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Blacks have more reasons to be fearful than Whites

Julianne Malveaux | 3/3/2014, 9:31 a.m.
In the years after enslavement, Southern Whites did all they could to return to a manner of slavery. No White ...

Gary Pearl could be Dunn’s evil twin, with a pecuniary twist. In 1983, Pearl left his job as a city sanitation supervisor in Louisville, Ky., because he says he had a nervous breakdown, which he attributed to having to work with Black people. A psychiatrist testified that Pearl suffered from paranoid schizophrenia; a judge ordered that he be paid $231 per week. The state appealed the award, it was eventually overturned, and Pearl returned to the obscurity he had before the “fear” defense.

What would happen if every Black person fearing White people got to file for unemployment compensation, or carry a gun around to assuage himself of his safety? Would a jury be as lenient toward that Black man as they were with Dunn? Would they acquit just like the jury acquitted the men who killed Medgar Evers (it took decades for a jury to finally do the right thing). A hard read of history suggests that Blacks have more to fear from Whites than the other way around, but it is Whites, rationalizing their fear, who get to shoot without justification.

A thorough read of history, however, would remind us of the Dred Scott case where the Supreme Court ruled that Black people have no rights that Whites are bound to respect. Clearly, Dunn, Zimmerman and the others who have Klan sensibilities and invisible hoods, believe a 19th century Supreme Court ruling instead of 21st century realities. For folks like Dunn and Zimmerman, however, the 19th century is not very different than the 21st.

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is president emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.