Race Relations and Racism

(Topics: Society & Culture | Back to Home)

As I write these words, our nation struggles daily with the legacy of race. We connect it to violence in our streets and to discrimination in our institutions. We cite race as a factor in almost every aspect of our public lives and we also deny it is a factor. Some even claim that race doesn't exist [1].

But no matter the viewpoint, we Americans are thinking and talking about race constantly. We see it on the news and at our workplaces. Race is part of our families and our friendships. It is even a part of routine paperwork. Race is a, if not the underlying thread in the national conversation. We are talking about it—even if to insist that we shouldn't be talking about it.

To decide what to do next, perhaps we should start with the past. But the status of race in America—especially with regard to blacks—should be clear:

  1. We have an extensive cultural history of racism toward many racial and ethnic groups
  2. Racism manifested as slavery, legal and extralegal discrimination, and enormous economic disparity
  3. The legacy of the above remains with us today and most people believe that we have not achieved equality even in commonplace activities [2]
  4. The perception of the prevalence of racism is not remotely consistent [3]

It is this final statement of fact that is at the core of this issue. According to survey of nearly 4,000 Americans, 38% of whites feel “our country has made the changes needed to to give blacks equal rights with whites.” Blacks, however, answered in agreement at rate of only 8%.

These numbers should both be 100%. But before they get to 100%, they should be the same: we need to agree on how far we've come to figure out how far we have to go.

Policy changes, government reforms, and protests are unlikely to move the needle on this fundamental problem. Until we agree about where we are, we will struggle to move ahead.

This is the state of race in America.

[1] https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/radiolab/segments/91654-race-doesnt-exist-or-does-it

[2] https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2019/04/09/race-in-america-2019/

[3] [https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2016/06/27/on-views-of-race-and-inequality-blacks-and-whites-are-worlds-apart/]]

Page Tools