I had an interesting discussion with an individual recently about racism in America. He was from the majority population, and I am sure that he meant well, but, not surprisingly, we could not agree on much. In my humble opinion, he just didn’t get it.
He was doing what most white Americans tend to do when discussing the issue of race. He acknowledged that while there may be still isolated incidents of racism in America, there was so much to be proud of in terms of how we deal with the issue of race and how far we have come as a country when it comes to such issues.
To his credit, a lot of what he said about other countries and racism was true. Yes, there is racism in America, but there is racism in other countries as well. My travels have taught me that America probably has less racism than most other countries with a majority white population.The problem with America, though, is this: We have declared to the world that ours is the greatest democracy on earth, and that our social experiment and the Constitution that we hold so dear is second to no other. And yet, we have failed to acknowledge our greatest sins when it comes to racism and our treatment of the Africans and their descendants who were brought to this country.
This is why most African Americans are still not satisfied when it comes to how they view the issue of racism and equality in this country. It’s why there is such a disconnect between the races when it comes to the issue of race. We as black folks understand that just going about our daily routine of shopping, driving, and walking , can bring unwelcome scrutiny because of the color of our skin.
We believe that “white privilege” and its effects are real, and that whites who are born into it and who benefit from it take it for granted, We get angry when white people try to whitesplain racist behavior and normalize the ignorance and bigotry that flows from it, and we really become unhinged when white Americans refuse to acknowledge its history.
If you think about it, what this country needs is a version of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, which seemed to work for South Africa post apartheid. An official form of racial cleansing and apology for all the wrongs and atrocities that was brought on the people of color throughout America’s history. And with all due respect to Ta-nehisi Coates, not the reparations that he has so eloquently asked for.
Most folks in the majority believe that America has given African Americans enough, and they believe that they can quantify it in terms of dollars and cents and political and social clout, things that were earned by African Americans after years of struggle and protest by way of the civil rights movement.
It’s not practical to expect Americans to be open to the idea of reparations, when as a country we won’t even acknowledge why reparations is needed in the first place.