Is America racist?
Got your attention, didn’t I?
Just daring to ask the question provokes a cage match response.
In the last week, rather than focus on the transformational plans laid out by President Biden, cable news and online discussions have been consumed by this question.
U.S. Senator Tim Scott, R-SC, led emphatically with “America is not a racist country.”
President Biden has waded in: “I don’t think the American people are racist, but I think after 400 years, African Americans have been left in a position where they are so far behind the eight ball in terms of education and health, in terms of opportunity… I don’t think America is racist, but I think the overhang from all of the Jim Crow and before that, slavery, have had a cost and we have to deal with it.”
In the same week, the chair of the Louisiana House Education Committee Republican State Rep. Ray Garofalo went as far to say that Louisiana’s public schools should be required to teach the “good” of slavery when discussing our racial history. Of course, there is no “good” side of slavery as fellow Republican State Rep. Stephanie Hilferty was quick to respond.
And U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, has once again gone on the attack against the 1619 Project, mischaracterizing its main thesis by saying what it teaches the country is “inherently evil.”
As Nikole Hannah-Jones has noted in her essay and more recently in interviews, Black Americans have seen and experienced some of the worst of America but still believe in its best.
For all of the debate about the 1619 Project’s indication that slavery was central to our nation from our beginnings, we’ve lost sight of the fact that the lost cause mythology — which has been fed to us for the last 150 years — was complete fiction.
I love America. If you love our country, if you love your fellow Americans, you should want to address the biggest threat that stands in our way of all succeeding together. We cannot continue to look the other way. We cannot reach our greatest potential if the scourge of racism, this nations’ achilles heel, continues to hold us back.
This is not an indictment of every American or even the American people writ large. It is a statement aspiring to live up to our country’s ideals.
We cannot deny the long legacy of slavery and Jim Crow, including 100 years of legalized discrimination against Black Americans following the abolition of slavery. We will continue to outline the many ways in which systems disproportionately and negatively impact Black people or intentionally assist white people today. In 2021, we still have countless visible examples of the way racism is built into the DNA of our systems–from banking to criminal justice to education.
Refusing to have this debate is not an option. I’m glad we’re actually talking about the elephant in the room. A nation divided against itself cannot stand.
Founder & President, E Pluribus Unum