American race relations are getting worse by the day. With the decision not to prosecute the New York officer who killed Eric Garner in a choke hold, we’ve moved into new, scary territory.
In the shooting death of Michael Brown, many facts remain in dispute. So, white folks like me can still comfort ourselves that maybe it was just a terrible misunderstanding, certainly an aberration. But between grand jury acquittals and recent research (see, for examples, the studies on excessive force, arrest rates, incarceration rates, and execution rates noted by Today's Christian Woman), we’re beyond aberration territory. We white folks who are so desperate to put this race thing behind us—especially those of us who lived through the Civil Rights Era up through the election of Barack Obama—are likely to despair.
More to the point: in light of recent events, we whites are confronted with a reality that we find hard to admit, that we have no idea what it’s like to be a black person in America. We like to imagine we can be empathetic to the point of understanding anyone, but if recent events show us anything, it’s how much we don’t understand.
Even the construction of that last two paragraphs signals a deep problem. The divisions between blacks and whites in America are so deep, none of us can pretend to speak for all of us. You either address this issue as a black person or as a white person. Our biases cannot be washed away under the banner of “Can’t we all be one?” We are not. So let’s not pretend that we are. And let’s write from our perspective, as frankly and as fairly as we are able.
We at CT have covered racism and reconciliation many times in ...1