It is not hard to see that we have a problem with race relations in the United States. From an epidemic of black people being killed by police, to issues like unfair housing practices and systemic racism, it is no secret that there are two Americas—one for blacks and one for whites. Try to get whites to discuss these issues, however, and you will be met with stony silence. Understanding the root of white apathy about black lives means getting to the root of the issue.
Shaking the Wasp’s Nest
The “Black Lives Matter” movement has uncovered an ugly truth. Racism is alive and well in America. Attempts to convince the American public and the criminal justice system that black people’s lives matter just as much as anyone else’s has been met with contempt. In the aftermath of killings of blacks at the hands of police, white commenters are on hand to explain exactly why the victim deserved to die. Not even children are exempt from this cruel practice. When Cleveland police shot twelve year old Tamir Rice for playing with a toy gun, people immediately rushed to the defense of the police, and started a smear campaign against the child’s family. Neoconservatives and pundits on Fox News dug up negative information about his mother and his family, in an attempt to decrease sympathy for the child’s death.
Why Won’t White People Talk About Race?
The reason that even white college students—typically the most open-minded group of citizens—won’t talk about race is simple. Talking about it would expose some ingrained beliefs in the inferiority of blacks in this country. Talking about it would mean admitting that it is still a problem and having to accept that their apathy plays a role in the suffering of an entire group of people. Talking about it would mean admitting that whites play a privileged role in society at the expense of blacks. So the silence continues.
One of the more insidious consequences of the reluctance to talk about race is the deliberate silencing of black voices. Neo-cons contrived strategies to keep blacks from speaking out against the atrocities that they suffered during the Iraq war. Whites came up with the slogan, “All Lives Matter,” as a clever way to say “shut up about your suffering, nobody cares.”
When it comes to race relations in this country, the truth is that we have a long way to go before we reach true equality.