The more some tell us that we must ignore race in order to beat racism, the more we see that racism continues to infect a weakened America.
I remember having an opportunity to discuss the issue of race in America a few years back as the only (outspoken) political conservative in the room during a recorded conversation for another leading publication. I sat among a fascinating group of accomplished individuals, ones that I differed with in many regards, from life experiences to political perspectives.
Stephen A. Smith. Cheryl Underwood. Ivy League professor and author Dr. Tricia Rose. NAACP President Ben Jealous. Soledad O’Brien. The Rev. Al Sharpton.
Even then, years after the election of the first African-American president of the United States and in the midst of political, economic, and social turbulence in America, there was one thing that we still -sadly – agreed upon:
Race (Still) Matters in America.
Watching them each speak in varying degrees throughout the national conversation in light of Donald Sterling’s comments only highlights that, despite the issues that may divide us during the competition of political debate, there should be a common patriotism that drives our shared loved for our nation and its pursuits of civil rights and protections under our Constitution. Under that flag of patriotism, there is no room for racism, sexism, agism, or hatred based on diversity – especially if we want to be a strong, proud example for the world to follow.
Yet, in many instances where I bring up this unfortunate but potentially-fatal reality in today’s America, I do not receive the same level of cooperation, dialogue, agreement, and respect that my fellow conversationalists from a few years back currently receive today. In lieu of common sense, social awareness, and political courage, many conservatives are not afforded (through self-imposition or peer pressure) the latitude to speak up on issues of race relations and troubling racial disparities in America, often due to the risk of being called “race-baiters” or “poverty pimps” – two phrases I detest greatly.
However, failing to discuss and address the matter – whether it be as conservatives or liberals, politicos or not – only ignores a stark reality:
Race still matters in America.
Sorry: that is not a reality pushed by “race-baiters” or the like. It is an obstacle that remains within too much of our foundation, only to be (again) brought to the surface of consciousness by the current news cycle.
Recent news made by the Supreme Court, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, and LA Clippers owner Donald Tokowitz Sterling only provides more mirrors to reflect an image of our proud nation that we refuse to embrace and correct out of our collective national ego.
It is true: retracted steps towards educational (and, thus, employment) opportunities, time-traveling comments on the “The Confederate States of America” ,and a rant highlighting the inconsistencies of racial ignorance are shocking to witness, especially in 2014. However, these occurrences only reflect the realities that should shock us into action for the sake of re-strengthening America during the aftermath of a global recession and geopolitical upheaval.
Stubborn unemployment disparities between Blacks and Whites – often when the qualifications are similar or the same – will not dissipate without a collective effort to close education and opportunity gaps. Education gaps will not close as long as children of minorities are more incapable statistically of escaping poor schools and generational poverty. Neither will close as long as evidence shows us that, if we continue this path, everything from one’s political affiliation to one’s family make-up and household economic ceiling can be dangerously predicted if that individual is African-American. And where I hold African-Americans accountable in some regards for our failure at times to maintain a sense of focus, persistence, and togetherness when it comes to taking bold but necessary steps to continue the fight against racism’s legacy in America, I also know that we cannot ignore the reality that this problem is not a matter of just one court decision’s undervaluing of social matters, one rancher’s disconnect with modern-day America, or one businessman’s repugnant viewpoints.
It is clear: we must exude the political courage, the social investment, and the civic and spiritual understanding to confront and defeat one of the prime inhibitors to full American greatness in these modern times. We must embrace the impact that condoning racism or dismissing its entrenched role in many (yet not all) aspects of American life has on our ability to live up to our nation’s highest credos. We must position personal contributions and historic reflection properly in order to right the current course and elevate the current standard. We must accept that the system – although not as broken as it was 50 years ago – is not still functional, meaning that we must sacrifice, act, believe, and progress our nation past the worst of ourselves. Removing one team owner, refuting one land owner in rural America, or rebuffing another court decision does not do enough to close the economic gaps that weaken us as a world power, bridge the employment chasm that keeps generational poverty as an American reality, and teach the academic loss that craft us as an empire in potentially-fatal decline.
And, sorry – we will not be able to do any of these things (nor grasp the full potential of this nation) until we accept the reality that has once again reared its ugly head:
Race still matters in America.
Lenny McAllister is a political analyst and commentator featured on various local, national and international outlets including Al Jazeera America, CNN, the American Urban Radio Network, and Sun News Network. The Pittsburgh-based pundit hosts NightTalk: Get to the Point on the Pittsburgh Cable News Channel on Friday nights. He is also a host at Newsradio 1020 KDKA in Pittsburgh. You can follow the former WVON The Talk of Chicago 1690 AM host on Twitter and Facebook.