FBI Director James Comey has called for a conversation on race in that involves more than just law enforcement.
Comey said the US is at “a crossroads” in the wake of incidents involving White police officers fatally shooting unarmed Black men. He said racial bias exists in all areas of American society.
A lot of tough questions have to be addressed if we are to have a real conversation. And all of us have to face realities without excuses. Yesterday, on my new favorite site for nonsense postings (Yahoo) people asked me specifically about crime. The numbers are horrendous in poor Black communities.
Here are, I think, some root causes that can be applied anywhere in the world. They are in no particular order…:
Unfair Justice System = Arresting, prosecuting, and convicting people unfairly creates a culture of crime. Jails or prisons often make worse criminals out of people because of the conditions that exist there.
War on Drugs = This “war” has been – in short — a failure. States are now recognizing that it criminalizes otherwise law-abiding people has contributed to a number of problems. This “war” has fueled a drug trade that is too often violent.
Social/mental disorders = People with grave mental disorders can end up committing crime. We, as a society, should try to treat them before their lose control.
Family = Abuse in a child’s formative years from family can push a person into a life of crime. People who are neglected by their families and do not get the love and attention that they , and many turn to gangs for that love.
Regionalism = Or we can call it, the “neighborhood.” people who harbor regionalist feelings often go to great lengths to commit crimes against other communities. This is often ignored our leaders who see only classifications and not people. Such regionalism can influence crime.
Media = Media (TV, Internet, movies, etc.) is an integral part of our lives and how we see each other. It is important the we discern reality from fiction.
Bigotry = This has contributed to unrest all around the world. It is sad that we discriminate simply due to external appearances and different origins.
Politics = Political power is often misused to take advantage of weaker groups. Such situations often force the victims to resort to crime..
Poverty = People are often driven to great lengths of desperation by poverty all around the world. It is a dangerous thing. As the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, problems grow.
Overpopulation = Increase in population is the biggest cause of crime. Too many people crowded into a very small area.
Education = Failing schools limit prospects for children at the bottom end of the ladder to climb up. And while there are several noteworthy ideas out there (charters, vouchers, to name two), overall, the offerings are few and far between.
Employment = Where there is no “job,” a person will create one. Investment in areas where jobs are most needed has been slow – in the cities and in the rural communities.
Unfortunately, we will be living with racism for a long time.
And, I am pessimistic about it ‘dissolving’ soon.
Many years ago – 30+ – one of my college professors made a remark that racism ( he called it ‘prejudice’) would exist until the races were all mixed up. He may be right.
To me, the issue turns upon conduct. A white person can harbor prejudice toward black people unto the crack of doom. But, if that prejudice is not expressed in behavior, all that white person has done is to give himself a bellyache. Which is his personal problem.
I, also, have to say that black people cannot rely upon getting much help from many white people. A lot of white people simply do not care. Sad, but true.
Michael, what your thoughtful and incisive post does is open up the much more realistic view of racism as a deeply complex and embedded cancer in our society.
It sure seems that many people approach racism as a simplistic issue, the small minded fear and hatred of “the other”. That portrays the solution as simple too but as you lay out, the myriad causes of racism require far more consuming work and attention to untangle them from our society.
This is complicated heart surgery, not just removing a stubborn wart as some on both sides of the aisle sometimes portray it.
On the left, some think that economic support is a silver bullet. On the right, some think that it’s just a case of lingering resentment over slavery and black people just need to “get over it” (how sad that our SCOTUS has virtually taken the same position AND declared that racism is essentially over).
Racism in this country does have much in common with cancer, it’s something that has spread to and set into so many areas of our society as you point out. As we’ve seen, you can be a teenager just walking home with a bag of Skittles or President of the United States, racism is so pervasive in this nation and inescapable.
There needs to be a multi-pronged approach taken that addresses all the areas you identify. Poverty, education, employment and the unjust criminal justice system would be areas that could be a good place to start. Social and political empowerment and blunting the many efforts to disempower and weaken African Americans should also be principles that all Americans who believe in our democracy should support.
Michael, I know I’m not saying anything original when I say that this is such a huge, pervasive and long-standing issue that it’s hard to know where to begin to wrap our heads or hands around it.
As you and Beatlex have noted, the history of slavery here in the US makes race issues much more complicated than they might be elsewhere. I think we all know that the fact that the Civil War was fought more than 150 years ago hardly makes it old news or irrelevant. In so many areas, it might as well have been yesterday. Friday night I finally got a chance to see “12 Years A Slave,” and scenes from it looked almost identical to the photo that supplies the graphic for your article today. That photo appears to have been taken at a prison but for all the world it looks like an image of the slaves and the overseer from the bad old days. How can so little have changed over such a long period of time? It seems that for a certain immoral and greedy sub-set of the population, the goals never change — to accumulate wealth without labor and to dominate others — and if they’re blocked from doing it one way, they’ll find another. And they’ll cite scripture to do it.
A friend of mine has said that she has been told to “get over it” when it comes to being treated poorly as a woman of color. “A Black man was elected to the highest office in the land, so that proves this country has moved beyond racism,” is the claim. “Why do ‘you people’ insist on living in the past?” is thrown in her face. But haven’t we all heard of the abusive and/or unfaithful spouse ask that same question? “Why do you choose to live in the past?” That’s an old, old trick.
Of course, we all know that it is hardly “living in the past” to point out the obvious racism that still exists in the 21st century. Including racism that is directed toward that Black man in the White House.
I think that — besides our history of slavery — there’s another factor that makes race harmony harder to achieve in the US than in many other developed countries. And that is the enormous — and growing — level of income inequality here. I read an article recently that observed that people who are poor tend to be much more resentful and angry if there’s someone near to them who very obviously has much more than they do. Whereas, if there seems to be about the same level of wealth wherever they look, that emotion of outrage and fury is much less likely to happen.
Even if it’s only through the media, this awareness of inequality happens every day in America. The “average” house in TV shows and commercials seems to be about 5000 sq. feet and everyone seems to drive at least one Cadillac or Lexus. A Disneyland vacation seems to be an annual event for virtually every family. Golfing along the Trent Jones trail is just what people do. Liposuction and botox treatments are as common as getting teeth cleaned. For people who are battling to stay afloat with part time, $8/hour jobs this is infuriating. When you’re in a demographic group that is the last hired and first fired, it’s beyond infuriating.
Until we address income inequality in a serious way, this is only going to get worse. Allowing this to be dismissed as “class envy” should not be on.
And as you mentioned, education is absolutely critical. Schools need to be funded adequately, integrated, public, free and safe. Channeling taxpayer money into the pockets of unethical charter school companies is wrong. Granted — there are some functional charter schools out there — but as my state of Ohio unfortunately demonstrated recently there are others that misuse funds, inflate attendance figures and do little more than warehouse kids.
I don’t see any one of the potential GOP presidential candidates for 2016 who’s willing to make race issues a priority. And I sure don’t see any Republican governors stepping up to the plate.
We need to vote, vote, vote for candidates who are up to the job of tackling this deep-rooted and persistent illness. When we have more decent and honest city councilmen, judges, mayors and congresspeople, it’ll be a lot harder to pull off travesties like Ferguson again.
Well said, Kesmarn. There is so much more that I could have said in my piece, but I wanted to strip these items down to their bare essentials. Bottom line: when people are treated badly, and they give up hope, they look for any means to survive.
And being faithful to a society that has ignored them seems crazier than resorting to crime.
Never thought I would put that sentence together…
“And being faithful to a society that has ignored them seems crazier than resorting to crime.”
Now that is a lot of truth in one brilliant sentence.
Kes, you write what I think. You say what is on my mind better than I could say it.
I look at history and see that my State has helped the slaves get away from their “owners” Vermont was the first State to make slavery illegal! We had the “underground railroad” with safe houses for escaped “slaves”. Today we have one of the smallest populations of black people. They are welcome here but few stay. I often wonder why Vermont , the friendliest State has so few blacks? This morning we had wind chills of minus 39 degrees. Could that be why our population is so small, both blacks and whites?
We do need to get everyone to vote! That is the only way we will ever effect real change.
Nirek, Ohio has a good record as an underground railroad state as well, and I’ve always been proud of that. There are some houses right here in my area — still standing — that were stopping-over points for people headed to Canada and freedom. That truly was dangerous business then — for both the escapee and anyone who helped him or her. At that time, as we know, they were both breaking the law.
It’s good to know that there were church people involved in the process too. Because there sure were plenty of people in the South claiming that the Bible justified their ownership of their fellow human beings. No question about who the real Christians were in this case!
JMB, your observations are so pertinent and they also are relevant all over the world. Here in Australia, racism, bigotry and religious intolerance to others is very much alive and unwell. Despite the old myth that Aussies are very laid back and of liberal leanings, beneath the surface there is almost as much racism as in the US and Europe. Of course, it all started here from Europe, where Britain decided that they had the equivalent of ‘Manifest Destiny’ (long before America, btw), and ethnically cleansed their way to the infamous ‘White Australia’ policy. You don’t hear much about that these days, but it was alive and very much kicking right up to the late ’70s. The dilemma is summed up, quite nicely by:
We in Canada are multiracial as is America, and we don’t have anywhere near the problems as you do.The difference being is that it is our aboriginal people who are treated unfairly.Slavery and Jim Crowe are at the heart of the problems in America.In your face racism still exists.IMO
I agree, Beatlex. There is such a stain, such denial, and such a knee-jerk reaction to us even raising the topic — any topic — that sounds like it comes from a “Black” perspective.
That people outside of a culture hotly debate what that culture calls itself (African-American, Black, Negro, Colored, etc.), gives us all a clue as to how deeply seeded a problem this is.
And those feelings are central to all of the points I raised above.