I like metaphors. Here’s one for you: America is like a adult that has emotional issues and the need for therapy. Many of its problems stem from childhood and have gone unchecked for decades resulting in a nation with broken pieces hidden under fine clothing. Iyanla Vanzant says, “A stable and nurturing childhood is essential for the healthy psycho-emotional and spiritual development of a human being,” and I’d like for America to be healthier than it is, starting with race relations. We didn’t have a stable and nurturing childhood though. Ours was a childhood steeped in war and dissension, slavery and injustice, but we’ve kept growing and have not put to rest the issues that have grown alongside the nation.
I don’t have to preface this discussion with my stance on race issues, but I will, for the sake of those of you that don’t know me personally. I’m color blind; what I see, instead, are character, culture, integrity, or a lack thereof. I’ve always believed that racial tension, in the present day, stems more from cultural differences than bigotry alone. We don’t all talk the same, we don’t dress the same, and we don’t all worship in the same manner, if we worship at all. What one ethnic groups holds dear, another ethnic group has little regard for. The complex aspect of the equation is that we are living in 2014 and the United States still needs therapy and rehabilitation surrounding the subject of racism. I don’t have an issue, but it’s apparent that many of us do have the race monkey on our backs that we just can’t shake.
As a case in point, let’s revisit an incident that recently transpired on the culturally diverse campus of Ole Miss (aka The University of Mississippi). It’s just as diverse as the rest of the nation, check the Quick Facts for yourself. Three Caucasian students chose to put a noose around the neck of a statue of Civil Rights hero and the university’s first student of color, James Meridith. Evidently, he’s only considered a hero by a specific population, because these three guys don’t seem to think highly of him. As the story goes, the subjects hung the noose around the neck of the statue and placed a Georgia flag, bearing the symbol of the Confederacy, over the statue’s face. If that ain’t racist, then sugar ain’t sweet.
Such occurrences are common throughout the American college scene, but the antagonists aren’t always white and the protagonists aren’t always black. Why though? Why is racial prejudice and discrimination still rampant in the year 2014? My hypothesis is that it’s because we never talk about it! Sure, we discuss it with our friends and associates from the same cultural backgrounds, but those are the wrong folks to try and rehabilitate. The folks that need to be gathered around the table are the bigots from all sides, who must then be encouraged to verbalize why they feel the way that they do, publicly. Don’t punish those three students in private, fine them, or imprison them without first having them publicly voice their sentiments. This is a national issue and it should be addressed on the national scale. “What will support any relationship is clear, complete and conscious conversations when upsets or breakdowns occur” says Iyanla Vanzant. We need complete conversations about the cause/effects of Michael Dunn’s and George Zimmerman’s actions, not just news updates.
Dave Chappelle and Richard Pryor are about as close as the American public has ever gotten to overt, direct race-based dialogue. Every now and then, a reputable (or least a well-known) media outlet will add a footnote to the discussion, but nothing major. It’s worthy of nationwide discussion. We must first admit that racism is a national problem and has created problems that demands for equality alone won’t fix. We must discuss history and reality to uncover that Americans aren’t just Black, White, and Brown. We must learn to acknowledge that we are Irish, Spanish, Nigerian, Greek, Jewish, Swedish, Polish, Egyptian, Korean, Vietnamese, etc.
The longer we run away from our past and hide from the skeletons in our closet, the more our wounds will become infected. Until we undergo therapy on the national and community levels, racism will continue to erode the foundation of our country. Housing projects didn’t help, affirmative action was a start, no one knows how immigration legislation has changed over the years, so we’ve got work to do people. We need to fix this nation’s life. Iyanla Vanzant for president anyone? I’m sure she’d be the first President since Lincoln to try an tackle racial disparities head on.