Racism in America
Racism in America exists as consistent patterns of speech and action, or silence and inaction. It is not thoughts or intentions. It is not instincts. It is not our moments of weakness. Perfection is not required. What is required is our constant conscious effort to show love and respect for each other and to change the institutional structures that allow racist acts and words to continue. In the words of Angela Davis, "In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be antiracist."
Black Americans, who bear the brunt of this racism, make up about 13%* of Americans. It’s clear that they can’t do this alone. They must have the active support of the rest of us.
What can you do?
Listen to black leaders to begin to learn about institutional racism. Senator Cory Booker is one place to start. Here’s a short interview with him from May 30, 2020. Cory Booker interview.
Tell your family (particularly your children) and friends that you are urgently concerned about racism and looking for ways to help.
Contribute to organizations—political, legal, or social—working to end racist laws, policies, and teachings. There are many such organizations. Find the ones that speak to you. Some will not, but some will. Finding them is your homework.
Vote—most importantly in your local elections—for candidates whom you find to be actively trying to address the systemic racial issues in your local institutions. And no matter where you live, your institutions have systemic racial issues. It’s not enough that a candidate not be racist. He or she must be working to end racism.
Speak of your concern and actions with an open heart with a black American you know or meet. Listen, and allow yourself to be taught. Work to create real connections across the racial barrier.
In all of this, don’t expect perfection in yourself or others. Most of us are just trying to do our best. The others, well, eventually they are obvious. Avoid them.
Make these actions habitual parts of your life.
The film, The Defiant Ones, came out in 1958 with the black actor, Sydney Poitier, and the white actor, Tony Curtis, as two escaped convicts chained together and having to work together to survive. That image is America today. When I expressed this idea to a black friend, he told me that white Americans can’t see the chains. Maybe most of us don’t see them yet, but they are real whether we see them or not. We cannot survive without each other. African American, European American, Asian American, Native American, Hispanic American, etc...you get the picture. Everyone is American.
Together we are America. Apart, there can be no America. Stand together or fall apart. It’s our choice.
Start slowly, one step at a time, and never look back. White America is still the majority, so the majority of the work is ours. Fortunately, that also means there are lots of us to share the load. That makes it easier. Let's do it.
May 31, 2020
(This has been edited slightly on June 3, 2020, after original posting)