BY JOSH MERLO
The last few months have been rather revealing in terms of how far the United States has to go to in terms of racial relations. Every new week brings new accusations of white policemen harming innocent black citizens; every new week brings new worries of black retaliation against whites. Every new week is a telling commentary of the social fault lines that threaten to shake apart America. Abraham Lincoln was the first president to make any real contributions to lessening the racial separation of this country. A biblical quotation he used – at the time a reference to the importance of the Union’s cohesion – is no less poignant today. As Lincoln famously intoned, recalling Christ’s warning: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
Those who cannot see the obvious divisions in modern America are, to be blunt, blind. Whatever the story, whatever the circumstances, whatever the outcome, issues of race have led to a more segregated America. And yes, the context that surrounds the word “segregation” was intended; implicitly, there is still very much a division among the various races in the United States. To make matters worse, that division is in no way healing or closing. If anything, the black-white separation is growing.
Now, this all should have been prefaced with an admission: I don’t know what it is like to grow up in the ghetto, nor do I know what it’s like to go to an inner city school for my entire education, nor do I know what it’s like to forever be looked upon suspiciously because of my age, my race, my religion or any other factor. This all being said, I do know what it is like to be ignorant. Through little fault of those who raised me and taught me, I developed my own prejudices and biases, discriminatory attitudes that I had to grow out of – anyone can remember these from their childhoods. “I don’t want to go talk to Mr. So-and-So.” “Why?” “He scares me.” “He’s a very nice man. You know that.” “Nope. He’s mean and scary.” For whatever reason, children develop irrational fears of certain things and certain peoples. Over time, these should be out grown; problems emerge when people do not mature enough to go through this process of leaving behind what once scared them. These people grow up, pass on their fears and so bequeath to a new generation a legacy of fear, which transforms over time into hatred. And therein appears the problem.
Americans – and Westerners, for that matter – like to think of themselves as progressive and tolerant people. When they do not act in such a manner – progressively or tolerantly – excuses are made. Rationalizations are given. Justifications are made. However, with racial relations today, how much more time is going to be spent, and how many more lives are going to wasted, dealing with excuses, rationalizations and justifications? Eventually, shouldn’t America open its eyes and see its gigantic cultural blindspot? We are not united. There still is racism today. Whites still are afraid of blacks and so hate them; blacks are still afraid of whites and so hate them. What about Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans? Aren’t they still treated unfairly and unethically because of childish fears of some of our distant relatives? When are we going to grow up? Will it be in time to prevent worse prejudices, worse divisions, worse violence?