“Stuck in the sandbox, you must play with the toys you have.”


Jon Michael Hill plays Moses and Ryan Hallahan plays Mister in Antoinette Nwandu’s “Pass Over” at Steppenwolf Theatre. (Photo Michael Brosilow)

My friend Lance Sterling sent me this recent musing on the Sun-Times review of the play Pass Over. The Chicago Sun-Times critic has caught a lot of grief for it. Click the link below to read the review.

Pass Over review by Hedy Weiss

Lance’s response

Recently, Hedy Weiss,the famous theater critic for the Chicago – Sun – Times, wrote that we need to avoid white cop stereotyping and pay more attention to black on black violence. The reaction to her veiled racism was swift and brutal. I am one who reacted.

While it is true that there is far more black on black crime than white cop on black citizen crime, the second is more insidious than the first. Blacks kill one another for social reasons not racial ones. Stuffed in the ghettos that whites have created for them, blacks fight with one another over limited resources, like dispossessed people everywhere do. They indulge in life – and – death disputes over drugs, over turf, over illegal business deals, over supremacy (elsewhere called “market share”), over power. There aren’t many other options, but one black has never killed another black because he was a nigger.

White cops do that. And white juries generally acquit them, despite videos and eyewitness accounts. Not surprisingly, white juries convict blacks of all crimes in disproportionate numbers. Surely there is a commentary in the fact that almost half of this country’s 2.3 million prisoners are black. Something is amiss, and blacks know from an early age exactly what it is. Like our president pointed out, “The system is rigged,” just not in ways he supposed.

When blacks kill blacks for the reasons suggested above, they are behaving like any nation state, like America. Largely segregated among themselves into enclaves, blacks quarrel over the usual issues, all related to power. Like America, they want more power. As the Mafia says, “It’s business.” But it’s not discrimination. It’s trade and economic superiority and jobs, all the causes America fights for. When Trump says he is going “to make America great again,” whites applaud the very objective they dislike in blacks. If blacks had oil, they would be fighting over it. They have drugs and other cultural flotsam, so that is their casus belli. Stuck in the sandbox, you must play with the toys you have.

This problem will be cured when blacks are, if ever, fully integrated into white society. Blacks will compete like whites, equally ruthless but in a more socially approved manner, cutting throats figuratively, not literally. But make no mistake: Their cause is a racial matter. When the white community gets rid of its sense of racial superiority, social equality will follow. Enfranchised, blacks will no longer have a reason to quarrel among themselves. They will compete in the larger society and embrace the methods and tools of that society, as conniving as whites but in a way that whites recognize and approve of. And white cops won’t shoot blacks any more than others. I don’t want to paint too rosy a Pollyanna picture. Cops will always be cops. Like all people with power, they will always be bullies, always except (sic) graft and kickbacks, always shake people down and extort, always use excessive force, and always gorge on doughnuts. But when society stops discriminating against blacks, cops will too.

Statistics will reflect this equality like they now reflect inequality. Blacks constitute about 12% of the population so they should represent roughly 12% of most statistics. We will know progress is being made when our prison population is 12% black instead of 48%; when black drug convictions are 12% of the total drug convictions instead of 80%; when 12% of CEO’s are black; when 12% of those in the top economic 1% are black; when 12% of doctors, lawyers, university professors, and PhD’s are black; and when only 12% of ghetto dwellers are black. At present, none of these statistics applies, which is why black lives don’t matter. Statistics will tell us when they do matter to whites. And at that point, blacks and cops will stop killing blacks.

Lance Sterling



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Retired physician, author, and nonprofit worker in Africa

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