By Eugene Butler, Jr
In the critically acclaimed series The Wire, Marlo, one of the main characters calmly said, “You want it to be one way – but it’s the other way.” I have lived in five states and eight cities. Even though the sample size is relatively small compared to the entire United States and no statistical conclusion can be reached – my anecdotal experiences have been validated.
The true current state of race relations in America is not much better today than it was 50 years ago in 1969. Obviously, African Americans, women and other minorities have access to more opportunities than in the past, but the mentality of many members of the majority population remains the same – stay in your place. Marlo was right!
President Trump tweeted a barrage of negative comments aimed at Rep. Elijah Cummings and his majority-black district which many perceived as being racist. Previously Trump tweeted numerous comments directed at four minority U.S. Congresswomen stating that they should go back to where they came from and “help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” This issue escalated during a rally in North Carolina when attendees chanted “Send her back” when Trump mentioned Rep. Ilhan Omar’s name.
Eugene Butler, Jr. (Courtesy Photo)
In addition, 72 police officers in Philadelphia, my city of birth, were removed from the streets for making racists and offensive comments on Facebook. The investigation culminated with 17 officers suspended and 13 recommended for termination of employment. Several other police departments around the country are addressing similar allegations.
According to a Pew Research Center poll, an estimated 65 percent of Americans believe that it has become more common for people to express racist views since the last presidential election.
The aforementioned examples combined with numerous black while fill in the blank microaggression phone calls to the police indicate that we still have a long way to go.
Granted, Jim Crow laws may not be formerly enforced today, however, much of the mentality from that era is institutionalized and thoroughly indoctrinated in the thinking of many citizens. Many people claim that we live in a post-racial society after having a two-term, African American President. Who can argue with the fact that if you work hard, earn a quality education and keep your nose clean, then you could not only be successful in America, but you should be treated equally?
Even when many minorities reach a certain level of success in their respective fields, they are quite often second-guessed on their decision-making, questioned about their credentials and have their accolades dissected with the precision of a neurosurgeon.
We have similar ideals, characteristics and rituals in this great experiment called America. However, if one looks closer at our ecosystem, America is always evolving and changing – those respective changes must become part of the fabric of the United States.
Furthermore, there is a false narrative that the nuclear family in the black and Hispanic communities is a myth. It is true that a disproportionate percentage of African American and Hispanic American households are led by single parents.
Many families of color are led by single mothers working two jobs. So, work ethic is not the problem. But, the lack of access to resources and fair compensation are contributing factors. Understanding that some people may need a hand and not a handout is key.
I am optimistic about America’s future; however, she cannot periodically long for the days of yesteryear. Racism, bigotry, xenophobia and misogyny all contribute to “placism”. So, America must use its social capital to foster inclusive environments that are open and receptive to all.
Eugene Butler Jr. is a retired school board assistant superintendent who served as an educator for 26 years. He is currently a freelance writer and a leadership mentor with a focus on education-related issues.
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