Why Racism Exists in America


The First Unitarian Church of Omaha, to which I belong, has formed a sister church relationship with a predominantly black church in north Omaha, Clair Memorial Methodist Church. On Saturday we held a joint workshop, “Confronting Racism” at Clair. Several people said that we should “celebrate diversity, transcend race, and hope that things will be better in twenty or thirty years from now.”
I think the problem is much more fundamental and difficult than this. First of all, there are two main reasons why racism is so prevalent in America, one obvious and one perhaps less obvious:

  • The obvious reason is the very different colors of our skin.
  • The other reason, equally important, is that there are huge socio-economic differences between the two races. Whites are, by and large, better educated and more affluent than blacks. They also have a more stable family structure, with far fewer single parent families. People tend to live in homogeneous residential areas and associate with others of similar socio-economic background. All of these social factors serve to separate the races into largely non-interacting groups of people.

How do we confront and attack such deeply entrenched racism in our society? We need an approach which is more fundamental than programs like “welfare to work” or “residential integration.” Even equalizing educational opportunity is not enough. What we need is a long term effort to improve educational outcomes for blacks and other children from low-income families.
Capture9As the above chart of Nebraska data shows, children from low-income families, who thus receive free or reduced price lunch (FRL), are already behind in reading proficiency by third grade and they just keep falling further and further behind in the later grades. This means that they need major intervention before they even get to kindergarten. In fact what they need is early childhood education, beginning no later than age 3.
Conclusion: Racism is deeply embedded in American life and can only be eliminated with a long term fundamental effort to greatly improve educational outcomes for blacks.  I will discuss proof that this can be done in my next post.

8 thoughts on “Why Racism Exists in America

  1. Jack,
    I could not be more pleased with your remarks. I would only add that we need close conversations with one another in this effort to generate trust and compassion for one another. Thus, more institutions–religious, educational and social–are needed if equality is to be realized. People need to have the opportunity for much personal conversation to achieve equality and influence in helping one another.

    I thank you so much for your comments.


  2. For my part, I was very pleased with our workshop on Saturday morning on “Confronting Racism.” I very much enjoyed our own small discussion group and this is what helped me to crystalize my own views as expressed in the above post.

    • So, now we must search out some direction. I, for one, will urge greater involvement in the educational system. I would think there are several directions we might pursue. In our small committee this morning, I also urged that we stick with our initial groups to provide some continuity. Among the seven of us, I think everyone appreciated one another’s remarks and appeared quite comfortable with one another. I left feeling quite satisfied with our effort. Our small committee within the two churches is very open with one another but no clear direction has been formulated.

      Take care,

      • It’s a great project that our two churches have to try to address the racism problem together. We’ll just have to feel our way forward. There are no obvious or easy solutions. But I suspect that our optimistic attitudes will enable us to eventually make some significant progress.

  3. I agree with what you are saying about the importance of education, and I look forward to your next post showing how it can make the difference.

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