Putting on my devil's advocate cloak...
I think that one thing holding the progress of blacks in America is the way their activists are always stirring the pot with regard to race.
The biggest problem is no longer overt racism or even covert or unconscious racism. It's white guilt. White guilt makes whites reticent to associate with or hire or help black people. It make becoming friends more difficult. This is a far bigger problem than the Ku Klux Klan or people who think black folks are inferior or more likely to be crooked or violent.
Black folks need to learn that no white person today owns field slaves, even including folks descended from slave owners. Many folks, like my family, weren't even in the U.S. when slavery was practiced. We feel no responsibility for the aftereffects of slavery. We don't like the implication that it's our responsibility nonetheless.
It's time to get over it and let black people improve their lot so that when it finally happens THEY can claim the victory and not have to give half the credit to helpful white folks or black activists like Rev. Al Sharpton or Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Contrary to hopes and expectations, all of this talk of having a national discussion about race, if pursued, will actually make things worse, not better.
Blacks should just get busy becoming less threatening and less guilt-tripping. Time would be better spent working their way up the economic and educational ladder and rebuilding their family structure. Many of us are quite willing to help, but not based on some mythological guilt.
In the age of racism there were more powerful black intellectuals, because nobody wanted them for their race. Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Zora Neale Hurston, W.E.B. Du Bois, and many others were fully developed, self-made individuals, no matter their various political and ideological bents. Race was not a "talent" that falsely inflated them or won them high position. Today no black intellectual in America, including this writer, is safe from this sort of inflation. The white world is simply too hungry for the moral authority our skins carry. And this is true on both the political left and right. Why did so many black churches have to be the backdrop for Clinton speeches, and why should Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell have to hear Bush crow about their high place among his advisers?
James Baldwin once wrote: "What Europe still gives an American is the sanction, if one can accept it, to become oneself." If America now gives this sanction to most citizens, its institutions still fiercely deny it to blacks. And this society will never sanction blacks in this way until it drops all the mechanisms by which it tries to appease white guilt. Guilt can be a very civilizing force, but only when it is simply carried as a kind of knowledge. Efforts to appease or dispel it will only engage the society in new patterns of dehumanization against the same people who inspired guilt in the first place. This will always be true.
Restraint should be the watchword in racial matters. We should help people who need help. There are, in fact, no races that need help; only individuals, citizens. Over time maybe nothing in the society, not even white guilt, will reach out and play on my race, bind me to it for opportunity. I won't ever find in America what Baldwin found in Europe, but someday maybe others will. (source: The age of white guilt: and the disappearance of the black individual)
When one studies codependency, one learns that helping people often harms them. They come to expect to be helped and it grooms passivity. Decades of programs designed to help the black community have actually had the net effect of institutionalizing poverty and creating a culture of poverty.
While America has become noticeably less racist on all levels, and while many programs and many billions of dollars have been applied to "help" black people, in this period poverty and the destruction of the black family have actually worsened. Why? Do we need more programs or more money? Do we need more Al Sharptons and Jesse Jacksons telling blacks they are too weak to do it themselves, and so they need more white help?
While some might invoke post hoc ergo propter hoc, it seems logical that making it easier to be poor has had the unsurprising effect of fostering poverty. You know, when people feel committed to an idea, and it fails, the dysfunctional response is "we're not doing it well enough; we need to try harder" when really they should stop and rethink the whole thing. And one thing that needs to be rethought is this harping on a racism that has been diminishing while things have been getting worse for black Americans.
Owners drive hiring practices, and this is where most of the left over racism resides (IMHO). It is significant, it is entrenched, and it is not changed by laws (or even economic benefits).
Small businesses are less subject to anti-discrimination laws than larger ones because their employee base is so small that it can't be meaningfully statistically analyzed. Discrimination would almost have to be explicit.
White small business owners may tend to have in the back of their mind, "If I hire this black candidate, is s/he going to be looking for discrimination every time I might pass her/him by or criticize her/his performance? Isn't it safer to just hire a white who I can fire if I need to without worrying about accusations of racial discrimination?" And from a legal standpoint, there's nothing anyone can do about this sort of discrimination.
This is another way that constantly talking about race and racism proves dysfunctional. One might call this covert racism or unconscious racism, but how are you going to fix it? Not by having a national discussion! White business owners need to feel blacks are less sensitized and less militant, not more.
What is your suggestion as opposed to talking about race and racism?
There was a thorough thread about Trayvon Martin, but no one mentioned that if Trayvon had been armed, he would be alive today (thats a concept we didn't really hear from the NRA, did we?). The programs that have helped combat racism; Equal Opportunity, real estate laws, etc. have only nominally worked up to just recently. Hidden cameras now proof out that they weren't working very much at all.
Those same hidden cameras also have shown many of the systems being played (I am thinking of the Acorn scandal). In my industry though, and even in my company, racism exists. I work in a blue collar industry, and typically companies meet quotas with the warehouse staff, but the office is a hockey team.
My companies corporate office resides in an area that is 30% Latino. We have 0% Latinos. We only have 60 people--about 37 of them in that corporate office. Racism, heck yeah. It is the a big reason I am considering leaving my company. My competitors are not so different though, and our customer base is mostly lily white as well.
These differences must be aired, or nothing will be done about them. Nothing in this world is fair, but it helps all of us if the decks are not stacked against a segment of the population determined by their skin color. And they still are, regardless of whether you academically wish it not to be so.
The solution is to stop thinking there's a solution. Stop this incessant talking about it. Why would more of the same function as a solution?
The rest will take time. Forcing people to be nice (or, more likely, forcing them to simulate being nice) can't possibly do more than create resentment among the white folks we'd like to reach while fostering the notion in both whites and blacks that blacks suffer from a certain weakness and inferiority, contributing to the black inferiority complex.
The support systems we've built to "help" the poor have done the opposite by fostering poverty while attempting to fighting it. Minimally, for able-bodied recipients of poverty aid should come a public service obligation, their contribution to the cash-strapped Federal budget from which their funds come.
Well, you say that UnOne, but the same might have been said about forced busing 50 years ago, but it forced Blacks and Whites to get to know each other, to stop thinking so much about them as, "them." and begin thinking about them as, "us."
Yes, but that was justified under equal protection under the law. We need to pursue equal protection in the justice system. However, we've reached a saturation point when it comes to public consciousness over racism. Further dialog just reinforces the false notion in the popular mind that blacks are inferior. They must be because they need so much help. That has to stop. And the black community has to be less passive and take up the job of integrating themselves fully into the economy and public life rather than expecting others or the government to do it for them.
It won't happen overnight, but more talking about it is just retarding progress by making the black community think their problems are somehow administrative and once the government or the churches or other institutions do something, everything will be alright. And that contributes to their racial inferiority complex. An example of how helping hurts.
If intervention might work, why not just have the government order everyone to stop it on pain of going to prison, our "solution" to the drug problem?
Instead of singling out race, as a dividing factor, how about tribalism in general. We need to stop putting so much emphasis on race, creed, nationality, and orientation. How about this, from now on, there's only one tribe. The human tribe. it includes every Homo Sapiens on the planet, not a single one of them are better or higher than another. They should all have the same rights, and should all be governed by one single democratic government, and anything that government tries to enforce, must then be ratified by the people of earth, via popular vote.
1 government, 1 tribe, 1 people, No God.
And yet, here we are, celebrating the atheist tribe, talking about our superiority, their inferiority.