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Reader Forum: Your thoughts on race in America

FILE - This June 25, 2013 file photo shows representatives from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund standing outside the Supreme Court in Washington awaiting a decision in Shelby County v. Holder, a voting rights case in Alabama. One glance at the anniversaries on history’s calendar this year, and it’s clear that racial progress in the United States comes in fits and starts. The Supreme Court issued decisions that chipped away at hard-fought victories on voting rights, employment discrimination and affirmative action, then punted most of it to Congress to fix _ a very divided Congress that has accomplished little since President Barack Obama first took office, and that includes GOP conservatives seeking a way to avoid voting on whether people who came to the U.S. illegally should ever become citizens.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

FILE - This June 25, 2013 file photo shows representatives from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund standing outside the Supreme Court in Washington awaiting a decision in Shelby County v. Holder, a voting rights case in Alabama. One glance at the anniversaries on history’s calendar this year, and it’s clear that racial progress in the United States comes in fits and starts. The Supreme Court issued decisions that chipped away at hard-fought victories on voting rights, employment discrimination and affirmative action, then punted most of it to Congress to fix _ a very divided Congress that has accomplished little since President Barack Obama first took office, and that includes GOP conservatives seeking a way to avoid voting on whether people who came to the U.S. illegally should ever become citizens. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) Purchase photo reprints »

EDITOR’S NOTE: In these comments, readers respond to issues raised both in an Aug. 6 column by Jay Fleitman, “Wayward arguments about race.” and Gregory Clay’s July 17 guest column, “Zimmerman jury delivered correct verdict.”

THE WORK OF RECONCILIATION: Many Americans are afraid to talk about race. I’m afraid of what will happen if we don’t learn to talk about it differently. I do not agree with many of Jay Fleitman’s points in his Aug. 6 column, but I appreciate that it motivated me to go back and re-read Gregory Clay’s July 17 guest column and the letters to the editor that Fleitman references.

In a July 18 letter to the editor, a writer brought new insight to the ongoing dialogue about race by mentioning slavery, calling it “the crux of this entire black/white problem which still persists so many years after slavery was abolished.”

Historian Ira Berlin writes, “Any attempt to address the question of race in the present must also address slavery in the past.” Slavery is a topic many of us would rather avoid. But it might serve us all well if we get more acquainted with its history. Author Edward Ball writes, “Reconciliation is not about being nice. It’s not about pretending that things were other than they actually were . . . . Reconciliation is being able to look the tragedy of American history in the eye. It’s about coming to terms with . . . our heritage.”

Let’s learn more about our heritage. Read a slave narrative or two — or 10. Try Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, Solomon Northrup, or Olaudah Equiano. It’s our heritage, we need to face what it looks like, learn to talk about it differently and reflect on how it influences us today.

Marie Troppe

South Hadley

SHOW US THE EVIDENCE OF WIDESPREAD VOTER FRAUD: I try to be open-minded, and sometimes engage with persons whose political views differ from my own. It was in that spirit that I read Jay Fleitman’s Aug. 6 column, in which he offered some observations on public reaction to the Zimmerman-Martin verdict. For the most part, I didn’t find anything particularly objectionable in the column, and Dr. Fleitman made some valid points.

However, he dropped a bomb in the last paragraph, in which he stated that the interest by conservatives in “implementing voter identification processes ... [has] everything to do with a profound distrust over widespread voter fraud.”

Widespread voter fraud? Really? Show us some evidence, Dr. Fleitman, and maybe then we’ll take you seriously.

Peter D. Steinberg

Easthampton

LIKES A NEW TERM: It is not often that I agree with Dr. Fleitman, but I must say he seems to have coined a valuable term “offendocracy” in his article “Wayward arguments about race.” His argument is that anyone who disagrees with an opinion can demolish the advocate thereof simply by hurling an epithet and rational argument is stifled.

In this case the epithet is “racist.” It is an old ploy. In the Middle Ages they shouted “heretic” and the offender could be burned at the stake. Today we are more civilized, but the thinking process is the same.

I would point out to Dr. Fleitman, though, that his rightist friends are equally adept at using epithets like “Socialist,” “Communist” and “Un-American.”

William Saunders

Whately

NO NEED TO RESPOND TO EITHER: The elephant in the room in both Gregory Clay’s July 17 column, and Jay Fleitman’s of Aug. 6, is that, for the most part, African-Americans do not vote for Republicans. The main difference between the two columns is that while Clay’s is a long-winded take on “some of my best friends are black,” Fleitman’s is an even longer-winded “I don’t need any black friends.”

So, as a point of political strategy, there is no need for non-Republicans to respond to either column.

Don Schneier

Florence

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