Joe Klein calls for addressing race relations in a “thoughtful, provocative way”:
You can’t convict a terrified, undertrained cop of murder for trying to defend himself, if that’s what the facts show–but all too often in the past, we’ve exonerated racist thugs who were clearly guilty. We can’t ignore the barbarity that got us here: lynching was a fact, too, not a metaphor. Oddly, the election of Barack Obama–poor guy–has blunted the conversation about race relations, at least on the white side. We elected a black man with a Muslim name to be President. What other country would do that? The conversation has also been blunted, honorably, by the President himself in the face of some of the most tawdry race-baiting since Selma. And it has been blunted by leaders of the black community, who don’t want to harm Obama’s presidency by criticizing him. In a recent New Republic article, Jason Zengerle makes a strong case that hatred of Obama mobilized Alabama conservatives to take over the state legislature in 2010 and strip black officials of the power they had gained since the 1960s.
How’s this for provocative? We don’t have a problem with race relations. Our problem is the bungling of the aftermath of the American Civil War. We have never, here’s that word, integrated the sons and daughters of former slaves into the fabric of American society.
As long as we treat the problem as one of race relations rather than the problems we’ve imposed upon some black people we will continue to proffer solutions that benefit people who do not belong to the group of black people experiencing the problems and haven’t experienced those problems. e.g. Barack Obama, Eric Holder, and Colin Powell (the son of Jamaican immigrants).
As Faulkner put it, the past is never dead. It isn’t even past.