Two Americas

Black and whiteThe Zimmerman trial exposed what many are unwilling to acknowledge: there remains a deep racial divide in this country.

The Washington Post released poll numbers yesterday on the verdict, but the issue is really deeper:

In the Post-ABC News poll, 86 percent of African Americans say blacks and other minorities do not get equal treatment under the law. The number of whites saying so is less than half as large, at 41 percent. A majority of whites, 54 percent, say there is equal treatment for minority groups.

The president, who is a year younger than I, spoke on the issue of race last week. It wasn’t much different from what I wrote three years ago.

There’s simply too much at stake in maintaining the status quo, in staying in this comfortable place where we don’t talk about racism and prejudice and their effects, where we continue to live the lie that everything is OK. We’ve come a long way since the various civil rights acts, but the distance we have yet to travel is equally as far and much more difficult.

I spent a lot of years involved in race relations, even co-founding a local group to face the issue. I used to keep a copy of Peggy McIntosh’s article (pdf) on the coffee table in my office, as a conversation starter. But I wearied of fighting the same battle over and over – at least the battle publicly.  It made me angry and sad, two emotions that can overwhelm. I’ve no doubt that’s what prompted the president’s response.

Roger Simon nailed it this morning.

Race? That box has been checked. Race is so … last week.

And now we can move on as a nation to resume our national silence.

Yep. As much as things change, they remain the same.


13 thoughts on “Two Americas

  1. Maybe 20 or even 10 years ago you could make that argument, but today if you substitute class/economic status for race then everything equalizes, or comes damn close to equalizing, as far as outcomes in education and the criminal justice system.

    For the most part, our race issues come from the top down, not the bottom up. It’s the politicians in both parties who have the most vested in the status quo not the “proletariat.”

      1. I do still ride the bus. I hear more people complaining about about racism from politicians than I’ve ever heard people talk about racism from people they know or their boss or whatever. It’s always about what so and so said on TV, not what someone said in their neighborhood. I’d say race relations among bus riders are great because they are generally in the same socio-economic class.

        So I’ll say it again, it’s about class, not race. A 16 year old black kid with parents that have 6 figure incomes is statistically just as likely to succeed as a 16 year old white kid in a similar economic situation. A black youth charged with a crime has just a good a chance in the legal system if they have a good lawyer as a white youth. White or black, the justice system is going to chew you up and spit you out without a lawyer or if you hire a bad lawyer.

        Can anyone really say with a straight face that George Zimmerman would have been acquitted, all things being equal, if he had to go with a public defender?

        1. Max – it’s only partially about economics. The rest is about race. Let me give you an example.

          A couple of weeks ago, I met a friend for lunch in a nice restaurant in Virginia Beach. After the waiter visited our table about 3 times and still wouldn’t even look at me, I mentioned it to my friend. She hadn’t noticed. That’s white privilege.

          When the waiter returned again, asking about dessert, she noticed that he only looked at her and spoke to her. Then she made it a point of literally forcing him to speak to me, by asking me my opinion on the desserts.

          When he brought the check, he handed it directly to her, not placing it on the table between us as generally happens.

          Two business women having lunch in a nearly empty restaurant. The only difference was she was white.

          That’s not economics. That’s racism.

          1. I’ll concede that’s racism, but it’s racism rooted in economics, not necessarily (though it certainly could have been) skin color. Not to minimize or demean your experience, but the exact opposite happens to me when I’m out with people who are clearly Jewish. But is that anti-semetism?

            I think the best analogy is how the GOP treats minority voters. Everyone makes the argument the GOP is racist because they want to suppress the minority vote. That’s a great talking point, but the reality is they want to suppress the minority vote because they vote overwhelmingly Democratic. And back to the Jewish reference, people say its anti-semetic to say Jew’s control the media. Except they do…

            So Republicans want to suppress Democratic voters, people who happen to be Jewish run the media, and many people who work at restaurants think black people tip less. So where do we draw the line between which of those statements are racist and which are just stupid, or not so stupid, sterotypes?

  2. It’s something we need to come to grips with. The Census Bureau now projects that the United States will be a minority-majority country by 2043. Regionally, 4 of the 7 cities are now minority-majority.

    Virginia Beach’s demographic changes have been dramatic: 21% minority at the 1990 Census, 30% at the 2000 Census, 35% at the 2010 Census, and projected to be minority-majority by the 2040 Census. It’s become the proverbial “elephant in the room” of Beach politics, as both the Establishment and fringe right do their best publicly to ignore what’s happening. (Truth of the matter is that it wrecks both camps’ political dreams.)

    As we go from a country (and region & city) whose politics have been dominated by a White establishment to living in a place that is minority-majority, it will have some profound political ramifications on how we are governed and what the service matrix will look like.

  3. “many people who work at restaurants think black people tip less”

    That’s racism, not economics. By definition, lumping people together on the basis of skin color is racism.

    And that in no way explains the behavior of the waiter to ignore me, for the entire meal, especially when he had no idea which of us was going to be paying the bill. (He was lucky it wasn’t me, BTW)

    The issue of antisemitism is another whole kettle of fish, and one on which I do not feel qualified to speak.

    1. I guess my point is that I think there is a key difference between people who discriminate based on skin color and people who discriminate based on sterotypes that they generally associate with a skin color. I’ve met a lot of people in the GOP you could consider racist. Only one of those people said it had to do with the difference in skin color. The rest just disliked minorities because they voted Democratic.

      Is either view more racist than the other or are they both equally as bad?

      1. Disliking minorities because they vote Democratic is still singling out a group based on race and is, therefore, racist. I don’t think there are degrees of racism. (Can someone be just “a little” racist?)

        (And I note that the economic argument fails completely here.)

  4. There are two many people on the right and the left that profit from the status que. Throw the media/news complex into the mix and the waters are further muddled .White, Black, Hispanic, Asian. The price of truth and self reflection is to much to high a price to pay for millions of people. Things will continue as they are. The fault is not in our stars but in our selves

  5. A couple things come to mind in reading both the main story and the succeeding comments.

    I agree racial issues are almost never discussed in informal settings between persons of different races but they are most certainly discussed between people of the same race outside the earshot of those folks under discussion.

    Race is such a touchy issue. People get mad, people get angry and more times then not the only factor that brings them together in concenus, is people of their own race. The Martin trial and subsequent verdict are perfect

    Some of our differences in opinions are not just racial but go deeper into modern cultural differences. I watched the video posted here earlier about the preacher giving his take on the trial. At one point, a young women repeatedly stated that virtually all serial killers were middle aged white men. If we are to believe what she says is fact; can we then say she is simply stating a fact or is she making a racist comment that went unchallenged?

    I recall sometime back going in to the cafeteria where I work (a very racially diverse company) and took notice of where all the folks were sitting. The older black employees were grouped together as were the older white employees. The older hispanics also sat together . Interestingly, among the younger employees, I detected no distinctions as far as race went; not saying this was anything scientific, just the way it was that day. Maybe things are changing a little at a time.

  6. “By definition, lumping people together on the basis of skin color is racism.”

    But does doing that, in any circumstance, then make one a racist?

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