GOLDMAN: Redskins vs. blacks in Richmond

Paul Goldman is a local lawyer who helped run Doug Wilder's historic campaign for governor of Virginia.

Paul Goldman is a local lawyer who helped run Doug Wilder's historic campaign for governor of Virginia.

RICHMOND, Va. – Is it better to be a tree than a poor black child in Richmond? The following is the skinny on two tales from one city.

During last year’s campaign season, Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones, the Richmond City Council and the Richmond School Board made all kinds of promises in regards two big events that got big headlines:

  • one involved poor black children entrusted to the care of the city’s child protective agency
  • the other involved the wealthiest sports franchise in Virginia

Redskins vs. Black Skins in journalistic shorthand.

It’s been roughly a year since our elected leaders said they would deal with both. So let’s review.

First, let’s go to Redskins City:

By now this is clear, the mayor, City Council and school board love, love, love the Redskins.

The way the mayor and other would-be mayors have been kissing-up to the Redskins, they might get arrested for suspicion of violating the state’s ban on same-sex civil unions. It is a wonder city leaders haven’t passed a resolution asking the General Assembly to rename our town Redskinsville, at least during the team’s summer camp.

I am surprised the mayor and our city leaders haven’t made “Redman Chewing” tobacco mandatory at City Hall, or at least during City Council meetings.

If Steven Spielberg ever decided to use Richmond on the James as the locale for a movie about General George Custer’s doomed stand, we know who will want to play Sitting Bull and his posse.

Like I say, Mayor Jones, Hicksy, Charly, Chrisy, and the like love, love, love them some Redskins.

“If you are red, go ahead. If you are black, get back” is the motto for our city’s elected leaders.

The other tale for today, isn’t actually a tale, but a tragedy.

Last year, WTVR’s Catie Beck broke the story about the victimization of poor black children by the city’s Social Services Department.

Jonesy, Hicksy, Charly, Chrisy ran for the TV cameras or fed reporters all their efforts to save these kids. The pols strutted around like heroes, praising themselves for cleaning up the mess, promising quick results.

As the Richmond Times Dispatch points out today, the truth is quite different.

When it comes to having black skin in Richmond, in these circumstances, you aren’t the Redskins — you are invisible to everyone.

The same for poor white children too, but the demographics of Richmond make poor black children the victim in most cases.

When the city accidentally, on purpose, cut down trees at the Redskins Training Site, the mayor and City Council were appalled. They called meetings, found money and got new trees planted. Nothing was too good or too expensive to make the Redskins happy.

On the contrary, we have now had three reports, as the RTD points out, on what it is like to have black skin and be in the clutches of the city’s Social Services Department.

Each report seems worse than the last. By the third time, the same old tired “ain’t my fault, but I am really trying” alibi from city leaders has grown more than a little stale.

Indeed, it seems rooted in an utter contempt for the intelligence of the public. It seems rooted in the fact that we have the most expensive City Hall and City Council in the state and they don’t believe the public can do anything about it.

We know the Redskins would never stand to be treated like this. The proof has been evident all summer.

“Okay Paul, cutesy writing, Redskins vs. Black Skin, you got our attention, but is that all there is too it?” you might be asking.

My reply is, yes, I was trying to get people to read, that’s what a writer does. But writing about serious issues is often best done through humor.

Why?

Because people will generally read or listen to humor on a subject more than a straight serious discussion.

Redskins vs. Black Skin is of course an oversimplification, a writer’s technique. But at the same time, it hits right at home, right at the moral decay in our politics, and it says it in the type of “sound bite” that is sadly required in our politics today.

The RTD tip toed to the line and pulled back. They didn’t want to offend.

But isn’t the whole purpose of journalism to offend the status quo? Why else report the news? The powers-that-be don’t need you to tell them what they already know. Why not just make newspapers about car crashes, fires, shootings, and other stuff, why even bother to cover politics and governing if not to challenge the status quo?

Redskins v. Black Skin.

The real story is that this headline hits too close to home, and too many people know it.

Paul Goldman is in no way affiliated with WTVR. His comments are his own, and do not reflect the views of WTVR or any related entity. Neither WTVR nor any of its employees or agents participated in any way with the preparation of Mr. Goldman’s comments.

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