In 2008, Chief Douglas Zeigler (60), headed the Community Affairs Bureau as the highest ranking African American in the NYPD. On May 2 at 7:00 pm, while Zeigler was sitting near in his NYPD-issue SUV parked at near 57th Ave. and Xenia St., two plainclothes officers (both Caucasian) approached the vehicle. The white officers ordered Zeigler to get out of his vehicle. According to Zeigler’s report to Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, one officer did not believe Zeigler’s NYPD identification was authentic. Zeigler was a member of a “privileged class”. And while not known from his account of the incident, the rejection of a ranking he had earned would understandably create a burning rage within.
Several years ago, Ellis Cose made a significant contribution to race relations in this country in writing “The Rage of a Privileged Class“.
Cose clarifies why college degrees, corporate positions, business ownership, expensive houses and investments, and other advancements do not erase the stain of systematic and unsystematic racism, but often times bring African Americans into closer confrontation with it.
While I believe some non-blacks disingenuously hold to a “We didn’t know” narrative when issues of race are discussed, I believe for others, our ideas and imagery of America work to shield citizens of goodwill from the painful realities of a legacy that lingers even today.
One of the many compelling real life stories in the book involves an African American senior partner in a law firm. You’ll find his story and others, as well as Cose’s presentation of the topic quite insightful. Having read this book when it first appeared, it remains a highly recommended reading for African Americans seeking answers to deeply-felt sentiments not relaxed by success and for whites who question why such sentiments still exist.
The New York Times Book Review said of this work:
A controversial and widely heralded look at the race-related
pain and anger felt by the most respected,
best educated, and wealthiest members of the black community–
“a disciplined, graceful exposition of a neglected aspect of the subject of race in America”.
For individuals genuinely concerned about race relations in our nation, I encourage some quiet time with this book. Follow your reading with constructive conversations.
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