Race in America: Stuck in a Rut

Browsing through old blogs, I found this seven-year-old blog (Dec 5, 2014) that seems to sum up my feelings today pretty well. Here, with some revisions, it is:



I watch today’s protests and feel very old, very frustrated, and very discouraged. I watched the same explosions and protests in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. The same outburst of despair and rage, the same fear and panic, the same, the same, the same. A lot has changed. Huge numbers of blacks have become accepted members of mainstream America and mainstream America has become multiracial. Everything has changed; nothing has changed. How can that be?

For me, the answer lies in polarization. My maxim: people who interact only with those like themselves become increasingly ignorant of and hostile toward those who are different. Over the same period, I’ve watched economic, racial, political, and religious groups become sealed-off cells, banging against each other, reciting the same slogans over and over, gaining nothing. Become ugly and uglier until they explode once again.

Polarization prevents change. Radicalized liberals consumed with entitlements continue to pass judgment at the drop of a hat without any legitimate discussion of race.

Traditional conservatives continue to insist everyone can make it if they work hard enough, then refuse to hire minorities because only whites work hard enough.

Despite all change, too many black leaders believe whites and the system they’ve created are hopelessly racist, accusing those who succeed in the white world of being traitors and reinforcing the despair of those who don’t.

So the ever-growing corporate behemoths become ever larger, extolling competition and privatization without acknowledging the loss of the middle class or the increasing poverty. Profit is the sole guide to action without the moral compass that guided earlier generations. And uneducated workers of all races take the brunt of the harm.

Anyone caught listening to or speaking with someone of a different group is liable to be ostracized. Those who repeat the same stale, time-worn slogans are “sticking to their guns,” “know their own minds.” stalwart heroes of the battle.” Everyone is frustrated that they never get anywhere; no one sees that they’ve locked themselves into their own stale fortresses.

And everyone blames government, which behaves very much as they do. The problem with democracy is that we get what we deserve.

We need James Madison, who believed mankind is primarily selfish but can be made better by better systems. His maxim: power corrupts; division of power is essential. It is his view that finally won out at the Constitutional Convention. He believed that when groups realize that it is in their own interest to listen to each other (really consider the merits of the other’s position), productive compromise can result. When liberals acknowledge the importance of economics, capitalists the need for ethics, the problems of distribution, and the rights of workers, we can reduce economic inequality. When blacks let whites help change white attitudes and discover their own power within the system, we can make progress toward racial justice. And when conservatives of all stripes acknowledge that success depends as much on justice as on work—then we can emerge from the rut of racial conflict to which all of the sealed-off groups contribute.

Until then expect more of the same.

Ferguson 2

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