Discussing Race Relations
July 21, 2010
Is there any white person crazy enough to seriously engage in a frank and open discussion of race relations in the United States of America?
History has shown us time and time again, ever since the civil rights movement really started making headway, that if any problem occurred anywhere in the country at any level, it has been impossible to have a truly frank and open dialogue.
There are many reasons for this, but since I do not have the time or recourses to do this contentious and complex subject justice, I will admit what I am about to write is certainly not complete.
First of all, the African-American community is united and does not feel the need to apologize for the position they take. On the other hand, the white American comes into the discussion quite afraid.
He is afraid he is going to be called a bigot, racist, and even worse names. His black counterpart feels no need for niceties and ameliorative words.
He plows ahead and immediately puts the white guy on the defensive. Now, of course, that is easy since the white guy, consciously or subconsciously, feels guilty already.
Even though slavery was abolished nationwide in 1863, and even though the Northern states were not slaveholding states long before the Civil War began, the poor white schlub is feeling guilty for something he had nothing to do with.
Need I remind you that prejudice and discrimination has also been directed at white people? The Anglo-Saxon folk who were here already in America did not feel kindly toward those of us whose ancestors came from southern and eastern Europe.
So you see, I started out trying to demonstrate how difficult it is for a white person to engage in a frank and open exchange of ideas on the subject of race relations in America in the first decade of the 21st century. I accomplished my goal by showing how easy it is to discuss any issue that is truly contemporary without getting bogged down in the usual clichés that make a meaningful and productive discussion impossible.
Since the black citizen doesn’t feel he is guilty of any wrong statements and the white citizen is frozen with fear, what do we do?
Maybe we should cool it for a while. No, that has been tried and things did not improve with silence. The only possible answer is, as in most things in life, something difficult and daunting.
What I see as the only way to truly improve the racial atmosphere in this country is for white folk to not get sidetracked, to be unafraid, and with goodwill carry on the discussion.
And I leave the rest to . . . You fill in the rest!