I’m out on a limb as I write my blog this week. I feel like I am not really qualified to write on the subject of race equality.. As a political conservative, I might even be labelled a racist by more than a few in this day and age. As in all of my blogs, my intention is to try to objectively lay out various perspectives without the hateful rhetoric that is sometimes present, from left and right.
I am a baby boomer. I remember the 1960’s when Dr. Martin Luther King was active in leading peaceful protests in order to prick the conscience of a nation that some might say embraced the systemic segregation of African American people. I can’t argue that. I know that this segregation was much worse and clearly defined in the south but it was everywhere, even if in some places it was a bit below the surface. Now, 60 years later, I wonder what Dr. King would think about our nation’s condition.
Fortunately, Dr. King and those like him did spark an awareness of our national racist policies and practices. The government responded. Laws were passed that made it illegal to keep people from living wherever they choose based upon their race, color, creed or national origin. Other laws required public schools be open to all races and indeed children were bussed to schools in order to integrate public education. Fairness in hiring and promoting employees of all races was mandated and again, integration was forced through affirmative action laws which required companies to ensure that the racial makeup of their workforce mirrored the communities where they operated.
African Americans have broken through every job barrier
Some people resented the forced integration but, looking back, it has worked. Blacks live and work among whites and the vast majority of Americans think nothing of it. It seems natural. Interracial marriage has become common place and most people consider it a positive thing. African Americans have broken through every job barrier. Barak Obama was elected president of the United States in 2008. General Colin Powel rose to the highest position in our military, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and later became the first black secretary of state. Dr. Ben Carson rose up out of poverty and became the most brilliant and admired neurosurgeon in the world.
Yet, to stop and look around, it doesn’t feel like things are better. There are still ghett job os where poor, predominately black citizens live in most large cities. Away from work, people of all races and nationalities seem to typically keep company with those like themselves. Is this a cultural thing or is it some underlying resistance to people of other races?
Stereotyping is alive and well. Some women still clutch their purse a little tighter if they see a black man walking nearby. It is still all too common for police to conduct a traffic stop on a black man just to check him out. US Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina finally put a vanity license plate on his car that says USSENATE2 after suffering through seven nuisance stops in his first year in Washington D.C. He told his friend, Trey Gowdy that he wanted to let them know he wasn’t a threat.
The day to day experience of black Americans is without a doubt, different from that of whites, and not in a good way. It seems to me that we still have a problem in our hearts; in our psyche. So what is the solution? Can that be legislated away? Some feel that paying African Americans reparations for the sins of our fathers from the days of slavery is appropriate. Others argue that it does not make sense for people in our generation, who were never slave owners, to give payouts to individuals who were never slaves.
The day to day experience of black Americans is without a doubt, different from that of whites, and not in a good way
One organization, Black Lives Matter has risen out of the frustration of disparate treatment of black people, especially by law enforcement and the criminal justice system. According to their web site, their mission is “to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. By combating and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy, we are winning immediate improvements in our lives.”
Another organization rejects the tactics of BLM, which some might call radical, but works for the betterment of minority communities, especially black communities is the BLEXIT foundation. They focus on a more positive approach in seeking improvement. Their web site says they “promote educational initiatives, pursue criminal justice reform, educate minority communities regarding America’s founding principles, and highlight the importance of free markets and entrepreneurship as the antidote to poverty.” BLEXIT, being more focused on self-empowerment, seeks to treat black people not as victims but adults with choices.
You can decide which approach Dr. King might have embraced. I want to end with the story of someone that I met recently. I have not asked her permission to share her name so I will just call her Tina. My wife and I had been invited for dinner at the home of some friends we hadn’t seen in a while. Tina is a friend of theirs and was also invited to dinner. Tina is an accomplished professional dancer, renowned in her field. She danced with the Harlem Ballet Company for 15 years. Our conversation somehow went to race (she is black). She said that as she grew up and learned ballet, she never considered that her race mattered. She considered herself a ballet dancer, not a black ballet dancer. She experienced rejection at times. She never considered that it might be racially motivated but each time it motivated her work harder and perfect her craft. She says as she looks back, she sees that some rejection may have been because of her race. However, she also says that she is glad that she handled rejection the way she did. She believes that if she had taken a victim mentality she would not have accomplished what she did.
I think Dr. King would love Tina’s story. Tina lives in a nation where she could excel no matter her race. Where she faced obstacles she learned from them, bettered herself and continued to pursue her goal. She achieved that goal and is now helping others to do the same.
Perhaps it will take a few more generations to soften our hearts and understand ourselves to the point when the black and white experience is not so different. I think prayer is a great place to begin. What do you think?