For Many Black Americans, Confederate Flag Debate a Distraction

Vanessa White poses with a photo of her brother Eric Tripp, who was shot and killed in the 1990s, in Compton, California June 26, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Tim Reid reports: As calls grow to remove the Confederate flag from public spaces across America’s South, Vanessa White says she questions whether that would mark real progress for black Americans like her.

The 57-year-old Compton, California construction worker has seen and endured too much, she says, to be excited. Over the years, five members of her family have been killed by guns: her two brothers, at the ages of 28 and 38; her nephew, at 19; her niece, at 16; and her niece’s mother, at 28. All of them had dropped out of school in their teens.

“We never felt like we were allowed near normal life,” said White, speaking from the tidy, two-story home she purchased last year in the struggling suburb south of Los Angeles.

Vanessa White poses with a photo of her brother George Chapman, who was shot and killed in the 1990s, in Compton, California June 26, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn

Vanessa White poses with a photo of her brother George Chapman, who was shot and killed in the 1990s, in Compton, California June 26, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn

Across the country, African Americans are applauding a fast-growing movement to remove the Confederate flag from public life after last week’s racially charged massacre of nine black worshipers in a Charleston church. But even many of those who support the effort suspect it will do little to address what they see as fundamental racial injustices – from mass incarceration of black men to a lack of economic and educational opportunities.

White’s view, she says, was shaped by exposure to racism as a child and also by a family she describes as dysfunctional. Her single mother was an alcoholic, and her brothers began committing crimes at an early age. She says she grew up never feeling like a real person because of her race. Read the rest of this entry »