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Gibson: Blaming the messenger

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Marty Gibson is a 23-year resident of the community and the author of “Phoenix’s Ahwatukee Foothills.”

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Posted: Friday, September 27, 2013 7:54 am

I read with interest Linda Turley-Hansen’s Guest Commentary of Sept. 6 (“Not racism, and not guns; it’s moral absence that’s doing the killing”), as well as the response it generated in your Sept. 15 edition (“Local African-American males speak out”).

The four respondents’ recounting of their concerns and experiences in a predominantly-white society is poignant, and their success in spite of the daily challenges they face is admirable and worthy of emulation.

That said and, to paraphrase Shakespeare, methinks the gentlemen doth protest too much. In her commentary, Turley-Hansen accurately points out the statistical reality of out-of-wedlock births and life-success in two-parent vs. one-parent households. A blame-the-messenger mentality that mirrors that of several of our nation’s most prominent black leaders illustrates why the dismal status-quo persists. One may call Turley-Hansen a racist on those two points — but he does so at the risk of his own credibility.

When potential solutions to statistical reality are suggested by whites, the inevitable default charge is racism. And when those same potential solutions are proffered by blacks — see Thomas Sowell, Star Parker, Walter Williams — the well-reasoned, tough-love perspectives are completely ignored or, worse, dismissed as Uncle Tom-speak. Either way, potential solutions to very real problems are never addressed by those in position to do so. And the generational decline persists. 

Bill Cosby imploring today’s youth to dress appropriately, speak proper English and meet the challenge of personal responsibility equates to turning on his own community? High — indeed, some would say basic — standards of comportment generally equate to success in life regardless of community. Some, indeed many, would also say that Cosby should be applauded for refusing to accept what he views as negative community-cultural influences, and for having the courage to speak out against the dreary status-quo. 

Clearly, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to complex societal ills. But it is infinitely harder to address systemic issues and advocate for positive action in the hope of reversing overwhelmingly-negative trends through realistic solutions, than it is to simply dismiss on-point suggestions outright. Blaming the messenger while ignoring the message does a grave disservice to those who stand to benefit the most from a more introspective approach.

Was Turley-Hansen the most appropriate and qualified person to raise the issues that she did? Probably not. But absent those deemed to be much more qualified by the four respondents stepping up and acknowledging some very harsh realities, she will have to do. The statistics to which Turley-Hansen alludes remain a tragic and inconvenient fact. Deemed to be qualified or not, they convincingly speak for themselves.

• Marty Gibson is a local history writer. Contact him at

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