As regular readers know, I have a group of friends—all of whom have blogs—that bands together for one post per month on a round-robin topic.
This month’s subject, posed by Will Pora, confounded more than a few of us:
Have we gotten closer to or further from racial equality?
The topic arrived at a pertinent time. Numerous recent world events have highlighted extreme tensions between nationalities, government systems, ethnicities, races, and religions.
Do I need to enumerate them?
Black deaths in the United States at the hands of law enforcement, none of which resulted in indictments. Murder of French journalists at the hands of Muslim extremists. North Korea accused of hacking Sony due to concerns about a film’s depiction of Kim Jong Un.
And race relations in the United States seem to have received heightened attention—or perhaps I’ve only grown more attuned to the discussion due to musing on Will’s prompt. In recent weeks, the following items hit my radar:
- “Selma,” a star-studded blockbuster film about Martin Luther King’s campaign for equal voting rights for blacks hit theaters.
- National Public Radio interviewed President Barack Obama about race relations in the United States. (Watch the interview here.)
- Dating site OK Cupid published research into race and dating based on its extensive user database.
- In the New York Times, Sendhil Mullainathan reported on numerous studies by different researchers showing racial bias in hiring decisions, medical care, sales, housing, educational opportunities, legislation, the criminal-justice system and community relations.
We may feel race relations have grown worse due to the increasing attention to tensions in the news today.
Yet I’ll stand with President Obama in feeling that the coverage of these events—and the resulting broad outcry of indignation and outrage—shows willingness to bear witness to the ugly aspects of our society that we’d rather not face.
When we bring awful facts to light, rather than sweep them away in horror and embarrassment, we encourage dialogue. And dialogue means progress. When we stay silent, we perpetuate ignorance. Bringing issues into a public forum incites change—even if it means conflagration in the short term.
And I hope the strife of today proves an inflection point into a better future.
Yet real change happens incrementally. Today’s troubles won’t make tomorrow perfect. We have very, very far to go. As Pew Research Center found in the summer of 2013, race equality will prove a work in progress for a long time.
Further, cascading disparities in racial socioeconomics, education, demographics, health care, and more have grown endemic—so much so that they’ve become culture and subculture. These divisions won’t erase quickly or easily.
Keep striving, my friends. We have work to do.
And on the broader question, about tension in the world increasing or decreasing, I’ve written most pointedly on the topic in my post about human nature and intolerance. I still stand by that article’s points.
Significant progress on race relations won’t make for a world without tension. Peace on earth has never existed—and likely never will. (As much as I love the notion.)
What do you think?
Have we grown closer to or further from racial equality?
P.S.—Want to see how my blog friends answered Will’s question?