Can We Even Talk About Racial Issues?

ferguson

As I thought about this month’s topic which is focused on race, violence, and the need to talk about it, four really big issues came to mind. Working on them has to be part of a way forward that moves us away from violence and obliviousness toward understanding and action.

White people can’t talk honestly about issues of race, without being branded “racist.”

Unfortunately, there won’t be much positive development, if we can’t even be honest. White and black people have to be honest with each other.

Sometimes black people are racially profiled by police, being harassed simply because of their skin color. We can talk about that. Black people are underserved by our economic and educational systems. We can talk about that. Our nation has a shameful history of enslavement, segregation, and failed government policies relating to black people. We can talk about that.

But black families are in disarray. Fathers are not in the picture. Too many black rappers have become role models of violence, vulgarity, and objectifying women. These are the heroes of young black men.

The urban subculture is marked by a manner of dress and speech deemed unacceptable by the majority of society.

Black-on-black violence, including, violence against women is significantly higher than the rest of the population.

But we can’t talk about these things for fear of sounding of being branded a racist.

The more blacks are subtly and directly suppressed by societal structures, the greater the probability of more “Fergusons.”

The more whites are suppressed from honest conversation about these issues, the more likely some honest-to-goodness bigot will cross the line to express his hatred through violence.

The more honest conversation is suppressed in the name of cultural sensitively, the longer all of these issues go unresolved, and the more time they have to fester.

We had better create some safe places for real conversation.

The black community needs to take responsibility for its own dysfunction.

If white guilt does not move us toward helping blacks help themselves, then it is no good at all. Likewise, blaming “the man,” doesn’t fix anything either.

I hope black anger moves people to involvement in their own communities, their own governments, their own school boards, and their own police forces. Once personal responsibility is accepted for the brokenness of the black community, it’s time to get involved in positive change.

White people need to get their heads out of their asses.

People who are not significantly disadvantaged because of their skin color, or where they happen to live, or because of poor education, or lousy parenting, or because of their age or gender, all need to get their head out their asses, and find out how the other half lives! If you are doing well, then you think the system is working great. If you try and struggle and keep hitting walls, you know it’s broken.

Understanding always, always happens in the context of personal relationships.

We need to hear each other’s stories! Democrats need Republican friends. Whites need black friends. Christians need atheist friends.

Until we know one another, the other will always be “them.”

 

Here are the links to posts by the other contributing authors.

 

About Glenn

Glenn Hager is the author of An Irreligious Faith and Free Range Faith. He encourages independent minded people of faith through his writing, speaking, consulting, and one-on-one relationships.

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11 Comments

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  8. Glenn, I feel quite conflicted reading your post. My first instinct was to leave with no comment but that seemed a bit cowardly so I will risk posing a few questions.

    Is it your belief that if ‘the black community fixed it’s own dysfunctions’ then racism would disappear?

    When you say ‘blaming ‘the man’ does not fix anything at all’ and link that to blaming whites it sounds as though you are suggesting that women and black people are making things worse when they point out that they are oppressed and say how wrong and painful this is. It sounds as though you feel it would be better if they were silent on this issue.

    I am puzzled by the reference to black communities having ‘their own’ police forces, school boards and governments. Is there such a level of segregation? Are there all black police forces?

    It is hard to ask these questions but this synchroblog is trying to go to hard places and I’m hoping we can manage it!

    • Juliet, thank you for your comment! We can “talk” here. We have to talk about these issues. So I will try to address the things you brought up.

      Unfortunately, racism won’t disappear, if blacks addressed their issues. Racism is a heart thing, and some people’s heart will always remain hateful, or at least, oblivious. What I said was that blacks need move beyond blaming others and assume responsibility for the state of their own community. That does not mean that steps should not also be taken by whites (or whatever color people in power happen to be) to work with them to improve things.

      Oppressed people have the right to blame others for their role in injustice, but they have the responsibly to be a part of the solution. If they only blame others, there is little chance of positive change. If they respond with violence, then they are making things worse. I am not in favor of squelching any one’s right to make their case, but that is only the first step to bring change. The next several steps are even more difficult, and may take even more courage.

      I did not mention the plight of women.

      I referred to black people being active in their communities, i.e., where they live, their municipality. You seem to have misread that, thinking, I was referring to “the black community” within the municipality.

      Juliet, I feel like you misread, or read something into what I wrote, or, at least, missed the spirit of the post as a whole.

      There is enough blame to go around. White and backs can blame each other all day long, and not improve a thing! I am calling for each person to assume their responsibility to make things better, and to move from theoretical discussion to actual relationships.

      Do you agree with that?

      • Thank you for your response Glenn, I think there were some things I misunderstood. I thought your mention of ‘the man’ was a reference to issues to do with gender inequality and it wasn’t so that may have confused things. Thank you for clearing that up. I’m still not absolutely clear about the community thing, maybe because I don’t live in the States. That there are separate communities seems linked to issues of racism and that there are places where the people in power are from the majority group even if those they are governing are almost all black also seems to me to be connected to racism.

        But I think the main point on which perhaps we disagree was made clear to me in the first paragraph of your response. There you refer to racism as a heart sin. I think it is. But I also think it leads to the creation of racist structures and that things get confusing when people who do not personally feel racial hatred operate within structures that can be racist. So maybe not every police officer in Ferguson feels racially superior to members of the black community they serve. But because the police force is perceived to treat members of the black community unfairly and even is perceived by some as a threat to members of that community then individual police officers will be perceived to be racist.

        It is not a pleasant experience being considered to be racist when you personally don’t feel that you are. But if others experience you as racist and you are a member of the powerful group (and we are both white in white majority countries) then I think we need to pause and listen. If I go in and tell people that they need to fix their own problems before I have sat down an listened and pondered then I will probably come across as dismissive of their situation and unwilling to accept that I benefit from the status quo whereas they do not.

        I hope this makes some sense and that we can continue to debate the issue.

        • Juliet,

          I have been busy and am just now able to post a response to your comment.

          “The Man” is a euphemism to indicate those in authority.

          One way we use the word “community” is to refer to a group of people, e.g., the gay community, the black community, the Hispanic community, the medical community, etc. It’s a common, accepted use of the term.

          When the majority group has authority over a city that has a majority of another ethnic group, then they are just asking for trouble, and must do a better job of reaching out to involve people of color in the police force, school board, or whatever it is. But that group also needs to want to be involved.

          Not everyone who is perceived to be racist is indeed, a racist. Also, racists come in all colors, and ethnicities.

          Most, if not all, heart sin does develop structures and systems. Yes, a generally, well-intentioned person can get caught up in an unjust racial system. Just look at history.

          I agree, if others consider us to be racist, we should be reflective, and talk to those of the minority group. But those who make the accusation may, likewise, may be incorrect in their assessment.
          No one can fix anyone else’s problems, but they can help them so they have similar advantages as others. Yet, they have to want the help. To try to force something on people, especially, an ethnicity, would be terribly paternalistic and racist.

          Like any reasonable person, I am opposed to racial profiling, violence from either side, and ignoring the plight of the less fortunate, no matter what their ethnicity. Also, reason dictates that changing things for the better places certain responsibilities on us all. To move forward will require frank and open discussion, without looking for a manufactured opportunity to brand someone a racist.

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