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OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: Evolution on race

by John Brummett | December 1, 2022 at 3:08 a.m.

Jerry Jones stood near the back of a gaggle of white boys at North Little Rock High School in 1957. He was a 15-year-old sophomore out of white working-class Rose City. He was watching without expression the turned-back attempted entry of six Black youths into the school.

There is a photograph. The Washington Post published it last week to illustrate a long article about Jones, which explored race issues in his hiring of head coaches for the Dallas Cowboys.

Jones hired first a teammate off the all-white national-championship football Razorbacks of 1964. Jimmy Johnson led the team to two Super Bowl championships.

Then Jones fired Johnson because he thought Johnson didn't properly value the role of the owner. He hired Barry Switzer, a teammate and graduate assistant for the Razorbacks during his playing days. The Cowboys won a Super Bowl under Switzer, who was widely acknowledged to have forged good relationships with Black athletes while coaching the Oklahoma Sooners to three national collegiate championships.

Jones has not hired a Black head coach of the Cowboys.

Now let's jump forward nearly seven decades: Donald Trump, a former president and new candidate to become that again, had dinner Saturday night with Kanye West (or "Ye"), who has made antisemitic comments and who brought along for his scheduled Trumpian repast a couple of friends including a known and vocal white supremacist.

Jones told the Post that he was a curious and widely uninformed kid just watching that day in North Little Rock, and that his doing so bore not at all on the fact that he hasn't yet hired a Black head coach, which he well might.

Trump said he was just spending time with an old friend, Kanye, or Ye, who has sustained severe financial setbacks (mainly because of backlash against antisemitic rants).

Trump said he had no idea who the other guy was. But he has not as yet condemned that other guy for comments denying the Holocaust, championing white supremacy and saying Black people were better off with segregation.

So these two matters are way different.

President is a more important if not currently more prestigious job than that of owning and managing the Dallas Cowboys. And dinner-companion choices Saturday night by a full-grown if not mature old man are more relevant for current judgment than gawking from a crowd in the school corridor as a 15-year-old kid in 1957.

I have a certain sensitivity on these things. A few years ago I was interviewed for a personal oral history by and for the Butler Center. Afterward I got several compliments from people for my "courage."

Courage? Hardly. It scared me to think I'd said something courageous.

All I'd said was that my dad said racist things in the '50s, but, in the early '70s, proposed as an elder of a small downtown Church of Christ congregation that the church reach out for memberships from Black people literally living next door. It killed the church, of course.

I didn't see anything brave in a simple and accurate account of a culture in the '50s and the evolution of a man who was better in the early '70s.

I judge by more recent circumstances and actions, whether in regard to my late pop, or Jerry Jones, or the ever-hideous and wholly un-evolved creature who befouled the American presidency for four years and contaminates still our political culture.

One other related matter: Mayor Frank Scott did an MSNBC interview over the weekend in which he made strong cases for long-term "holistic" approaches to violent crime and efforts to get illegal guns off the streets. But he assailed the "crime narrative of Republicans" to run races that demagogue on urban crime, saying he survived such a $2 million assault in the recent election.

He was saying Steve Landers' campaign was run on a race-exploiting narrative.

I didn't buy it in the campaign when Scott pounced on Landers' proposal for more police dogs to call it a "dog-whistle," meaning a coded racist signal.

I saw Landers' campaign as one-note and incompetently articulated. I'm confident he was just talking about police dogs, which are common in police work, not Bull Connor brutality against Black people in Birmingham in the '60s.

The American Kennel Club has an online page extolling the important police-assistance services of able and trained police dogs.

But then I also revealed myself in Tuesday's column as seeing the logic of longer sentences for the most- violent crimes, even for more prison beds, along with, of course, the mayor's admirable longer-term and holistic approach.

Two things our politics needs right now are for Trump to be gone from it and for a little more both-sides-have-a-point forbearance to be brought into it.

John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

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