Only a Mindset Change is the Solution to America’s Racism
America is a deeply polarized place. Legalized discrimination related to land ownership, voting rights, or slavery is not practiced anymore but the gap between ‘white’ and ‘colored’ is unbudging when it comes to unemployment rates, homeownership rates, or criminal justice. And if you think money moves this world, it is enough saying that Whites in America are 10 times wealthier than the Blacks.
Some more stats:
- Black women are at least thrice more likely to die during pregnancy than equally rich and educated white women. (A National Partnership report)
- Resumes with “white names” get two times more callbacks than Blacks (A Poverty Action Lab report)
- In NYC, 88% of the people held back by the U.S police were either Blacks or Hispanics; it is quite insightful that 70% of them weren’t guilty at all. (An NY Civil Liberties Union data)
By now the whole world knows about the 9 minutes of insanity that led to the death of George Floyd. Four police officers against one, Floyd was handcuffed and forced to lie face down. The situation worsened when one of the officers knelt on his neck and maintained the chokehold despite Floyd’s repeated pleas of breathlessness (Please, the knee in my neck, I can’t breathe). Floyd was dead in minutes.
A dead black man has turned into a Cause. As sad as the death is, what would be sadder is the Cause dying or fading away without bringing the changes American racism sorely needs because then, George Floyd will have been dead for nothing.
But it is always going to be a difficult fight.
Recently we learned that a Corrections officer and a FedEx man were suspended for publicly re-enacting Floyd’s death (the chokehold). Their goal was to taunt the protesters. If in less than a month of a black person’s tragic death, people have the heart to deal with it mockingly, we get an idea of the extent of racial prejudice we have to battle against.
Heeding global outcry in the aftermath of the event, some kind of police reform may even come about. Democrats propose anti-racism training, a ban on chokeholds, and criminalizing police abuse. Under the circumstances, the final bill (toned down) that goes to the Prez may even get his signatures. But is that ever going to be all?
What we see in America today is a product of a racist mindset. For a unified democracy like America, this mindset is an appalling failure and beats the chief reason behind the American Revolution.
There are two angles through which we can observe the events:
What America has witnessed since last month is a knee-jerk response (pun not intended) to Floyd’s death. We will be myopic to think of it as a change in mindset. Yes, white people have been regularly checking on blacks for any help they can offer, they have been sending cash, slogans of All Lives Matter have changed to Black Lives Matter, and honestly, there is more. But as said, this is a reflexive response to the tragic event.
Only once the mist of the death that has got many Whites carried away clears can we look objectively. And that will be a good time to find whether a mindset change is occurring in America or not. One thing is a given: with the president stating, “Floyd was not a good person” and that he was a “symbol of broken culture in Black America today”, White supremacists don’t have to look far for support.
Trump’s stance is politically driven. In an election where race relations are expected to be a crucial factor, he is going broke on the Whites. When Hillary Clinton went the Black way, it went bust for her. Trump is playing safe. Only that the prez isn’t bigger than the tide of history and there is no telling which way the turtle will turn.
Looking from a different angle, maybe, for all our money, the turtle is actually turning. After all, Michael Brown’s or Eric Garner’s death did not bring the country to a standstill (or a maelstrom) anywhere close to what we have been witnessing currently. There is a feeling that the whites are in a “consciousness camp” where they are deeply introspecting their racial biases.
Hearing Bryan Stevenson, the author of Just Mercy speak, tears rolled off many white eyes. Many thousands are seriously reconsidering their privileges and thinking even more about the kind of social and economic dump in which most of the colored people in America have to live every single day of their lives. Put in fewer words, Americans are not keeping to the sidelines and even the Black cynics feel there is a possible turnaround ahead.
An ABC News/Ipsos poll result is quite revealing. It says that 74% of respondents feel that Floyd’s death confirms “systemic racial discrimination” rather than reflecting a “one-off” event. It is common knowledge that Trump’s polarized campaign 6 years ago had made quite a few White Liberals take note. This had led to the emergence of a protest culture that is finding its climax in this Floyd hour. And put that way, it won’t be a wonder if America uses this hour in history as the fulcrum on which to turn its racist conscience.
Let’s try and understand the difficulties ahead. Racism is not an overnight fad. It’s a sad byproduct of the American Bildungsroman. The country came of age, supported by the pillars of the Industrial Revolution and the black-white divide. The normal citizens don’t know all the facts. And this makes matters more difficult. In 1944, Gunnar Myrdal wrote a book called, “An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy” where he lamented that “a great majority of Whites would give the Negro a substantially better deal if they knew the facts”. American schools are busy reconstructing happy endings for Black leaders like Harriet Tubman and teaching that slavery was not a cause for the Civil War. It’s quite like the North Koreans changing history, citing that the Korean war was started by America when it was clearly started by them. Or maybe like Germans who did not talk for 35 years about the 6 million Jews that Hitler killed.
When Citizens are taught the wrong history and force-fed untruths, what you get is not quite unlike what happened to Lebert.F.Lester II. In the late ’70s, he was building a sandcastle when a girl joined him. They were both 8 or 9. In a moment, the girl’s father came and took her away. The girl returned and told Lester, “Why don’t you just go in the water and wash it off?”. She meant his skin color. That’s how deep the myth of color is.
When America treated its soldiers (First and Second World War) of black descent like inferior citizens at home or the medical students ill-treated ‘black’ cadavers on their dissecting tables, they showed symptoms of a deeper malaise.
As early as 1968, the Kerner Commission had shown that flawed policing and criminal justice system, discrimination in consumer credit practices, voting rights, housing, employment, and schooling had made America deeply divided. Before Lyndon Johnson could think of a cure, America was swept off towards Moon Landing. The Kerner report got side-tracked.
Fifty years on, the gap has only increased.
More blacks are in prison, their chances of a decent education are meager, and the wealth gap is at abnormal levels.
It is not hard to be swept away by the force of demonstrations in the time since Floyd left us. But in the light of how America has created the Black-White dichotomy, even the optimistic ones can only keep their fingers crossed.