OK, so you say “This is it”. You have been angry in the past and have voiced strong opinion, but the death of George Floyd just switched something on. You have talked more about racism in America and have written the words “Black Lives Matter” on your blog and Facebook pages. Hell, maybe you even posted a sign in front of your nice suburban home.
And you’ve gone farther.
You have looked in the mirror and seen the dark side and want to fix it. Great. You know that racism has deep roots in America and you want to weed it out. Fine.
But how far are you willing to go?
This isn’t the first time that white folk around the country have risen up and said they are going to fight against systemic racism.
So why has so little changed?
Well, let’s go back and rephrase my first question: What are you willing to give up?
Racism wears many hats, and to fix any, we must fix all, and the fixes aren’t easy.
So, we have people who bypass people of color when hiring or looking at giving promotions. Sometimes they don’t realize their biases, but too often the do. Study after study has proven it. Back in the 1970s laws were created to try to “level the playing field”, but people, including liberals, complained. And then many companies hired to meet quotas, obeying the letter of the law while completely ignoring the intent. And, of course, blacks are often paid much less for the same work as whites.
Are you willing to give up your next raise to help? Are you willing to accept that your son, who just graduated with a degree in software engineering, will have a hard time finding a job as companies try to hire more blacks and other people of color? Will you feel ill-used when your daughter is passed up for that manager’s position she so wanted, and instead it was given to a person of color? Will you even be willing to take a cut in pay and benefits as your company equals out its pay structure, since it was only staying profitable by paying its black employees 65% of what it was paying its white employees?
Our criminal justice system is so biased, but I will save that for another day… Yeah, and sacrifices there as well….
A huge part of the systemic racism comes from where people live and go to school. The environment in a lot of places is often unhealthy, with high levels of heavy metal poisoning, etc. Things many of us take for granted are not available to many people, like good grocery stores with low cost, healthy food. And there are the ideas of opportunity, the availability of positive role models, emotionally healthy environments, etc. And that is before we even think about education.
We have tried to fix these in the past, just as we did with employment, and white people have screamed bloody murder. Not just “racist” or southerners, but northerners and liberals.
“We can’t do that here because it will lower our property values! No low-income housing in my upper-middle class, 97% white, suburb where I proudly have my ‘Black Lives Matters’ sign in front of my $350,000 house. I don’t want to lower the standards of my kid’s education by having those inner-city kids come in. Yeah, I know they need good schools too, but I paid a lot of money to live here so my kids could attend this school! We have a 90% college bound rate and over half of the class goes to Ivy League schools. Do I want to bring that down so my kids will have a harder time getting into the college they want, so they won’t be able to get hired by the right company and won’t have the income they deserve?”
Even where it is still enforced by law, it rarely works.
I once visited a nice suburb where 100% of the people were white, but 100% of the people in the elementary school were black, including the teachers. Every child in town went to a private school. Every Single White Child. The school was an inner-city school, but displaced to the rich suburbs. This is that “letter of the law, not intent” thing again. This is also almost a crime against humanity, all of that time, money and energy wasted for false hope.
Racism seeps into all aspects of life.
We have 400 years of systemic, institutionalized racism to fight. We have a country whose initial wealth was created by slaves. We have a country where the descendants of these same slaves have had the law turned against them so that they could not get a fair piece of the pie. What would you say to a 5% tax on all income over $50,000 and an extra 5% on income over $500,000 and then add still another 5% on income over $1,000,000 to help give everyone a livable income, good healthcare, healthy food to eat, a safe place to live with a healthy environment, high quality education? To really and truly level the playing field? Studies have shown that plans like this would lower crime, improve the economy and help many lives that seem stuck in a rut. You say 5% is OK, since you earn less than $500K? Great, lets make it 10%. 15%. Are you still willing to help?
OK, I have no idea how we can make any of it work. My examples are what we tried in the past, tried and failed because people, all sorts of people, not just “racists”, resisted, plus some suggestions I’ve heard about the future. Who knows what we can actually do? I don’t. The only thing I do know is that whatever we do won’t be easy and everyone will have to make sacrifices. Everyone.
And I know it is needed.
What are you willing to give up to make it happen?
A few quick notes.
This is obviously written by a white American for white Americans.
Of course I know not all black people are “inner city”, or poor, or any of those other stereotypes. Yes, there are black people in all professionals at all levels. Great, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t forces working against people. We need to level the playing filed at all levels, of course, but life for poorer people in general is much worse. Society preys on them in so many terrible ways, and then makes them out to be the bad guys! So a lot of that “leveling” to help heal those 400 years needs to start there, inner city and poor. I will say “black, white, Asian, Hispanic, etc.,” but this post is about racism, so I wills start there – we need to level the playing field for black people.
Here is a link to my first post on racism: (Part 1) – Admitting That There is a Problem.
Here are links to a few articles that go into more depth about how systematic racism shows up in America:
There is a lot more out there – I will let you search it out.