We should get one thing straight: Racism is a cultural problem, not a political problem.  Racism isn’t about Democrat and Rebublican, and it isn’t about passing laws to fix racism.

Racism is a cultural problem.  Racism is something that pretty much all of us, Democrat, Republican, and independent, learned from childhood.  We expect white people to be on top and Blacks to be on the bottom.  We are not surprised to learn that Blacks are poorly educated and poor.  We are not surprised when we see that a Black man committed a violent crime; in fact, when we hear a violent crime has been committed, we often assume a Black man was responsible.

Racism is a way of life in America. It’s a cultural habit.

Generalizing, Democrats accuse Republicans of being racist, because Republicans say we don’t need more laws and more governmental intrusion into our personal lives.  I agree with the Republicans; other than some tinkering here and there, we don’t need new laws.   Of course, that doesn’t mean Republicans (generalizing again) aren’t racists.  Of course they are, because it’s pretty much impossible to have grown up in America, Democrat or Republican, without having learned our racist habits – Americans have been doing it, generation after generation, north and south, for over 400 years.

Generalizing, Republicans accuse Democrats of seeking to expand government’s control over our personal lives.  In fact, the Republicans are wrong about that.  In the racial arena, it’s been decades since Democrats have sought to broadly expand government’s power in order to level the Black-white playing field.

Think about it – in the presidential campaign just ended, what major racial legislation did the Democrats propose?   None.  Why not?  Because, again except for some tinkering here and there, none is needed.  For all the whining that the major left-leaning television news networks did about the Republicans trying to disenfranchise Blacks by hobbling the Postal Service and by making it difficult to drop off ballots, difficult to register, difficult to do this or that, when the election came, there were no long lines, no serious delays that had the effect of keeping Black people from voting.  The truth is that by and large, this country dealt with Black enfranchisement decades ago.  When Blacks don’t vote today, it isn’t because barriers are erected to keep them from voting.  By and large, when Blacks don’t vote today it’s because they just don’t register or just don’t vote.

We have fair employment laws, we have fair housing laws, we have all manner of anti-discrimination laws.   They aren’t perfect, sometimes because they could be written better, but mostly because it’s impossible to make laws perfect when the object is to control human behavior.  Traffic laws aren’t perfect, criminal laws aren’t perfect, anti-discrimination laws aren’t perfect.

The reality is that, in general, we don’t need a lot of new laws.   The Republicans don’t want them and the Democrats aren’t proposing them.  Even Blacks aren’t proposing them.

Still, somehow people think race is a political issue. It isn’t. It’s a cultural issue.  We do what we’ve been doing to Blacks because early on white people learned that it was in their economic interest to subjugate the Black population for economic and social reasons.  We made that subjugation our cultural habit by teaching generation after generation of Americans – Black and white – that Blacks were inferior, that whites, particularly white women, should fear Blacks and that therefore we should keep Blacks separate, keep them penned in geographically, socially, and economically.  White America has gotten so good at practicing those habits that we don’t even think about it.  In fact, by not thinking about it, it becomes easier to ignore the fact that treating Blacks the way we do is our habit.

In America, white people don’t want to think about how we treat Blacks because we can’t reconcile how we treat Blacks with our founding principles.  We cherish and honor the idea that all people should be free to pursue their lives as they choose, to worship as they choose, to say and believe what they choose.  If we examine our behaviors, it’s obvious that how we treat Blacks in American offends those cherished principles, so it’s best simply to ignore the problem.  That’s what white America has done for decades – ignored the problem.

Racism isn’t a political problem.  Racism is you and me.  We must stop ignoring the problem.





  1. It is more than symbolic that the new administration is building a leadership team that reflects what our population is. This is more than tokenism. That group of people working together for 4 years will provide leadership by setting an example. We need change from top down – every government, every company. Once we are inclusive in our power based organizations, we can reshape how we think about difficult problems we face. Maybe we don’t need laws but we need citizens and consumers to demand appropriate representation in decision making.

  2. Well, Mark, the ironic thing is that if whites would pay attention, they would NOT be surprised that Blacks are no more monolithic than whites. They would not be surprised by the numbers of highly successful people of color, the amazing literature written by African Americans, the phenomenal artists and business people and, even more important, the humanity of those stuck in the impoverished urban areas. Even worse than a refusal to open one’s eyes is the complete ignorance that one’s eyes aren’t open. It takes will and consciousness. That’s the struggle. How to get white people to recognize that they devalue and dehumanize themselves when they devalue and dehumanize people of color and that we all would be better off if we valued what each of us brings to our society.

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