Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) said “there’s no way in the world to deal with” the police brutality cases being protested around the country unless, “as awkward as it is,” we say “that this great country of ours has a cancer called racism.”
“The police are only symbolic of attitudes that people have. They’re not born with it,” the 84-year-old, 22-term congressman said this morning on CNN. “They learn how to do it, and they treat people differently because of their color.”
“You know, when people start to think, it hasn’t been that long ago we were picking cotton without any names of our own, without any culture, and 60 years ago there was a question as to whether or not we had civil rights, whether we had voting. I say that because we’ve come a good distance from where we were when we were brought into this country.”
Rangel said the country needs to admit there’s still work to be done on racial equality.
“You know, when I marched with Dr. King, I never believed I would hear Lyndon Johnson saying what he did. I never thought this — I was out there politically more than believing in my heart that we were going to turn this country around,” he said. “But when the dogs came out, when the kids got bombed at church, when white folks said, ‘oh my God, that could be me,’ things changed, and things are changing now.”
He added that “we screw it up,” noting that “when God gives birth to these little kids, they haven’t the slightest clue as to who to hate and who to dislike.”
Rangel said being educated on what people go through isn’t limited to the African-American experience, stressing his conversations with an Irish friend who told him what Irish immigrants endured and the experience of the Italians who are “still are suffering with the Sopranos and whatnot, and they are treated really mean by people… even today.”
“If you can put your feet, or kids’ feet, into shoes that we have to walk because we are the kids of former slaves, I think as Americans you would say thank God I’m born in America, thank God it’s time that we can change, and thank God we can get rid of this cancer we have,” he said.
Rangel added that eradicating racism is also a matter of national security. “We have so many damn enemies, we cannot afford to be fighting among ourselves because of color and background,” he said.