I can feel that something's not right
I can feel that someone's blasting me with hate
Sendin' dirty vibes my way
'Cause my great great great great Grandad
Made someones' great great great great Grandaddies slaves
It wasn't my idea
It wasn't my idea
Never was my idea"
- Ben Folds- Rockin' the Suburbs
The Sins of The Father
Most white people I know aren't conscious or deliberate in their prejudices. These things are passed down almost unconsciously from generation to generation.
In my opinion, one of the biggest barriers we face in having honest conversations about race is the idea that if whites acknowledge any injustice against the black community, black people will try to hold them personally responsible for it.
For the most part black people aren't fighting for retribution, they're fighting for equality. It's not about feeling guilty for being white, or feeling sorry for what you have.
It's about acknowledging that the system of laws and rule and the social hierarchy that has afforded you some measure of success has also actively and intentionally held African-Americans back.
It's about using your advantage to partner with black citizens to change racist systems so that they can have as much opportunity and freedom as white Americans.
Intellectually everyone knows that discrimination and bigotry are wrong. But all of us, myself included, carry around prejudices we are blind to.
When prejudices are held by groups with power they become ingrained in institutions like the government, churches, and businesses. Groups of people stay unemployed and poorly educated. It becomes a system of racism: a system designed to make sure African American men and women don't get ahead.
Everyone wants to avoid angry black people. Why are they angry? They are angry because there has been no sustained justice in their struggle for equality.
They are angry because when they point out inequality in the educational system, the housing system, in job hiring practices, and in interpersonal interactions they are accused of talking about a make-believe problem.
From the Reconstruction Era until today, history is littered with half measures that gave the appearance of offering equality to black citizens but in reality did very little to help. From the Forty Acres and A Mule initially promised freed slaves, to the failures of Brown vs. the Board of Education, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968 the problems of oppression and inequality have not been solved. We are still a nation of separate and unequal.
"Most of us do not share life space with other races or classes. And we do not own up to the often gaping inequality that results from this separation because, being physically removed from those who most suffer the costs of separatism, we cannot acknowledge what we do not see." - Sheryll Cashin, law professor at Georgetown University in The Failures of Integration
I find the inequality in educational opportunities particularly troubling. Many powerful people believe that the days of educational inequality are done and have moved to lift court orders that require integration.
In 1972, due to strong federal enforcement, only about 25 percent of black students in the South attended schools in which at least nine out of 10 students were racial minorities. In districts released from desegregation orders between 1990 and 2011, 53 percent of black students now attend such schools according to an analysis by ProRepublica - Nicole Hannah Jones, reporter for the New York Times Magazine in Segregation Now
If you want to know what happens in 2016 when black families try to secure a better education for their children in affluent school districts, I cannot recommend The Problem We All Live With highly enough.
It's not so much that minority students need to be close to the white skin of their peers; they need the benefit of the opportunities, the experienced teachers, and the funding they don't receive in their inferior neighborhood schools.
We are all in this together. The inequality and instability that have become the hallmark of black urban neighborhoods threaten the stability of our entire country. We must come together to find solutions to this pressing problem.