RACIAL EQUALITY IN AMERICA: FACT OR FICTION
In the month of July when we celebrate America’s independence, our nation’s 241-year old experience in democracy is in grave danger, not from without, but from within. Russian hacking of U.S. elections, North Korean nuclear threat, nuclearized Iran, terrorism, and global cyber attacks, are certainly real and present dangers. Yet, our nation, since its founding, has consistently mustered the courage, and capacity to resist nearly every threat— from global communism, to Pearl Harbor, to the Cuban missile crisis, and more.
As with the Civil War, fought more than 150 years ago over slavery, America’s greatest threat comes from within. That threat is the unresolved, unreconciled, unrepented, unforgiven and unrestituted enslavement of humans. Lingering psychè damage impacts both Black and White Americans from the immoral and disgraceful system of trafficking in human bodies. The result is an inexcusable belief that non-White Americans, especially African Americans, are free according to laws of the land. Yet, they are not equal in the eyes, minds, and behavior of many Americans, and American institutions.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly”. This noble concept makes the very idea that white skin color, created by God, is superior to non-white skin color, both preposterous and blasphemous. It contradicts a core tenet of the Judeo-Christian ethic that all humans are created in the Divine image (Imago Dei). Further, it negates what people of other faith traditions, and those with no faith, view as universal human dignity and worth.
Denials notwithstanding, the spirit of the 224-year system of American enslavement and dehumanization of people of African heritage (1641-1865); 100 years of Jim Crow era of legalized discrimination; and continuing systemic racism, is alive and well today. It has taken root in the belief, by far too many people of white superiority and black inferiority.
This spirit lives on in American linguistics where the word “white” in Webster’s Dictionary means light, pure, and moral—terms associated with positives. In contrast, the word “black”, except in balancing financial books, is defined by Webster in such negative terms as sinister, evil, hostile, discontent, scary, angry, and dangerous.
This spirit is reflected in the basket of disproportionate advantages and privileges given to White Americans—compared to disproportionate disadvantages for Black Americans in every sphere of human life, including health, wealth, housing, employment, education, cultural arts, and criminal justice system.
It was exhibited quite boldly during eight years of racialized attacks against the first African American President of the United States, Barack Obama. This, despite efforts to label America as “post-racial”. The reality is that laws guaranteeing equality on the books have yet to be internalized in the hearts, minds and practices of those for whom they were intended.
“Get over it “ or “don’t blame me, I didn’t own slaves”, are not credible responses to this grave American danger. Even before the racially charged 2016 presidential election, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported an alarming rise in hate crimes and hate-filled intimidation, not only of African Americans, but also of Jews, Hispanics, Muslims, and immigrants. Sadly, these hateful acts start as early as elementary school.
Inequality harms all Americans. It stains our American flag and founding document that guarantees “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” for all humans by their Creator. It excludes the full range of talents, experiences, exposures, and abilities needed for a strong and thriving nation. Imagine a truly great America without the genius of African American inventors of such basics as blood plasma, automatic elevator door, and fiber optics used in smart technology today.
Inequality makes unwitting victims of low income and working-class White Americans. Too many believe that people of color, immigrants, Muslims, African Americans, and other non-white Americans, are the proper target of their anger, and the reason for their depressed economic plight.
The ultimate danger to America from inequality, is that it stokes racial division, mistrust, ignorance, and antagonism that do not build bridges. This spiritual cancer on America’s soul builds impenetrable walls of fear, often leading to violence and making us all potential victims.
Our nation’s mounting racial division will not be solved by finger pointing, name-calling, denials and indifference. What, then, are some paths on the road from freedom through the laws to equality in the lives of African Americans?
(1) Become a Gracist. Dr. David Anderson, author of Gracism: The Art of Inclusion, says that “when people deal with color, class or culture in a negative way, that’s racism. But the answer is not to ignore these as if they don’t matter. Instead, we can look at color, class and culture in a positive way. That’s gracism.” Gracists view those outside their comfort zone as totally human and worthy of every benefit of full humanity. They reject any notion of superior and inferior people. They build friendships outside of the workplace with people from other ethnic groups because Gracists do not fear people they know.
(2) Develop universal teaching through our religious and educational institutions, on the value to America of diversity and inclusion. Teaching for both children and adults should emphasize the unique and positive contributions of each ethnic group to the strength of our nation.
(3) Build bridges of collaboration between poor and working-class White Americans and African Americans around common issues like jobs and healthcare.
The question has been raised here, whether racial equality for African Americans is fact or fiction. As practiced in America, it is fiction. We must all resolve to make it a fact for the security, strength, and wellbeing of our nation. Before God, we are all sinners in need of forgiveness and grace. We are equal at the foot of the cross where Jesus sacrificed his life to set humanity free from sins’ bondage to love one another.
As a bridge-builder and reconciler, I am offended by inequality and hate crimes against any group, which will be addressed in future blogs.
Originally featured on huffpost.com