Addressing Racism in American Society III. Looking Forwards rather than Backwards

The death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis several weeks ago demonstrates once again that racial bias is entrenched in American society.  It reminds us that we must do a much better job to improve race relations in our country.  How will this be accomplished?  I have already discussed some things that will work and others that won’t, see here and here.

Another way to look at it is backward thinking vs forward thinking:

Examples of backward (negative and not especially useful) thinking are:

  • Reparations.  Suggestions for reparations paid to the descendants of slaves are again being made.  A figure of $14 trillion is used to equalize wealth distributions between whites and blacks.  The basic problem with this approach (besides the exorbitant cost) is that America stands fundamentally for equal opportunity, not equal outcomes.  Despite the slavery of their ancestors, what we owe blacks is an equal opportunity to succeed, not a guarantee of equal success.

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  • The limits of police reform.  Strong police forces are needed to maintain law and order.  Most police are not racist but there are a few bad apples.  Making it easier to fire bad cops (without  interference from police unions) is a very good idea but of overall minor value in improving black lives.

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Examples of forward (positive and useful) thinking are:

  • Affirmative action. Giving blacks more opportunities to succeed economically is now solidly entrenched in American society and can have a positive effect on a company’s financial success.

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  • Better educational opportunity.  In an opportunity society like the U.S., a good K-12 education is indispensable.  Unfortunately, many large metropolitan areas have poor inner city public schools.  The answer is to promote both charter schools for these areas as well as early childhood education.
  • Economic opportunity. In the U.S. everyone is ultimately responsible for their own welfare and success.  What society can and should do is to provide strong economic opportunity by supporting general economic growth as well as training for skilled jobs.  Restoring our economy to its pre-pandemic status will be very beneficial to all low-income workers including blacks.

Conclusion.  The most effective thing we can do to help blacks achieve a more comfortable niche in American society is providing more and better opportunities for them to work their way up the economic ladder.  False promises such as reparations for slavery and unrealistic police reform will only lead to more disappointment and resentment.

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8 thoughts on “Addressing Racism in American Society III. Looking Forwards rather than Backwards

  1. Multi-factorial improvements in social mobility and reductions of social isolation. The best use of any reparations would be to channel it to an aggressive improvement of pre-school and grade-school. Remember that if you can’t read or write spontaneously going into High School, further education becomes less helpful for promoting advances in social mobility. And finally, each community as its own ecologic and cultural traditions that restrain individual hope and happiness. Each community will need an over-arching effort to systematically identify these issues and search for the strategies useful for their future prevention, mitigation, and amelioration, another form of disaster management.

  2. Free college education to any child of color that carries a great point average of whatever is Chose appropriate. Psychology classes on bias for age-appropriate classes from preschool to college . Teach how bias are started, how the Assassination of the black and Indian Character has been perpetrated in our country we need to go back and have a systematic way to address how we got here and how we’re going to get out of this

    • You are apparently saying that the strategy should be to tear down white supremacy. What I’m saying is that rather the strategy should be to lift up the black underclass with both better educational and employment opportunities. These are quite different approaches to the basic problem.

  3. It should start at home. I was taught by a WWII father who told us our blood was the same color as everyone else’s. We were raised with Mexican field workers, gypsies and DPs workers.
    When we were in the Army our children was around all races. Our son wanted to .marry his black teacher. Our daughter best friend was black and her brother babysat our kids. So you see it starts at home. God created us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

    • I agree that it is best to start at home and a minority of us will attempt to do this on our own. But I also think that we need some new public policy initiatives to push things along faster such as focused police reform and more early childhood education.

  4. You suggest that the only way to eradicate “black/white racism” in the USA is to make black/white relationships more comfortable, “as social peers”. You then suggest that before Blacks can participate in these peer relationships with Whites, Blacks first need to improve their socio-economic status. Finally, you propose that “we” could best help them attain this peer relationship by providing opportunities “to work their way up the economic ladder”.

    I do not disagree that anyone living in poverty, no matter their physical attributes, could be helped by providing them opportunities for economic advancement. I do believe, though, that your ideas about race relations and the needs of Blacks in the USA would not be harmed by futher study.

    One aspect of race relations that was not touched upon is the numbers. According to the U. S. Census Bureau’s July 2019 estimate, 78% of Omaha’s population is white and 12 % is black. “It does not add up.” Even if every Black in Omaha met your socio-economic criteria for a comfortable relationship with Whites, there would still not be enough Blacks for Whites to have these comfortable, racially healing relationships.

    I see another way. Many Whites today, recognizing how little we know about Blacks, are making up for our knowledge gap by reading the works of black authors, listening to the work of black composers, and watching the movies of black directors. While learning about another’s experience is not always comfortable, it does bring the understanding that is needed for racial healing and reconciliation.

    • Thanks for your valuable suggestion. I agree that Whites would benefit by becoming better acquainted with black culture. This would help Whites understand Black people better and therefore be better able to relate to them and their life experiences.

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