With high-profile victories by African Americans in the Florida and Georgia Democratic gubernatorial primaries, and as the campaign season heats up – we grit our teeth with the knowledge that this could get ugly. Ron DeSantis and Brian Kemp are Republicans primed to run race-baiting campaigns against Andrew Gillum and Stacey Abrams. Hopefully the elections can stay focused on addressing the issues and concerns of voters. However, there is a sizeable segment of our population that believes in the concept of white supremacy. These Americans will not relinquish the notion that white people should continue to be served first and that everyone else gets what’s left over.
Though it is never my intent, I’ve been accused of race-baiting in the past. When you speak on the issues of race in this country in factual terms, some white people get upset and will lash out to deny the existence of white supremacy, even when history and current events reflect that the ideology is indeed alive and well.
In order to address the issues of race in this country, we must first acknowledge that a problem exists. Many Americans just aren’t willing to do that. But the good news is that there is a large segment of white people that not only acknowledge the problem’s existence, but is willing to have a conversation that others continue to avoid.
It is easier to view the kneeling of NFL players through the lens of disrespecting the American flag as opposed to addressing the issue of why they are kneeling in the first place.
It is easier to brand the movement of Black Lives Matters as a radical hate group when it really is a group of people wishing to address the racial bias within our judicial system which stacks the odds against black and brown people.
It is easier to ignore our history of racial violence and repression, adopting the viewpoint that what happened in the past should be left in the past, when we could instead learn from those events and commit to not repeating them.
The hesitance among white Americans to address racial inequality seems to be rooted in a fear that the United States is becoming too black and brown for their comfort. In other words, many white Americans are worried that there are already too many people of color in this country. It is our nation’s changing demographics which many people find upsetting and disconcerting.
This is our current reality.
And yet, within that reality is the hope that most of us see beyond race. We see the beauty in unity and togetherness and blatantly reject the notion of people being perpetual outsiders. We envision an America where everyone has an opportunity to achieve the American Dream. We have the ability to create a country where despite its history, we can advance and improve. We can do better and stop making race a central issue, but the reality is that until the issue of inequality is addressed, it will always be a topic which some avoid at all costs.
Until inequality is properly addressed, it will always be a topic about which those who reap its benefits will respond with anger, while those who reject it will continue shining a light upon its abusive effects.
As I write this, I am filled with a sense of hope which has been missing for the last year and half. I am filled with the hope that the majority of citizens of the United States reject the racism, bigotry and divisiveness which define our current political climate.
We are honed in on messages of hope from candidates that are willing to address issues that we hold dear. These messages are one where we as a people must be locked arm in arm and reject the notion that one race is superior to another.
We will not ascribe to racist ideals and have come to understand that entire groups of different-looking people are not the cause of our woes and ills. We need to embrace the fact that the only way that we can truly live up to our greatness as a nation is to celebrate the fact that so many races, cultures and ideologies form who we are as a people. No single race may lay claim to moral superiority, nor should it.
It is not about the swag that one race of people may hold. It is not about the intellectual level that one race may have because you see, the notion that one race is inferior to another is an ideology that bigots use to justify their bigotry.
If given the opportunity to do so, every man, woman and child can achieve a level of greatness which is independent of race.
We can stop having conversations about race only when people fully and truly address the wide disparities reflected in everyday life in this country.
Because the truth of the matter is that this country is great. It has never been perfect, but has always been great. You do not have to take away or deny other demographics the right to simply exist to show that greatness.
Greatness does not lie in acquired and concentrated wealth, even though some people will have you think that this is the way to measure it.
We have the capacity to be so much better than we are. Many of us are starting to see where we are when it comes to equality in this nation.
We will all have to fight the good fight and claim what is ours to claim. We will understand that we don’t have to ascribe to hatred and bigotry. Issues can be seen in black, white and shades of grey.
Our issues are more than black versus white. Our issues are people issues and at the end of the day, we need to remind ourselves of this.
And as we fight to understand that we are all equal in the eyes of God, we will understand that in order to be greater, we have to first understand that our greatness has always been there.
~ J.L. Whitehead