I hope to further that intent, by going to the heart of what I believe to be the major impediment to blacks and whites having such a discussion without rancor, name-calling and bitterness. The major impediment to whites and blacks having a frank discussion on race is, quite frankly, denial:
• Denial that there are different degrees and levels of racial animosity.
• Denial that white Americans possess enough power, influence, position and resources to have impact on the social, economic and political futures of non-white Americans.
• Denial that despite the reality of racial animus, black Americans blame white Americans for things for which white Americans bear less responsibility than we want to admit.
So, I would like to do my part by encouraging us all to be honest and do the opposite of denial, and make several frank admissions:
• Let’s all admit that, on some level, we all have prejudices and biases. Some are racial. Some are cultural. And some are just personal.
The key, in my view, is not to deny our prejudices and biases but to admit them – admit that they are part of our frailties as humans, and then go the extra step and refuse to allow our prejudices and biases to influence our actions and our hearts. That’s the tough part.
When I was in a race relations training session, the facilitator put it like this. “In order to become a race conscious-less society, we must first become a race conscious society.”
• Let’s admit that for some people, racial animosity, racial hate is a tool they use to hold on to the past. And it is a convenience to explain away why they haven’t fared as well as they would like.
Many rural Southern whites and rural Midwestern whites still want to fight the Civil War and maintain “racial purity,” mainly out of the anger and frustration of being marginalized by a technologically advancing world, and a society that’s more concerned with merit than racial malice. They inculcate these attitudes in their children.
By the same token, many urban blacks in the North and in the South continue to blame “the white man” for our own societal shortcomings – from high dropout rates to high teenage pregnancy rates to gang violence to drug dealing – denying that we have a responsibility - indeed, a duty - to be productive, law-abiding, well-educated citizens like all of America aspires. Otherwise, many fifth-generation welfare recipients would have to stop depending on the government and pursue self-sufficiency and self-determination. Parents would have to admit that they have not properly instilled in their children the values of academic pursuit, and the spirit of legitimate enterprise and entrepreneurship. Communities would have to deal with drug dealers who blatantly stand on street corners and sell death to our children, rather than look the other way because it’s the son of a friend or neighbor or cousin. That would be to admit collective responsibility.
Lets admit that when it comes to these racial divisions, the past cannot be denied. In the past, whites were taught that blacks were not human. Many whites want to continue that thinking. It’s all they have to hold on to.
In the past, many blacks were taught to mistrust both whites and each other. It gives us a good excuse not to pursue collective excellence.
The Rev. James Hull is an independent journalist, writer and minister. Contact him at JAMESHULL3@aol.com.