Too often we mistake dealing with today’s racism, or racists, as the same thing as dealing with the affects of our country’s racist past.
There is a real disparity between the races in terms of family structure, income, education, and general quality of life (healthcare etc.) that can trace its roots to a set of laws and practices espoused by those in power and upheld by the general populace, 40 years ago. The civil rights movement fought against this system and won the legal and legislative war.
With unjust laws and systems swept aside, government and society is/was left with the affects those policies left behind. Attempts were and are being made to not simply integrate those who had been separated but also repair centuries worth of damage.
That is the purpose of Affirmative action, civil rights litigation, the black national congress, NAACP, and any myriad of other groups, associations, or policies. They are aimed to repair the damage done to those who do or have fallen victim to racist policy, not to erase racism.
It seems that most black people understand this, most white people don’t.
This difference in understanding is at the heart of the modern race problem. Black people, despite winning legal protection, see little to no progress in the hearts and minds of the general population. The racist laws are mostly gone but the racists remain.
White people mostly believe both were destroyed together.
Reality is that the civil rights movement and the moral authority it exerted did a far better job at condemning and ostracizing racism than most black s realize, but far less than whites assume.
So now we have two sets of people speaking the same language but working from two diametrically opposed bases. Black people speak of today’s issues as if they are a continuation of the same battle from 40 years ago, lumping problems with today’s racists, be they police or business owners, and the affects of old policy, i.e. achievement and economic gaps, together. White people feel attacked personally by the general or sweeping nature of the complaints and think all the problems are self inflicted (a tendency formed with the exaggerated idea that the REAL problems were solved decades ago).
How much more productive would the efforts for progress be, if those acting as voice would separate the individuals of today from the legacies of yesterday?
Acknowledge that there are still racists; call them out individually when they show themselves, without the assumption that they represent the whole.
Explain how disadvantaged communities still feel real affects from yesterday’s policy and couch today’s proposals as a condemnation of the past, not a slap to the face of the present.
If we don’t, we will not only keep repeating our mistakes, but things will get worse. Misunderstanding, if left to fester, can grow into an inoperable terminal cancer.