Beyond Race, Template for a Post Racial America
Section I: Introduction
Gone are the days of lynching parties, white race riots and church bombings. “Jim Crow” is dead, the separate but equal doctrine has expired and white only drinking fountains are a thing of the past.
Nevertheless, the truth of America’s racial history and the lingering impact thereof has left a legacy of social, economic and political scar tissue. Our racial history in the form of slavery and pervasive state sponsored discrimination is our original sin, our birth defect, our everlasting shame. Little wonder that race problems are hard to address and even more difficult to resolve.
Like an addict, we are addicted to race. We filter public policy issues like education, crime and punishment through the prism of race, thereby worsening already strained relationships; acerbating rather than resolving important social and political issues. Race is our rusty nail from which we are either unable or unwilling to remove ourselves; upon which we seem irrevocably impaled; a ticking time bomb set to explode with any incident, any controversy involving a black person and a white person.
What should we do to bridge the racial divide? How do we reconcile the conflicting demands for an admission of guilt and full accountability for centuries of racial brutality with the desire, the absolute necessity to move on? What if anything can we do to lessen if not ameliorate the legacy of racial discrimination? And how do we calm the racial storm that threatens us all?
Clearly, the old ways of addressing the issue have failed. A new approach is therefore required. Innovative strategies and tactics are necessary to move us forward. Rather than cling to the past, we must fundamentally change the way we discuss, the way we approach the question of race. In order to realize a post racial America, Blackacre offers the following public policy recommendations.
Section II: Public Policy Recommendations
Public Policy Recommendation # 1: Alter the analytical paradigm from a question of race to a matter of socio-economics. The advantages of the socio-economic approach over the race model are legion.
First, race and race relations have proven to be intractable problems; Gordian Knots for which we have yet to find a solution. The very subject is so toxic, so complicated, polarizing and unpleasant, that cool rational discussion is all but impossible. Race like other invidious lines of demarcation divides rather than unites us.
The race analytical model therefore ends rather than encourages discussion. Like a bad marriage, we talk at instead of to each other. It tires us to the point where we are so physically and emotionally drained that we no longer care. We just want the issue to go away.
Worse, the race model focuses on the wrong thing. It concentrates on the immutable, i.e., race rather than that which can be changed and influenced like culture, values and conduct. It often focuses on the irrelevant versus the material. Race may or may not be pertinent to a given situation. But in the final analysis character, conduct and values are infinitely more important. The race analytical model completely misses this essential point.
Lastly, the race model is not solution driven. The purpose of analysis is twofold, to understand and to resolve. The race analytical model may at times explain the motivations behind a particular incident or situation. But it offers no solutions to the myriad social problems we face.
It instead creates endless debate, explanation and analysis of the racial divide. Elevating explanation over practical solutions, the race model leads to a rabbit hole; a trap from which there is no escape. The only thing it accomplishes is to tell us only that which we already know, the existence of America’s lingering racial cacophony.
Even if the incident, practice or policy is racially motivated or does unfairly target or impact a particular racial group, what then? It is not enough to be right. The question remains. How do we correct the situation? How do we solve a problem that has befuddled the world for at least six centuries?
And because the race analytical model begins with race it cannot help but end with race. It therefore distorts our vision, blurring what we see, blinding us to the truth, deterring us from the search for more viable options. The predisposition to conclude that race is a factor even when it isn’t, clouds our judgment and misdiagnoses the problem, confusing culture, individual wrong doing, even boredom with racial prejudice. Racial conflict and discord therefore becomes a self fulfilling prophesy. If anything the race model fans the flames of racial resentment often making the situation worse.
Thus, we cannot attack the issue of race head on. We can however outflank the problem by approaching the issue from a socio-economic perspective.
Take for example, the issue of crime. Malice is not the exclusive province any particular racial group. People of all hues commit and are victims of criminal transgressions. Moreover, crime is more than an individual moral failing. It is instead a public health/public safety issue, involving a constellation of physical, emotional, pharmaceutical (legal and illegal), mental, political, individual and societal concerns. At its core, crime is a matter of culture, values, character, education and economic opportunities; not race.
Unlike the race model, the socio-economic paradigm incorporates and considers all relevant public policy considerations, including but not limited to:
- Political and public policy indicators like relevant laws, rules, regulations, practices and programs.
- Cultural indicators like education, leadership, arts, entertainment, music, institutions and communities.
- Economic indicators like money, employment, work, jobs, careers, assets and the economy.
- Personal indicators like values, character, educational achievement, abilities, habits, experiences (good and bad), family, associates and neighborhoods.
Equally as important, the socio-economic analysis is not crises orientated. It is not contingent upon the next racially tinged incident, but can be applied on a continuing and comprehensive basis. The socio economic model is therefore solution driven and helps to lessen rather than increase racial tension.
Additional benefits of this approach include:
- Puts the issue of race in its proper context, i.e., as one but not the only or the most important factor in a series of equally if not more relevant considerations.
- Avoids the heat, the inflamed passions of racial discussions and replaces it with a calmer, more helpful dialogue.
- Encourages and facilitates discussion.
- Addresses the root cause of racial discord rather than its symptoms.
- Declares a truce in the ongoing racial and ethnic warfare.
- Holds the potential of bringing people together rather than dividing them along racial lines.
Public Policy Recommendation # 2: Cultivate and promote new leadership. Those who focus on race cannot and will not lead us to a brighter tomorrow. Regrettably, there are far too many in leadership positions, of every imaginable persuasion, who are emotionally, financially and professionally vested in the race model. As such, they have no interest whatsoever in killing the goose that lays their golden egg.
Thus, new leadership is more than necessary. It is long overdue. The new principals cannot be tied to the past. They cannot be a part of the old guard. They must instead be forward thinkers who possess a completely different mindset, articulate and promote a new dialogue and communicate with all; especially those with whom they disagree. And even though soaked in the blood of heroes, the strategies of the past including marches and mass demonstrations no longer shape public policy.
It is noteworthy that each racially charged incident triggers the same reaction, the same racial analysis. Yet, after all of the speeches, the marches, the protest and the demands for justice, nothing changes.
Rather, the struggle has evolved. It is more than a simple matter of race. It is now a question of economic rights and opportunities. The new leadership must therefore possess the capacity to develop novel ideas, innovative tactics, cutting edge strategies and bold solutions. More importantly, they must cultivate the courage and the willingness to employ them.
Public Policy Recommendation # 3: Reclaim the moral high ground. When it comes to race none are truly innocent? In the quiet of our rooms, when no one else is around we have all uttered a racial slur. In the depths of our souls we have all known racial animus. We are all guilty of harboring some form of racial bias; however, slight, however controlled. And at some point or another we have all donned race colored glasses; we have all played the race card.
By changing the dialogue, by elevating the discussion, by lessening the probability of succumbing to our more base instincts, we claim the moral high ground. The ultimate benefit of the socio-economic model is that it appeals to the best in us rather than the worst of us.
Section III: Conclusion
Blackacre does not advocate turning a blind eye to race. Such is neither possible nor advisable. As unpleasant as it is, we must never forget our racial history. But we must balance this moral imperative with permitting the wound to heal, something that will never occur if we keep picking at the scab.
Nor do we propose that hatred and bias be tolerated in any shape, form or fashion. Clearly, it should not. We further realize that some will find these recommendations counter intuitive at best if not radical, even heretical at worst. Admittedly our reliance on the race analytical model will prove difficult to break.
Our position is only that we avoid starting with race, that we not focus on ethnicity and skin color to the exclusion of all other material factors and that given its many shortcomings, the race analytical model must not be the paradigm of choice. Our goal is to supply a new analytical model by which to address public policy concerns. Our mission is to provide a new archetype, for improving race relations in America. Our purpose is to chart a new path forward; to model the way for achieving a better society.
Martin Luther King in his “I Have a Dream” speech set the standard for creating a post racial America. His dream was that “one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.” His hope was that “one day we will live in a nation where we will not be judged by the color of our skin, but the content of our character.”
Like Dr. King, we also long for the day when we can best our original sin, when race in no longer an issue, when the color of one’s skin no longer matters. In order to realize this dream, we are persuaded that the best way to move beyond race is to move beyond race.
Leo Barron Hicks, Founder and CEO, Blackacre Policy Forum