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They All Call to Ask, ‘What Do Black People Want?’


They All Call to Ask, ‘What Do Black People Want?’

Tony Norman

There’s a genre of letters and phone calls that every black person with a media platform gets on a regular basis. They all begin with the correspondent declaring his or her age — usually between 60 and 85 — followed by the announcement that they’re white.

What follows is often either a short statement of support or a disquisition on why some outrage, like the shooting death of an unarmed black person by the police, has more to do with the home training of the deceased than racial bias or incompetence on the officer’s part.


I’m a white man and I was born at the beginning of the 60’s. I think I know what black people want. I believe they want the same thing they’ve always wanted. The end of the same things that caused the riots in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, etc. and continue right up to this minute. I think what they want is what we all want. To just live their lives and be left the fuck alone. Not to be singled out, but to just be treated like a part of the whole picture. I don’t know if I’ll live to see it happen, but eventually the greedy bastards who sow hate among their common victims will be knocked off their perches as they always are.


If the survey results after the OJ trial didn’t get through to people that blacks and whites have different perceptions of law enforcement I don’t know what will. A large majority of whites believed OJ was guilty and a large majority of blacks believed he was innocent. That is largely because whites believed that police do the right thing when investigating a crime while blacks assumed the police are framing a black person to be guilty, particularly in LA where such framing was believed by blacks to be common. The jury was mostly black and to the surprise of most whites quickly found OJ not guilty. I think it is very difficult for whites to perceive law enforcement the way blacks do. Most whites may worry about police when if comes to getting a traffic ticket but generally see police as protecting them from crime. Clearly blacks have a different experience and even receiving a traffic ticket could turn into a life-threatening situation. I think what it will take is extensive police training to turn the situation around. That will require a lot of money and an administration that is not led by a racist which is the current situation.


I’m a white male born in 1951.

I’ve seen racial hatred all of my life. My folks raised my brother and I to respect everybody, and we both have.

I have found it rewarding to make friends with blacks and have benefited from their friendship.

Blacks have always wanted the same things everyone I have ever met wanted out of life: Respect and Equality (Equal Treatment).

My parents taught me that the color of a man’s skin must never affect my opinion of him.

It worked for me.

Perhaps, our educational system has failed to teach many in this country, this basic lesson.

Perhaps, our educational system could learn something that would benefit us all.


Silly writer you are Tony Norman. All black people really want are three heads, ten arms and four legs as well as an armored back side. No one would ever want to just be a real person, noted as a real person and respected just because, Nope. Never.
/sarcasm - because these days it can sometimes be hard to tell or hard for some to figure out without a /s label.

Other than that, I am often enough one of the few (or only) white guys on the crew working a show. I’m just glad and grateful to be working and on the crew like anyone else. The needs or wants are really very simple for any of us. The ordinary is already pretty special. This is my world and it is just fine.


I cannot presume to speak for all black folk, but my relationship with law enforcement is fraught with cognitive dissonance. In the field of psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort (psychological stress) experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values. I, for one, would like to be relieved of this stress when seeing a police officer.

Law enforcement is my protector, the ones I call when I’m in danger. They solve crimes, protect the innocent and lock up the guilty. They are your friend.

But then there was that time in junior high ('69) when a bunch of us were standing outside the school to which we had been bused in the name of integration discussing the talent show we had just witnessed (some of us were participants). As we waited for the buses to take us back to our neighborhood, the police.
Seems a neighbor lady had called them to report a riot. No questions, no preliminary assessment of the situation, just tear gas.

Or the time my front door was kicked in with the bootprint on the door, and all the treasures I had gathered from my travels in the Air Force from Europe, Asia, the Middle East and even Eastern Europe were vandalized and destroyed. Fingerprints gleamed on my Turkish brass lamps. No questions, no preliminary investigation; they simply wanted to give me the report number for an insurance claim. Forget my safety or losses. They had more important things to do.

And then about ten years ago when my HOA and I, along with 7 others, were locked in litigation with a power mad board president and unscrupulous lawyer. The eight of us were asking pointed questions at a board meeting when the police were called for our “disruptive” behavior. Of the eight homeowners being sued, I was the only African-American. Guess who ended up handcuffed and locked in the back of the cruiser for 45 minutes? One of the officers even asked me why I didn’t just move. When I took the complaint to Internal Affairs, that officer heard my description of events and said he would have done exactly the same thing. After four years, 5 law firms, and hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by both sides we won with a verdict of breach of fiduciary duty against both the board president AND the attorney. But it was hell getting there.


(Emphasis mine)
This is a fundamental fact of life; one which many White people either cannot or will not grasp. This kernel of truth holds the key to freedom for all: Black, Brown, or White.


Very good column Tony. We dont always agree on everything. I’ll never forget how uncomfortable you looked introducing the black anarchist Malik Rahim of the Common Grounds Collective at the Merton Center Award dinner several years ago. But keep up the good work. The new fascist owners of the Post-Gazette are not going to make your work easy. Needless to say, if they even think of firing you, we will fill the streets of Pittsburgh.


Born in the same period as you, PB, and raised the same way but it’s never been enough. I grow tired of having to prove that, just because I’m not brown, I’m not a racist.


We can talk about training for policing agencies. But what were the causes that created the conditions such that corrective training is needed. Racism. Social and institutional racism. The shredding of civil and economic democracy by what is becoming an oligarchic planet finds the need for militarized policing as population control. This creates evermore reactionary policing behavior and makes for the training you propose more than a little problematic.

More than a few of the immigrants who came to America in its history were xenophobic and religious fanatics and not very popular in the countries of their origins. They got liberty and religious freedom by default yet helped turn that into slavery of African peoples and genocide of native peoples. They have a morality they invented as ordained by a god they invented. Legality via assertion.

To do a parody of Gandhi…‘civilization, sounds like a good idea.’


Poor little you, huh?


I’m reminded that the power structure always responds to the shooting death of an unarmed person of color by pointing out (when it exists) the victim’s police record. This raises two questions:
—how did the cop get this information BEFORE firing?
—when did possession of a joint or jumping a turnstile (“bread-crumb sins,” to be sure, but enough to get a criminal record) become capital crimes?

The answers, of course, are (a) he didn’t and (b) they aren’t. But it’s sufficient to assuage white guilt, which is the whole purpose of such deflections.


Yeah, it does have that ring to it. I regret posting that useless bit of nonsense. I apologize to PB. It wasn’t a criticism. It was my own ugly reaction based on some apparent racist tendency I thought I was rid of. I won’t post here again unless I’m sure it contributes to the common good. In the meantime some serious self-examination is in my path.


Those without power always seek power… all colors all races.

Those thinking a 1% rich white psychopath cares about other whites is so comical as to bring tears to the eyes and a slap to the forehead.

Rich psychopaths are all the same no matter what their color.
400-year history of black history shows those the blacks should be unhappy with are their own that sold them, and some rich psycho’s.

No normal human ever had a slave… simply not possible.
Psycho’s have slaves, still today.