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Why whites are often reluctant to discuss race

Re: Chance for change fades with afterglow, Oct. 25, by Elijah Gosier.

Concerning black/white communication, columnist Gosier writes that "Blacks lay their thoughts on the table; whites keep theirs in their pockets."

I have learned over the years that to speak anything that might upset a black person is to be labeled by that black as a "racist." Gosier, being black, can write from the black point of view and it is accepted as politically correct. If I, being white, wrote the exact same words, only from the white point of view, I would be labeled as a "racist.".

Excuse me if I have no respect for black leaders such as Omali Yeshitela and Henry J. Lyons. Excuse me if I cannot understand why people burn down their own neighborhoods and then expect taxpayers to rebuild. Thus, I guess having no respect for the black leadership and people who destroy labels me a "racist."

James E. McNally, South Pasadena

Racism is found in all races

Re: Too subtle to label, too destructive to ignore, Elijah Gosier's Nov. 5 column.

A few times I have disagreed with Gosier's view, but mostly he has made pretty good sense in his writings. This time I disagree so strongly I feel compelled to write my feelings.

Gosier seemed to imply in his column that racism is solely a white disease. Well, it isn't. Imagine black people saying, "Don't shop in a white man's store simply because he is not black." Is that racism? "Don't work in in a white mans shop simply because he is not black." Is that racism?

In his column, Gosier asked about racism, "Or is it Mr. and Mrs. America choosing to live in the whitest part of town . . .?" Why no mention of Mr. and Mrs. America choosing to live in the blackest part of town? Doesn't that happen?

He speaks of a large bag filled with the diverse range of acts and mind-sets, but seemingly speaks as though it is only white people who do and feel these things. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I remember when I, a white blond-haired, blue-eyed kid, was in junior high school and was beat up in the hallway going to class simply because I was a white boy. I was not a racist white boy; I was no threat to anybody and am not one today. But this was a racist act taken out on me by a gang of black kids simply because I was white.

How about the black man who burns and destroys his own community, and business owned by white people because of frustration, because of misunderstanding. Wouldn't that be called racism?

I don't see Gosier's point when he says that a white person sees good qualities more easily in someone who is white. Yes, that happens, but it happens in a black mans world too, and he defines it as only a white thing. The column seems to suggest that this does not happen with black people. Why try to make it a one-sided issue, when it happens in all races?

So who is responsible for racism? The white people? The black people? How about all who are prejudiced against another's heritage?

Garry Rosseter, St. Petersburg

A guilty liberal

Re: Sick of white liberals' "understanding," by Bill Maxwell, Oct. 22.

As I journeyed through Bill Maxwell's column, each sentence attacked me with a vengeance. Paragraph by paragraph, his words jabbed, walloped and clobbered me until I lay beaten and bloody, reduced to a sobbing, whimpering, guilty liberal.

After reading through it again, I picked myself up, tended to my wounds, sat back and reflected. It gradually sunk in; Maxwell is right. I am an understanding liberal. I pray that I am not one of those he speaks of.

Could he be talking out of both sides of his mouth, one side meant for whites who thoughtlessly understand and the other for blacks who eagerly take advantage of "our understanding"? I am a liberal. What am I to do? Tolerance and understanding are my calling. I pride myself on not leaning too far to the left. I even voted for Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon. Heaven help us. Why do I feel like I am begging for forgiveness?

Maxwell's column was poignant and obligated me to think. Perhaps we are good people who simply do not know what the hell we are doing _ sometimes. We would both be foolhardy if we didn't believe that there exists a struggle in the black community. I will continue to hang in there and understand. Keep up the good work.

Frank J. Koskosky, Bayonet Point

On dealing with the police

Re: How to deal with police and stay safe, by Bill Maxwell, Nov. 5.

I agree with the Urban League's admonition that, when stopped by the police, the safest and wisest course is to cooperate on the street and argue the issues in court (if need be). However, as a criminal appellate attorney, I believe a few points of clarification are in order:

First, although the Urban League pamphlet is silent on the issue, you should not consent to a search of your home, person, or vehicle. Do not resist physically, but do decline verbally and politely. The Constitution protects us against unreasonable searches and seizures, but unless there is coercion or dishonesty involved, a consensual search will always be deemed "reasonable" by the courts. Thus, although the police may otherwise have had no lawful justification for the search, it will be admissible if you give your consent. Even if you have nothing to hide, the police may find something which was left in your home or car by a guest (or previous owner), or entirely innocent items which can be misinterpreted and lead to a criminal charge.

If the police have a lawful justification for the search, they will proceed anyway, without your consent. At that point, you should ask them to note your objection and then follow their instructions. You are not legally entitled to witness the search. However, you should ask if you can witness the search _ or have someone else witness it on your behalf _ to open locked any doors, drawers or compartments, and otherwise avoid any unnecessary property damage. In many cases, the police will agree, as this protects them from liability for items which were already damaged, claims of "planted" evidence and the like.

Second, with respect to the pamphlet's list of reasons why you might be stopped by the police, it is important to note that not all of these reasons are legally valid. The courts have held that neither mere presence in a known drug area, nor mere flight from police, are legally valid grounds for a stop. Absent other evidence of a crime, there is no legal justification to stop someone simply for carrying a TV or stereo. And similarly, the First Amendment protects the freedom to "bad-mouth" police officers, provided that in so doing the speaker doesn't interfere with the officers' performance of their duties; merely "bad-mouthing" officers is not legal justification to stop someone.

As a practical matter, however, the officer has a gun, and a radio with which he/she can summon other officers with guns. Thus he/she can stop you for any reason, or no reason at all except to annoy and intimidate you, and your safest and wisest course is still to cooperate.

If it gets that far, you can always argue the legality of the stop in a courtroom, where you have the protection of rules, an attorney and witnesses.

The police officer holds all of the cards on the street. So save your argument for a forum where someone will listen, and you have a chance to win.

N. Cristian Brown, Esq., attorney at law, Clearwater

Re: How to deal with police and stay safe, by Bill Maxwell.

First of all, yes, there are bad police officers working in every major city. These few individuals eventually get weeded out through checks and balances within the department. But members of the black community also have to take more responsibility for their actions. As the wife of a Tampa police officer, I routinely hear horror stories about the way the black community treats the very persons sworn to protect them in an attempt to enforce the law.

Here is my personal appeal to the black community on how to act when encountering a police officer.

If you are stopped on the street:

Be polite, and don't start the encounter by making racist remarks by calling the officer a "cracker."

If you are in a drug hole, and you know where the drug holes are, expect the police to stop and question why you're there. If you don't want to be stopped, don't hang out in areas where other members of your community are selling drugs. These officers are attempting to identify the dealers and scare away potential customers.

If a police officer asks you to remove your hands from your coat pocket, it's only because he probably fears for his safety. Don't swear and curse at the officer for doing his job.

If you are stopped while driving:

It's because you violated a traffic law, which could happen to anybody, black or white. Take responsibility for your actions while driving. If you're driving with an expired tag, faulty lights, if you are speeding or driving eratically, expect to be pulled over.

Yes, there is racism in our society, and hopefully through time and education we can eliminate it. Every point Maxwell brought up could pertain to anyone stopped by the police black or white, not just black youths. There are two sides to racism, and members of the black community cannot continue to avoid responsibility for their actions by continually blaming someone else for their problems. Remember, national statistics show that the black male is more likely to be killed by another black male than a white police officer enforcing the law. Sad to say, the greatest threat to the black male is his own community.

Lori Walsten, Tampa

Lewis was no martyr

I am truly sick and tired of hearing about the death of TyRon Lewis last year as I am sure so many others are.

1. TyRon Lewis had drugs on his person; he didn't want to be stopped by a police officer.

2. He had a lengthy police record and was heading for serious crime.

3. He was driving without a license.

4. The officer's life was in danger.

This man died because he refused to be questioned by a police officer. I don't care if the suspect was pink, green, red or black. His actions caused his death at the hands of an officer who was trying to uphold the law _ and save his own life.

It's a disgusting shame that his family is seeking "reparations" _ sounds like pure greed to me.

TyRon Lewis was not a candidate for "sainthood;" he was a criminal, and he knew he would be arrested for carrying drugs as well as for the three outstanding warrants on file against him.

They've tried to make him a "martyr;" he wasn't. He was a criminal.

The federal government is putting millions of dollars into St. Petersburg to rebuild and clean up blighted areas _ and that's good.

I spent 29 years in St. Petersburg, so I am familiar with the situation in that area. Let the situation be over with and let's go on to bigger and better things for all.

Gloria Stelges, Dade City

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