A white police officer shoots an unarmed black citizen in Tulsa, OK. The citizen’s life is suddenly over and the officer’s life is probably ruined. I’m sure the black man did not do anything intentionally that he thought would provoke deadly force against him. Likewise, I’m certain that the white officer did not set out to kill anyone that day. She probably did suffer real though unwarranted fear for her life. Most likely both were innocent victims of the racial suspicion, fear, and hatred that bubbles just below the surface in our society.
The Tulsa case is just one tragic example of the social cancer that is racism in our nation. If we hope to put racial conflict in America behind us we must address the issue from a historical perspective. We have to consider how we got to this point, what the current reality is, and what we have to do to change the trajectory. There is enough guilt to go around but it is not racially equal. Generally speaking white Americans are primarily responsible for the racial unrest that exists today. We must step up, own it, and recognize that only we can institute racial harmony.
Why do I blame white people most for racism you may ask? It’s because we, the white people, initiated slavery of black human beings 400 years ago. We perpetuated that institution for the next 250 years. Then we endorsed and enforces public segregation and systemic abuse of black citizens for another 100 years. Even today we fail to acknowledge the underlying racial bias that exists in our public and private institutions. We ignore the economic and educational disadvantage we push on black citizens. And we brush off or deny the cultural prejudice we display against people of color.
Our criminal justice system is probably the clearest contemporary example of our continuing racial bias. As just one example, black people represent only about 12% of the US population but they are 37% of prison inmates. What could account for that disparity? Are black people just less civilized than whites?? Or is the system rigged against blacks? Most who study the disparity agree the answer is the latter.
If we ever hope to break the vicious cycle of racial prejudice and injustice in our country white people must take the initiative to change the paradigm. We must reach out through religious and social institutions to embrace the ideals of mutual respect and equality. Reaching out means meeting black people on “their turf”! We segregated them from us long ago. We must go to them first. The outreach must also include active endorsement of political initiatives designed to overcome the lingering inequality of economic and educational opportunity for the black community. There is no quick fix. It will likely take more than a generation, or even two, but it is time to get started.
If you think we white people have already done our share then you are part of the problem rather than part of the solution in combating racism in America!