The onslaught of Black men being murdered by police across the country, the recent fatal sniper attack on Dallas, Texas police officers, and the same in Baton Rouge, La., the unrelenting bigoted language by the Republican Party’s apparent nominee for POTUS; has made race and race relations the topic of the day, every day. The topic isn’t a new one. Race relations was part of the reason the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. traveled to Chicago in the mid-1960s. Yes, it’s been part of the news landscape for more than 50 years. The big question is where have the on-again-off-again discussions gotten us. Another question is whether there is an answer and subsequent solution to America’s problem with race. Is it a futile discussion conversation?
Honestly I am tired of talking about race relations.
Really, how much time should be spent trying to convince someone from another background that racial oppression is real, alive and living not too far from them. Someone mentions the Holocaust and the near universal response is almost always how terrible, horrific and inhumane that period was. However, a Black person can bring up the topic of slavery and will be rebuffed by white folks and told “oh that was so long ago. I am sure it doesn’t still have an effect on you.” It’s racial insensitivity at its highest form-a white person telling a Black person how to feel about slavery. The other response, and maybe even more familiar one is “get over it.” That insensitivity is exacerbated by the fun-loving re-enactments of the Civil War, but Black folks are supposed to forget about slavery.
Tones like that lead me to believe even if we were able to converse about race relations another 70-odd years, they wouldn’t improve that much. That has a great deal to do with the fact that it seems we must start over with every new generation of adults.
Please don’t get societal progress confused with race relations. Yes Black people can live more places than in 1965, get better jobs and promotions than then, and be comfortable in all sorts of public accommodations. However there is still a large contingent of Americans who decry those advancements and would rescind every one of them if possible. Those are the ones who confirm race relations are a persistent problem. While they probably aren’t the majority, their numbers are significant.
The snail-like progress makes me wonder if trying to improve race relations on a massive scale is worth the effort. Most of us probably know or have witnessed interracial relationships/friendships that have advanced the cause. Maybe that is the route Black people need not concern ourselves with; what the majority of white folks say or d, and just focus on us. If we encounter and connect with a white person-fine, but don’t be a race relations evangelist.
Our focus should be on us and our community-building healthy relationships and experiences with other Black folks. We should be about re-building the level of businesses we had in our neighborhoods in the mid-1960s that were owned by people who looked like us.
Simply put, those white people we tend to classify as “good white folks” because they are willing to stand on the front line with as well as endure the scorn of the white friends and neighbors; should do that work in their communities. We really don’t need them at predominantly Black activities.
In turn Black folks need to stop looking at the good white community for financial assistance, strategic planning and overall validation. Of course both sides can work together on some matters, but not an overall race relations improvement plan, not now.
The white person’s most valuable contribution to the Black struggle is to convince other white people to understand and discard their own racist ways. Help them understand that being an incidental racist is no less damaging that being a virulent one.
“In the 50 years since the Civil Rights Act was enacted, African Americans still struggle with the same core issues: employment, education, housing, income stability,” said Chicago Urban League president and CEO Shari Runner. “The League has consistently demonstrated that we are a movement that incites change and is committed to working with community members and partners across the city to address the root causes of inequality, apply best practices and improve the future for our youth, our communities and the entire city of Chicago.”
As did the NAACP when it was formed in the 1909 I believe we should welcome the help from outside the community of those who earnestly want to lift the boats of all African Americans, but only after they have worked the racist trenches in their own communities. Personally, it makes little sense for Black people to pursue potential white “converts” to that cause. The cry for compassion for African Americans dates back to the pre-Abolition days. That tells us well-meaning white folks have always been among us. Today, however, their key role has changed.
Any “help” should be in form of working to replace negative impressions and perceptions in their community with positive ones of Black people. Start the discussion among their families and friends that the majority of Black people are not as Google portrays us – incessant protesters. There certainly are enough problems in the Black community for every Black person to adopt one, resolve it, and come back and get another one to work on. It is work however, that we must do.
No one else can restore the pride we experienced when Black folks owned their grocery stores, dry cleaners, drug stores and restaurants-all in the community in which they lived. No one else can show our children that someone who looks like we do can excel at academics, business and athletics. Only people who look like us can what it feels like moving from share cropping to being firmly entrenched in the middle class.
However, the “good” white people can share the stories of those experiences with their family and friend who don’t necessarily hold a favorable opinion of African Americans. If we don’t do what each of us can within our communities to move past the talking points of race relations then advancement doesn’t even rate as pipe dream.
This article originally appeared on glennreedus.com
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