As I was driving to work this morning, a couple of back-to-back local stories on KUHF-FM caught my attention.
The first story, which has riveted and divided the city, was a jury's decision to acquit former Houston police officer Andrew Blomberg of beating 15-year-old burglary suspect Chad Holley during an arrest that was caught on camera. Bloomberg is white. Holley is African-American. The six-member jury was all white.
It was followed almost immediately by a story that revealed for the first time in United States history, most of the nation’s babies are members of minority groups. In Texas, nearly seven in 10 people under age 1 were minorities as of July 2011, according to new census figures.
With the abundance of Asians, African-Americans and Latinos living in Houston, how could an all-white jury be impaneled on such an important case in 2012?
Houston has long been the most ethnically diverse large metropolitan area in the country, according to a report from Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research and the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas.
“Houston is one of a handful of what is known as majority-minority cities, where Anglos represent less than 50 percent of the population,” Jenifer Bratter, director of the Kinder Institute’s Race Scholars program, said when a new report on the topic was released a few months ago.
The city and surrounding area has largely been ahead of the curve on issues of diversity and working together. So it made me wonder, with the abundance of Asians, African-Americans and Latinos living in Houston, how could an all-white jury be impaneled on such an important case in 2012?
I have nothing against white people (I am one), but it seems to me in a controversial case like this, whites and minorities are going to look at the facts in different ways. We are all products of our experiences.
While I admit there is a danger in stereotyping the races, many blacks and Latinos are distrustful of the police because of past mistreatment, so they are going to look at a video where it appears that officers are kicking and beating a suspect and assume that police brutality is involved. Many whites are more willing to give officers the benefit of the doubt.
While I was not in the courtroom and didn't hear the evidence, I would have more faith in the verdict if at least one person on the jury was a person of color. Seems to me a jury of one's peers should reflect the city's population.
I imagine before too long it will be impossible for attorneys to impanel an all-white jury in Houston — and that's a good thing. I may be naive, but I think good things are in store for Houston — and the nation —as that minority population grows up.
Young people seem to be less caught up by race and sexual orientation. They've grown up in a world of interracial dating and marriage; they have gay friends; they see a color-blind future that their elders could never imagine.
Clashes are going to be inevitable as an aging white population is replaced by a young minority population — most particularly in areas like Social Security, where the taxes on younger, mostly minority workers are used to support old white people like me, and education, where older whites will be asked to support taxes to train and educate a younger burgeoning minority population.
But, by and large, young people seem to be less caught up by race and sexual orientation. They've grown up in a world of interracial dating and marriage; they have gay friends; they see a color-blind future that their elders could never imagine. They have a strong sense of right and wrong. And they believe that, even in harsh economic times, they can create a brighter future.
I'm old enough to faintly remember separate water fountains and bathrooms for whites and "colored people" in the Deep South, where I grew up. People nostalgically recall the good ol' days. But they weren't that great for a lot of people.
I like the future we're creating right now — even when a verdict comes down that I don't like.