In 1962, 85 percent of white Americans told Gallup that black children had as good a chance as white kids of getting a good education. The next year, in another Gallup survey, almost half of whites said that blacks had just as good a chance as whites of getting a job.

    In retrospect, we can see that these white beliefs were delusional, and in other survey questions whites blithely acknowledged racist attitudes. In 1963, 45 percent said that they would object if a family member invited a black person home to dinner.

    My hunch is that we will likewise look back and conclude that today’s calls for racial justice, if anything, understate the problem — and that white America, however well meaning, is astonishingly oblivious to pervasive inequity.


I wonder how much of this is our general American ignorance to the fact that our experiences shape us in ways beyond our control. We want to imagine that anyone can rise above the circumstances of their past, and that it's a moral failure not to do so, even though that's demonstrably bullshit. I'd bet even today you'd get a fair number of people who would claim that poor children had just had just a good chance at getting a good education.

But when race is a factor, I admit there's more to overcome than just poverty. I'm only just starting to learn that in the past few years. I was basically taught in my Northeastern US, all white suburban school that racism was a thing of the past, defeated in the 1960s by Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, and that the remaining racists were essentially akin to pedophiles: dirty minded, corrupt people who hid everywhere unseen and were to be quickly burned at the stake when discovered. The school didn't teach us about how ordinary people could be racist without realizing it, how much casual racism was still around, and how easy it was to be susceptible to it. We're a long way from getting it.

This is why it's so important not to be violent or antagonistic, though. If we're all going to finally "get it" that systemic racism exists, the dialogue needs to be educational, not antagonistic. We won't get anywhere from people shouting at each other.

posted by illu45: 852 days ago