This posting might very well anger people of all races. I hope it does. Usually my postings are prompted by an event or person in the news. Not this time. For some time, I've considered writing about the current situation of race relations in the United States, as I see it.
Let me preface the rest of this post by stating what is obvious to many of my readers: I am white. The state of West Virginia is approximately 95% white. I have very few experiences where I was in the minority. Little discrimination has been thrown into my path and when it has, it's typically been because I'm on a basketball court (okay that happens no matter what color the people are). With those points aside, allow me to present my thoughts on race in America.
1. If an issue divides Americans, it shouldn't be race. White people and Black people don't realize they have a great deal in common. What divides America today is socioeconomic class. Most people of all colors and ethnicities are among middle and lower classes of society. They face the same struggles of how to pay bills, mortgages, college educations, etc.
2. The term to describe Americans is American. Calling different segments of society by various names only further divides the population. What is an African-American? Most of the people who are black in this country have no concept of what life in Africa is like any more than I have an idea of what life is as a black person. Would it bother people to know that a white man in the country of South Africa has more of a right to call himself African-American?
Citizens in West Virginia and the surrounding areas have often attempted to refer to themselves as "Appalachian-Americans." Seriously? Thanks for furthering the divide. Do people in New York City walk around calling themselves Urban-American? The mere notion is ridiculous.
People of all races overlook such simplistic facts when it comes to race. We all have the same human anatomy. In general, we seek the same goals in life: family, friends, leisure, a meaningful job/life. Is having a difference in melanin output a reason to distrust or hate people en masse?
3. Black and white people have it tough, at times. Black people are discriminated against in the workplace. This is an unpleasant fact occurring in our nation for decades. Passed over for promotion. Not paid the same as a white employee. This really happens, even in 2011 ... but not to everyone.
For every racist buffoon, at least 10 good, honest people are there to offset their damage. Discrimination in the workplace is taken so seriously now, that even a bigot will be hesistant to risk their job. If a person is discriminated against, there are venues for remedying such injustices. Just ask the women who are suing Wal-Mart for gender discrimination.
Just because a low number of black people aren't in certain sectors of employment doesn't mean they're being discriminated against. Blacks account for about 13% of the American population. Wouldn't it stand to reason employment in various areas would be somewhat consistent with that figure?
Affirmative action programs definitely had a time and place, but why should race be a consideration in who can do the best job? If I'm hiring an employee, I want the best, regardless of color.
Black people are followed around because white people think they are all criminals. That happens and it's a shame. Fight the stereotype. Every time I meet someone from a place other than West Virginia, they presume I have no education or understand of the world at large.
The point is this: we all have burdens that aren't fair. But it should be our mission to change people, one at a time if we must.
4. The Civil War is over. I find myself disgusted by Southerners and other sympathizers of the Confederacy, which somehow span to so many states in the Union. I see people wearing the battle flag of the Confederacy known as the "stars and bars," and I wonder if I should tell them that wasn't even the official flag of the Southern states. Moreover, I care not what anyone says -- the Civil War was about slavery. Arguing states' rights is foolish and futile, other than to say the right the states cared about was slavery.
How could someone put up a flag for a group of states who fought so they could keep the "peculiar institution" of enslaving human beings? Foolishness. And stop calling it the "War of Northern Aggression."
Black people also need to realize the war is over. Slavery ended nearly 150 years ago. No one wants to own another human being. There is not a single person alive in the United States who can say they know what it's like to be a slave. The black race was done a great disservice by being enslaved, but they owe that to white people and Africans (who do you think sold slaves to the Europeans) from the past.
5. Stop using the "N-word." I can't even type this word because of the uproar is causes. I wouldn't even want to use it because of the connotation it holds. In fact, I've never referred to a person of any color by this name. This, by the way, is a suggestion for white and black people. White people use it to denegrate others, while black people find it acceptable to use it in reference to other black people.
Black people supposedly can use it with respect towards another of their race, as it somehow empowers them. If someone calls me a name that has that type of meaning, I don't want them using it. Do you think I would let either of my brothers use the "f-word" directed at me? Absolutely not.
6. Places exist in this country where it's not safe to be a certain color. I'm quite certain there are places in West Virginia where it is not safe to be a minority of any kind. The possibility of a minority being taunted verbally, physically assaulted, or worse are very real. That same standard can probably be said of many Southern states (as well as the Midwest -- apparently the Ku Klux Klan has a long history in Indiana and Michigan).
However, is it any less dangerous to drop off a white person in Compton? Harlem? De facto segregation has created this mentality of "our neighborhood" for both whites and blacks. It's as if the law doesn't exist in places like these.
7. Dads -- do your job. One of the most horrific elements in the downtown of society is the absence of fathers in the lives of their children. Over 70% of black children are born to a single mother. But don't worry -- whites are catching up to you, with a figure of over 40%. The breakdown of the nuclear family creates an atmosphere where one parent is raising a child and trying to work. This leads to that one parent not having nearly enough time to instruct a child in the proper manner.
Studies show that children from single parent homes are more likely to do poorly in school and become involved with crime. Please do not misconstrue this to think you are a bad person because you were raised by one parent.
8. Stop being so defensive. Both black and white people both have this annoying tendency to become indignant when you state a fact that has been scientifically studied about that particular race. Why do all statements have to be taken so personally? Can't you realize that we, as races, do have certain tendencies and patterns? Black people and white people can't have an open dialogue about race because of the fact they do become defensive.
As usual, Shakespeare said it best. "If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge?"
-- from The Merchant of Venice
We have the same desires in the world, and the same problems.