The United States is a divided nation with a troubled history of state-supported
racism. Now we are near the end of the twentieth century, almost 150 years after
the abolition of slavery within our borders, and race is still a reliable marker for
poverty, violence, and general inequality. What are we doing wrong?
Black people of every economic class still find it harder to buy a house and are
still more likely to be stopped by the police. Dozens of subtler signals -- the
pervasive and almost unrelieved whiteness of corporate management, government,
and even the images on greeting cards -- make the United States just plain more
hospitable to whites. And yet there is a strong political movement to remove
affirmative action initiatives, a movement predicated on the idea -- the fantasy
-- that blacks and whites are now on a level playing field and only a
willingness to work prevents them from attaining the same goals, earning the
President Clinton has called for a debate on racism in America. He wants to get
America talking openly about its attitudes and remaining prejudices as a way to
begin to overcome them at last. This action, sometimes called "naive" and a
"feel-good" action with no useful policies to back it up, has been defended by
the President simply, "Where I come from, talking is better than fighting."
We definitely need to talk. We need to talk about the privileges whites take so
much for granted they don't even understand them as privileges. We need to talk
about the exhaustion and disaffection in the black community that makes kids
reject achievement in school even though they realize that a good education may
be their best opportunity. We need to talk about the casual racism of comments
like "Oh, but I like you -- you're really different!"
In the United States, "color-blind" is no longer an option -- too much of our
history and experience are radically different almost solely because of our
color. What do we need to do to learn to see the whole person -- skin and all --
and still treat them fairly? What do whites need to understand about blacks?
What do blacks need to understand about whites? And what do we all need to
understand about ourselves?
What do you think we need for a meaningful debate about race in America? Tell The Net Net!
Responses will be
published -- if we ever receive any!