Race in America: Stuck in a Rut




 I watch the Ferguson 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 explosion 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 to 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. Ugly and uglier until it explodes once again.

 I’m tired of liberals consumed with their entitlements debunking economics as schemes of corporate giants, damning dissenters as sellouts.

 I’m sick of Tea Partiers insisting everyone can make it if they work hard enough, then refusing to hire minorities because only whites work hard enough.

 I’m weary of Blacks who believe whites and the system they’ve made are hopelessly racist, thereby reinforcing despair and accusing those who make it of being traitors.

 I’ve had it with the corporate leaders extolling competition while striving to eliminate it, rejecting all ethics in the name of profit, stripping workers of the rewards of their labor, casting middle class workers into poverty and the nation into crisis.

 Anyone caught listening to anyone of a different group is liable to expulsion. Those who repeat the same stale, time-worn slogans are “sticking to their guns,” “know their own minds.” stalwart heroes of the battle.” The celebration of closed minds. 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, and 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, when blacks let whites help change white attitudes and discover their own power within the system, and 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, leaving us all to weep at the mess we’ve created.

Ferguson 2

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