Tags: America's Forum | Ferguson in Crisis | ferguson | michael brown | chokehold | eric garner

John Hope Bryant: Class, Not Race, Behind Recent Unrest

By    |   Friday, 05 December 2014 01:01 PM

Class, not race, is the dividing issue in America, said John Hope Bryant, author and chairman and CEO of Operation Hope, on "America's Forum" on Friday.

Bryant appeared Friday on the Newsmax TV show to discuss the fallout from recent grand jury decisions not to indict white police officers involved in the deaths of two black men.

Bryant, author of "How the Poor Can Save Capitalism: Rebuilding the Path to the Middle Class" offered his perspective on the cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York, saying that the cases are more about economics than race.

"When you deal with class you get race for free," he said.

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"The reality is that the young man in New York was selling loosies," Bryant said. "He was selling loose cigarettes. He wasn't murdering anybody, he wasn't attacking anybody.

"In fact, the reports are he had actually broken up a fight, but he was selling loosies, against ordinance. Let me say that, it was against ordinance, against the law.

"So fine, hit him with an economic fine. Give him a penalty. Make him go to court and pay for it, make him do community service, but what happened with him would not have happened in downtown Beverly Hills with a resident of Beverly Hills," Bryant said. "It just wouldn't have happened.

"I'm not saying it's racist, but I am saying that it is about class and poverty and that what he really wanted was a job."

In Brown’s case, according to Bryant, maybe the teen wouldn't have stolen cigars or been walking down the street in the middle of the afternoon if he was at work.

"But it's not a black thing," Bryant added. "Muhammad in Tunisia, the Arab Spring was not about Islamic extremism or somebody screaming I hate America or down to the West.

"It was a guy who set himself on fire because he had a cart business that he wasn't allowed to operate. He said, 'I just want to work' and set himself on fire. Those were his last words."

The solution, Bryant said, is more jobs, characterizing the issue as "a green thing, an economic thing."

"Hustle comes first," he said, besting even formal education. "Steve Jobs dropped out of school, Ted Turner dropped out of school, Michael Dell dropped out of school, Bill Gates dropped out of school. No, no, you need hustle and you need opportunity, you need self-esteem, good role models, and an environment.

"You hang around nine broke people, you'll be the 10th."

He acknowledged that racism still exists in America, but doesn’t think it’s the best use of his time to fight that battle.

"I don't think that's a war that can be won quickly, but we can fight and win a war on economic empowerment and jobs," he said.

Story continues below video.

Instead of talking heads and political partisans pointing fingers, America needs to be focused on creating a solution to the economic crisis, according to Bryant.

What’s happening today is reminiscent of the unrest after the acquittals of the Los Angeles police officers involved in the 1991 beating of Rodney King, he said.

"It was anger and it was angst and it was dueling sound bites and people throwing barbs at each other," Bryant said.

"This will sort itself out when people who actually have solutions have an environment — what's happening now is the urgent is crowding out the important. When the cameras basically go away and the angst comes down — and by the way there is legitimate pain on the behalf of these families, we should give them a voice even if they say inappropriate things. Pain is not rational. After that subsides, now is about solutions."

Bryant’s organization plans to put seed money into Ferguson businesses and schools with the hope that it will tap into Americans’ entrepreneurial spirit.

"Don't become a drug dealer or gang banger, take that brilliance and open a candy store or create a tech idea and help to drive American prosperity," he said. "Rainbows after storms."

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Class, not race, is the dividing issue in America, said John Hope Bryant, author and chairman and CEO of Operation Hope, on "America's Forum" on Friday.
ferguson, michael brown, chokehold, eric garner
Friday, 05 December 2014 01:01 PM
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