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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

New York Daily News - News & Views Columnists - Stanley Crouch: Workers confuse civil service with civil rights

New York Daily News - News & Views Columnists - Stanley Crouch: Workers confuse civil service with civil rightsWorkers confuse civil
service with civil rights

New Yorkers always seem to find themselves caught between big money and the visible permanent government of thousands of workers who make it possible for the millions of our citizens to move safely through this maze of a city.

These workers drive the buses and trains, they clean the streets, they pick up the garbage, they enforce the law, they fight the fires, they educate our children, they drive the ambulances, they care for the infirm and they provide every other service necessary to keep the motor of this metropolis running smoothly, cleanly and honestly.

For the second time in 25 years, we learned once again how important the transit workers are to reducing distances with efficiency and smoothness. But we also experienced something as unsettling as the frustrations that came with trying to figure out how one was going to get to work and get home.

I found Transport Workers Union President Roger Toussaint's reference to Rosa Parks - in an attempt to give a salary and benefit dispute the patina of civil rights - an irresponsible distortion of the matter. I also found the Rev. Al Sharpton's comparing our mayor to white segregationist Bull Connor an even more absurd instance of overstatement, especially since Michael Bloomberg has done nothing close to hosing down nonviolent protesters or setting dogs on them.

To the contrary, Bloomberg has done a worthwhile job in overhauling our city's education system, which is comprised of nearly 85% minority students.

Toussaint's rhetoric in leading the overwhelmingly minority union is just part of what has become a norm in our society, where any heated situation involving people who are not white is suddenly thrown into the arena of civil rights or the rights of an ethnic culture. For example, black basketball players cried foul when a dress code was enforced, told by the NBA that its fans do not want to see them looking like hip hop buffoons at league functions.

At the worst end, Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan and Sharpton joined Snoop Dogg and other celebrities with brains no larger than mustard seeds in mourning at the funeral of executed murderer and Crips founder Stanley (Tookie) Williams.

Given the rhetoric and the crocodile tears, one would have thought Williams was one of the four little girls blown to bits in 1963 at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala.

Since Sharpton, along with Vernon Mason and Alton Maddox, diminished the meaning of the word "racism" in an attempt to defend the Tawana Brawley fraud against criticism, this is not an innocent blunder for our local rabble-rouser.

But from Toussaint, who has the honor of an important union to uphold, we should expect and get much more. As Duke Ellington once said, certain situations are not about the haves and the have-nots, they are about the haves and the want-mores. Toussaint represents people in the second category, not an oppressed ethnic minority. He, better than anyone else, should know that.

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Originally published on December 25, 2005

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