there would be no end to the cry of racism on the part of blacks.  There would be Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson calling for boycotts and protests.  Indeed, there would be riots.  There can be no doubt whatsoever that I am right in that assessment.  Hence, if whites kicking and hitting a black truck driver who accidentally hit a white kid is unquestionably a case of racism on the part of whites, then it follows that what we have in the case is Steve Utash is none other than a case of racism on the part of blacks.

Indeed, the behavior of the blacks who brutally attacked Utash very much calls to the mind the behavior of the Klu Klux Klan, which looked for an excuse to take the life of a black person.  It could easily enough be sufficient that a black person did not show adequate difference to a white person because the black failed to get off the sidewalk so that the white person walking along would have ample space.  It would be utterly irrelevant that the black person did not see the white person because, for instance, the black was absorbed with reading a letter or, even better, the black was absorbed with comforting the crying infant that the black was carrying in her or his arms.

I have heard black people tell me that blacks cannot be racist.  And I imagine that there are white liberals who share that view.  Well, that stance amounts to none other than a Pyrrhic (that is, empty) victory.  Why?  Because whether we call the behavior racism or not, what is true in any case is that the behavior is absolutely abominable.  Just as the lynching of blacks by whites was abominable, the violent and venomous attack of Utash, the white truck driver, by blacks is no less abominable.

As Bob Lonesberry of WSYR radio station in Syracuse (New York) has noted, we have not heard much in the news about the horrendous wrong committed against Utash by blacks, it being understood that most of the news reporting throughout the United States is run primarily by whites.  And I have asked myself a very simple question: Why has so little attention been paid to this horrific story?  Does this count as a deep and sincere show of support for black people?  Is it the view that the tremendous racist wrongs committed against blacks in the past thereby excuse blacks for whatever wrongs they commit?  Neither explanation will suffice.  History shows that no one has ever become mightily responsible merely as a result of being allowed to be ever so irresponsible.

And then there is the following question: How plausible is it to suppose that black people are deeply and unequivocally committed to just for blacks and whites and whomever when it is the case that blacks can be ever so unjust in their treatment of whites.  The very fact that Utash got out of his truck to attend to 10-year old David Harris was a very, very, very good sign that he was not a white person at all indifferent to the harm that he might have accidentally caused a black person.  And the fact that blacks overlooked that reality and brutally attacked Utash bespeaks a horrendous level of moral callousness on their part.

It is my considered view that white liberals are doing black people more harm than good, if in the name of the racism of yesteryear on the part of white people against black people white liberals are silent with respect to clearly despicable behavior on part of blacks.

Finally, it is simply false to suppose that having self-respect entails being venomous and brutal in the treatment of those who are not a member of one’s ethnic group.  For self-respect at its best is not tied to harming others.  Quite the contrary, self-respect at its very best is tied to self-development.  And in this regard, I will conclude by playing the “race card” as they say.  Surely, the point that I have just made about self-respect is manifestly obvious.  I do not think for a moment that white liberals can miss it.  And this tells me that the silence of white liberals when blacks does what is unequivocally and obviously wrong, whether the wrong is against a white or a black or whomever, reveals a deep and abiding lack of respect on the part of the typical white liberal towards blacks.  A fundamental and immutable truth is that it is not possible to respect a person, no matter what the ethnic configuration of that person might be, and then routinely let that person wallow in mediocrity and self-destructive behavior.

It is thus my considered view that –when it is all said and done– liberals are no better than conservatives in thinking of the N-word as being an appropriate lable for blacks.  For constructive criticism is one of the deep, deep signs of genuinely carrying about others.  And in that regard, most white liberals widely miss the mark.

God bless Steven Utash.

© 2014 Laurence Thomas

About Laurence Thomas

Laurence Thomas is Professor in the Department of Political Science and the Department of Philosophy at Syracuse University. His most recent book is The Family and the Political Self and his most recent article in French is "Juifs et Noirs: Au-delà du Mal" in Trigano (ed.) Juifs et Noirs: du Mythe à la Réalité. Thomas has published numerous essays on the topic of friendship. The essay "The Character of Friendship" has appeared in volume on friendship, entitled Thinking About Friendship, edited by Damian Caluori and the essay "Friendship in the Shadow of Technology" has appeared in the anthology Moral and Moral Controversies edited by Steven Scalet and John Arthur. His most recent essay--entitled "Being Moral and Handling the Truth"--is about circumstances under which it is morally permissible to lie. Indeed, an example is given in Section IV of a lie being morally virtuous.
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