Ending Racism: A Proposal.

America has a problem with racism that we have not yet adequately addressed. Sure, we passed the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but those actions didn’t actually solve racism. Far from it. They merely altered it by making it somewhat less obvious and making it uncomfortable for racist white people to express their inner feelings.

Then along came Donald Trump and his attacks on political correctness, which freed racists to make public their long-held beliefs. In a way, such displays of overt racial hatred along with Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem can be seen as a good thing by bringing the issue back to the forefront. And I would suggest that it’s long overdue.

The problem stems from the fact that the US stands virtually alone in refusing to acknowledge its ugly past. For example, after Germany was defeated in World War II, it was forced to deal with the reality that it had committed genocide. As a result, it created memorials to those who were killed in Nazi death camps. It created textbooks for children detailing the horrors and explaining Hitler’s rise to power. And it banned any positive references to Nazism. It even banned the sale of copies of Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Only recently has Germany again permitted the sale of the book, and only then if it includes notations regarding Nazi crimes.

Other nations have faced their ugly pasts is a similar manner. But the US refuses to do so. Our textbooks have been scrubbed of most references to the genocide of Native Americans. Likewise, they address slavery in a superficial, sanitized manner. And, instead of creating memorials to the victims of our genocide and to the victims of slavery, we have memorials to those who committed these vile acts. The former Confederate States of America have largely refused to acknowledge that their secession was motivated by their desire to continue the enslavement of blacks. Indeed, these states still celebrate the Confederacy, its leaders and, until recently, they still flew the Confederate battle flag.

There has been no restitution to the former slaves and their families. Indeed, the idea that they were given 40 acres and a mule is largely a myth. Lacking resources and possessions – and, in many cases, even a sense of family – following their emancipation many former slaves were employed by their former masters and corporations through a more acceptable form of economic slavery. As a result, today, more than 150 years after the end of the Civil War, we are still plagued by racism. Our schools are even more segregated now than during the late 1960s. And it has been estimated that it will take 228 years for the average black family to accumulate the wealth of the average white family!

Obviously, we have a problem.

So how can we fix it? How can we level the playing field for the descendants of African slaves and the Native Americans who had their land, their way of life and their identities stolen by our ancestors? How can we restore the well-being of cultures that were so thoroughly defeated and depressed? The answers are far more complicated than most white Americans are likely willing to accept. But I’ll make the attempt.

The solution to racism must begin with our nation, like Germany, finally acknowledging our past transgressions. As any therapist can tell you, there can be no healing as long as there is denial. And since the lingering effects of those impacted by our past actions are largely economic, we must work to provide blacks and Native Americans with opportunities. We must improve their education systems, making certain that they have the same resources and school budgets as our most affluent white suburbs. For those working in low-paying jobs, we must raise the minimum wage to a living wage. We must finally commit to universal healthcare so that all families have equal access to prenatal and childhood healthcare. We must commit to universal pre-school which has been proven to level the playing field and create lasting change. We must make certain that all families have food stability and access to healthy foods, which have been shown to improve performance in schools. We must commit to rebuilding our infrastructure, offering high-paying jobs to those without college degrees.

We must require national standards and training for those in law enforcement to eliminate racism within police departments and to ensure that all citizens are treated equal. We must end predatory city and community laws that treat citizens as a source of income for minor violations. We must pass universal background checks for gun purchases and pass other safety measures to get guns out of the hands of criminals and off of our streets. We should decriminalize and regulate drugs in order to rid the streets of predatory drug dealers. We should treat addictions with treatment instead of prison time. For the 1 in 9 black men who have already been sentenced to prison – often for petty, non-violent crimes – we should commit to rehabilitation programs to help them integrate back into society when they are eventually released.

And, most important of all, we should commit to thoroughly investigating every single claim of racist behavior – especially racism committed by those in power.

All of that may seem expensive and daunting, but it is all necessary. There can be no shortcuts – no half measures. After all, our nation benefited greatly from the labor of slaves and the resources stolen from natives. The problem of racism in this country has existed for centuries. It cannot be fixed easily or quickly.

And, if you’re wondering how our nation can pay for all of these things, just look to the cost overruns on the Pentagon’s weapons systems, such as the F-35 joint strike fighter – a fighter that has exceeded its budget by tens of billions of dollars. Also, you should consider the cost to society of not addressing racism – the cost of incarceration, lost tax revenue and the lost contributions from those who have neither the education nor the opportunity to shine.

Symbols Matter.

Following the shooting of 9 people at a Bible study group in Charleston, South Carolina, some wonder why so many have called for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the statehouse grounds. They claim that the flag is flown to commemorate the state’s history and those who died in service of the Confederacy. It’s a matter of honoring their ancestors, they say.


Since the nation’s largest ethnic group is German, should we then permit states to fly the Nazi flag on their capitol grounds as a way to honor those who died for the fatherland?

After all, there’s little difference. Both flags were used by enemies of the United States to help them identify their comrades on the battlefield. Both represented racist ideologies – the misguided belief in Caucasian superiority over all other races. Both flags are offensive to those who were victims of those ideologies. And both flags would be better erased from our collective memories.

Relegating these symbols to a museum as President Obama suggests is a fate better than they deserve. As the comedian John Oliver suggests, they “…should really only be seen on T-shirts, belt buckles and bumper stickers to help the rest of us identify the worst people in the world.“

Is Another Civil War Inevitable?

Some on the right believe so. To examine that dire possibility, it’s necessary to look at history – the issues that led to the Civil War and the issues created by the defeat of the Confederacy. As any school child knows, the cause of the Civil War was slavery. The primary reason the Union won was its manufacturing power. And, following the war, the South was left in poverty, even resenting the attempts of the North to help restore its institutions and economy.

While the South suffered and chafed at what it considered northern meddling, following the Civil War, the North went back to business as usual, happy that its boys were no longer dying. It never believed that its culture was all that different from the South. Sure, there were the stereotypes that anyone with a southern drawl was slow; that they didn’t believe in education and hard work. There were jokes that, in the South, a family reunion was a great place to pick up chicks. But few people in the North held a grudge.

Attitudes in the South were entirely different. Rather than admitting the war was initiated by slavery, it called the Civil War the “War of Northern Aggression.” And though the Confederacy surrendered, the South has never really admitted defeat. It kept its own identity; its distinct culture; and, of course, its racism.

You’ve heard the phrase, “The South Will Rise Again?” Well, it has – at least politically. The states of the old Confederacy are now almost completely red, with Republican governors, Republican-controlled legislatures, Republican US senators and mostly Republican congressional representatives. Like the Confederacy, today’s elected officials from the South believe in states’ rights and they have an almost universal contempt for the federal government.

In fact, the second Civil War has already begun. But, so far, it has been confined to a culture war. Rather than build their own business, southern states seem intent on taking corporations and jobs away from the North. And, to some extent, they’ve succeeded. In search of low-paid labor and lower taxes, many corporations have abandoned their places of origin and moved south, leaving the cities and former employees to wallow in poverty. Southern states have even succeeded in swaying the nomenclature to their benefit. While northern states are now known as the “Rust Belt,” southern states are known as the “Sun Belt.”

Yet the biggest differences can be measured in terms of faith, poverty, education and tax contributions to the federal government. Most of the northern states contribute far more in federal taxes than their southern counterparts. Indeed, most of the southern states receive far more in expenditures than they contribute. The southern states routinely rank among the most underfunded public schools and at the bottom with regard to the level of education. And most of the people in the southern states are devout followers, believing that their impoverished circumstances are an act of God; that they will succeed if they only pray harder.

While the South has a relatively uniform identity, the North is much more diverse. States like California, New York, Minnesota and Washington have little in common with Montana, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota and New Hampshire. About the only thing they share is the climate.

And though the Civil War represented a clash over slavery, it was also urban versus rural; manufacturing versus farming; the educated versus the uneducated. For the most part, those differences haven’t changed. Certainly, there are large cities, large manufacturing plants and large universities in the modern South. But the culture divide remains and, following the last 4 national elections, the divide seems to be widening.

For example, Arizona (now part of the South) has already passed a nullification bill that would challenge any federal law or regulation its legislature deems “unconstitutional.” Can the rest of the South be far behind? Even though the bill is likely to be vacated by federal courts, the attitude will remain. The southern states would rather spend the millions of dollars required to challenge the federal government than to spend the money improving their schools, nurturing business start-ups, maintaining the environment and creating jobs.

Where all of this conflict will end is uncertain.