The Illusion Of A Meaningful Conversation About Race
Why the focus on a conversation about race without blame, guilt, or reprisals? Why not put a focus on the repair of the black community? Are we to assume that all we need is a discussion to put things right? Do we even acknowledge the fact that conditions in the black community are in need of repair and something should be done? Or are all of these things to be determined per the outcome of our conversation? Why not add the need to avoid blame, guilt, and reprisal to the conversation about race instead of making it a precondition for the discussion? Why don’t we make the repair of the black community a precondition for our race discussion? Why is only the precondition that clearly is meant to absolve the dominant community of responsibility the only one that people like Gwen Ifill think is worth mentioning?
While it has been argued that a discussion about race conditions is dependent on the avoidance of blame, guilt, or reprisal as a matter of practicality, it should be no surprise that such appeasement is not universally accepted. Such a precondition is meant to give people in the dominant community cover for its history of segregation against the black community. It is more a matter of convenience that the dominant community says that we have to leave blame, quilt, and reprisal off the table. Finding and understanding the root of the black community’s problem is a logical, healthy, and necessary step towards ending the problem. If we discover that the black community’s problem is rooted in a systematic, institutionalized form of racism then there should be a great deal of interest in finding and understanding who is perpetrating that racism and what can be done to change it.
Without thinking so many people will say that this is the past and it’s not worth studying because it has no application to the future. Why is that the case when there are people who make their living from studying history to minutia in order to help us understand who we are? Instead, the dominant community will say that we need to have our conversation without the need to truly find out why things are the way they are and therefore develop a half-assed solution that is filled with lots of rhetoric and little substance like black people need to get an education all the while the schools in the black community are crumbling. It should be noted that even the simplistic solutions don’t hold water under the most cursory forms of scrutiny.
Black people who already have a career or some form of success in their life will give credence to the argument that things won’t get better until we give up our need to assess why things are the way they are. Who really cares about blame and generating guilt? The people who started the black community down the path of second class citizenship and subjugation are long gone. How many years has it been, fifty, a hundred, two hundred or maybe three? But if we are to take an honest analysis of America’s history and see that America itself is to blame, America itself is guilty, then it is that same America that should take responsibility and offer reprisal.
Practically speaking it might never happen. So let’s not try to use the subterfuge of making the assignment of blame, guilt, and/or reprisal a nonnegotiable condition for our discussion. Because if we as a country are truly guilty of neglecting our black community, then we as a country should be willing to do what we can to set the matter straight. And if that’s honestly not the case, if America is not guilty of any involvement of the black community’s condition, it really shouldn’t matter. The black community still needs real help.
It has been argued that we need to avoid blame in order to open the dominant community’s mind to be educated of the black community’s condition. When did education require a precondition about not assigning blame, guilt, or reprisal? It really is a moot point because the dominant community already knows it is responsible for the black community and, like an alcoholic who is unwilling or not ready to admit there is a problem, America simply doesn’t want to face up to the facts and the consequent lingering effects of its institutionalized racism. As long as we can make our conversation about race dependent on not assigning blame and not looking for responsibility, we can give the illusion that we want to repair our race relations. But as long as the black community continues to suffer its substandard condition then I hardly think anything can come of any conversation regardless of preconceived notions.
Long before America’s civil war, long before America’s embrace of Jim Crow and other institutions meant to segregate the black community from America proper, black people were being kept in a perpetually dependent and second class existence? At these times in our history people didn’t want to talk about who was responsible for the black community then because they were intent on keeping the racial status quo firmly in place. People don’t want to have that conversation now, at least not honestly, because people are intent on keeping the racial status quo firmly in place.
People will see that some improvement has been made in America’s race relation over the years. For a lot of people, Barack Obama’s ascension to the highest office in our land is proof that racism is easing its grip on the black community. It’s getting better without us having a conversation or doing anything else.
But if people feel that nothing needs to be done because it is getting better all on its own then let that be said. Bring such thinking to our national conversation and put it on the table. But don’t expect people from the black community who are dealing with unemployment rates twice that of the dominant community or people suffering from an education system that has neglected our black community schools or people who are being railroaded by a justice and legal system intent on keeping black people from getting out of hand to be so generous. Just because things are getting better for some doesn’t mean we have yet to take any steps towards making the black community whole again. It is quite the contrary. The black community is in more despair now than it was when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law. I don’t see things getting better for all. I see things getting better for a select few. Things will be better when we won’t have a need for a discussion about race or when we have no need to set preconditions on our discussions. The idea that things are getting better for a few is just another one of those illusion.
Although I do believe it is highly unlikely any time soon or in the next generation, I still believe we can come together as a people to resolve the issue of race. But it won’t happen as long as we willfully ignore what is happening right before our very eyes. When we are serious about racial healing we will put the need for preconceived conditions in its proper place. When did the rules change in America so that the need for justice due to a horrendous act start with a conversation that was free of blame, guilt, or any talk of reprisal? Only when it comes to issues of race do we entertain such a notion.
But I am willing to compromise. If someone was willing to say that we need a conversation about issues of race in America without hatred, I’m all for it. I’m down with it when someone says we need to have a conversation about issues of race without preconceived notions based on racial stereotypes. I think that is a conversation worth having for the sake of our collective future.