Right now, we have mourning to engage in. Right now, we have some immediate feelings to vent. But, if Charlottesville and the aftermath have proven anything. It is that we are long overdue in the United States an honest discussion about racial tension. Leading to a program of effective resolution.
It must be clear to even the most blinkered of observers that we in the US have not even begun to heal the wounds of slavery, the Civil War, the Confederacy, Reconstruction, Jim Crow and Segregation, nor adequately to address all of the complex and intertwining emotions, first suppressed and now being released, and arising from the actions taken since the Fifties, the purpose of which was ostensibly to right wrongs.
Racial friction in the United States is not only about its black and white inhabitants. However. It would be an idiot who would pretend other than that the starting point for any much-needed and rational debate about race in this country has to be that state of relations between our white and black citizens.
If the antagonism between these two peoples was finally, adequately to be addressed, then it would help to make for everyone in the US the more temperate and welcoming ‘melting pot’ so graciously encouraged by the inscription on the Statue of Liberty, and so wishfully dreamed of by Martin Luther King, Jr.
In which regard, without attempting in this post to address the full spectrum of issues that exist between blacks and whites in the US, issues which contribute to the toxin so tragically on display to the world at the moment, I want to posit a couple of what I regard as essential prerequisites for any meaningful, thoughtful, national conversation on race.
The debate must be temperate. Those on all sides who have demonstrated hate and violence to date should be welcome. But only if they leave the hate and the violence at the door.
The conversation should take place everywhere, and involve everyone. In classrooms. In schools. In colleges. In legislative chambers. From the smallest municipal authority to the Senate itself. The discussion should be engendered by all leaders. Honestly. Inclusively. From our ghastly President. To religious leaders, of all persuasion. Across the political spectrum. Including any and all gatherings of the body civic.
As soon as anyone who has met the qualification of eschewing hate and violence is excluded, then the overall ambition of engaging, resolving and melding is dented. No-one should be excluded, just because someone else doesn’t like them. Even if it is a lot of someone else’s.
And every single issue raised by race in this country, going back to the first landing by Europeans on Native American soil, should be on the table. Every single issue. And yes. That probably includes our relations with Native Americans. Again. As soon as you exclude an issue, you dent the process.
I would offer one word of caution. Be aware that any course of action. Even if overwhelmingly agreed to consensually. That demands that one section of society going forward be treated differently to another section. That course of action could create an imbalance which might lead to future resentment. I’m not saying it should be off the table. I’m just warning where it might lead.
It is my considered opinion that we are where we are today precisely because of past perceived imbalances. The favoring of whites over blacks. Which many say continues to this day. Along with what many whites perceive, beginning possibly with Reconstruction, certainly gathering steam in the Fifties, as a deliberate program of favoring blacks, to some extent, with respect to whites.
I am not attempting to be tendentious. I am making a valid point. If any one of us participating in this great debate pretends that a feeling that is present does not actually exist. Disempowers that feeling. For any reason. Then we will achieve nothing. I advance the notion of this conversation in order to address grievances. Not to bury them.
If you want an example of how such a national discussion might evolve, take off an afternoon (!), and have a gander at my notes of the initial stages of the attempt in Carrboro, NC to make policing in that burgh more color-blind.
I hasten to add that the attempt failed precisely because there were too many folks, with too many clashing personal agendas, none of which the participants were prepared to let go, because they thought it would weaken their community profile.
In which vein, having said all of this, I am almost certain the conversation I am suggesting in this post will likely never occur. Not honestly. Because we are too selfish. Too short-sighted. With too many personal agendas. But I have at least raised the idea.
Facebook comments here.