Now what?

Opinion: Columns

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By Kwame Salter

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

Martin Luther King Jr.

 

What the hell is going on? Dominating the headlines is a petulant and vindictive President spewing lies and urging his supporters to attack the very government he swore to protect. 

What resulted was a deadly insurrection attempt being popularized as a "protest" against a legitimate election — incited by the sitting President. While many claim (and they might be right) that Trump is mentally unstable, I have been more concerned about his lack of empathy and inability to take in any information that does not reinforce his biases. He is, in a phrase, "learner blocked." As the days of the Trump administration wind down, I am reflecting on what comes next for us as a nation.

Will we be able to reconcile the stark differences that threaten to further divide and separate us? What is causing or contributing to furthering this division? While I don't have the answers to these questions, I do have some opinions. For example, I would submit that the "the weasel in the woodpile" is systemic racism. 

Systemic racism is the triumph of racialized policies and practices over the principle of equal opportunity for all. Systemic racism gives access to societal privileges by one group of people over another based on the belief that one group is superior to another. While not all white Americans exercise their inherent privileges, Black Americans lack even access to these racially coded privileges. 

Systemic racism didn't start with police killings of unarmed Blacks. It started with the genocidal policy toward indigenous people. Similarly, enslaved Africans, because of the color of their skins, became the target for exclusion and marginalization. Systemic racism should not be confused with bigotry and racial stereotypes. The Archie Bunker type of racist is simply a tool who puts a face on a system that has corrupted every institution in this country.

Systemic racism is the codification of beliefs designed to keep certain groups marginalized. Once installed, it does not require that racists meet and plan on how to keep Blacks in a ditch of despair and destitution. The American system of racism is now autonomous and self-perpetuating. American racism does not need or require whites to be overt racists — all they need to do is remain silent. 

This silence is practiced and loud. Every transgression against Black people is rationalized by pulling up old arrest records of the victims. It appears that if the person was arrested years ago for shoplifting, execution on the streets and corners of America today by police is justifiable homicide. Go figure. 

The police are not in Black communities to mainly protect and serve. Rather, they are dispatched to patrol and profile. And if the denizens of these ghettos are found outside of daylight working hours in a white community, it is assumed that they are intruders intent upon committing some heinous act(s). 

The white community has been convinced that a black interloper, regardless of his/her purpose, is a clear and imminent danger to their safety and way of life. What is the basis of this fear? Have Blacks enslaved whites, lynched white people, or attacked the very symbols of our government while wearing Nazi paraphernalia and waving confederate flags? The short answer is no. 

So, what's next? 

In the spirit of offering solutions, I make the following modest proposal:

1. Speak out against both subtle and blatant racism even with family/friends

2. Avoid all media bubbles that ill-inform, mis-inform and under-inform 

3. Stop with the stereotypes on all sides

4. Establish the America ideal of "justice for all" as our national creed

5. Hold our elected officials accountable for what they do and say

6. Be a role model for our children

7. Make the vision of America as the lighthouse of freedom and democracy a reality

As Martin Luther King Jr. put it so eloquently, "We will go out and adjourn the councils of despair and bring new light into the dark chambers of pessimism. And this will be a great America and we will be participants in making it so."

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