Americans have a hard time talking about race. So, instead of dealing with an issue that continues to have a lingering impact, we ignore it.
We sweep it, along with our ability to deal with a social and political system that creates racial disparities on a variety of levels, under the rug.
While our heads are buried in the sand, disparities in opportunity continue to grow, with African-Americans, more than any other ethnic group, lacking access to decent schools, affordable housing, jobs that pay a livable wage and quality healthcare.
It’s time for America to get real: race does matter. Talking about this makes some of us uncomfortable. Too bad.
African-Americans have been uncomfortable for hundreds of years, battling slavery, American apartheid and social and political systems built on racist foundations. And though we’ve overcome much, we’ve still got a lot of ground to cover.
The median income for Black households still lags behind that of Whites. And though more of our people are finishing high school, less than 20 percent of us finish college while 30 percent of Whites receive their college degree. Owning your own home is critical to building personal wealth. But the benefits go beyond the financial.
Yet, African-Americans own homes at a rate much lower than Whites; while other ethnic groups are able to build their own wealth while simultaneously strengthening their communities, African-Americans seem stuck in a holding pattern.
For every step America makes toward racial harmony, we seem to take one step backward. If you don’t believe me, take a look around. Our lingering race issue can be seen in the cries for ‘proof’ that the President was, in fact, an American citizen, an eligible to serve in the nation’s office.
We can see it in the outrage that many Conservatives seemed to have over having a socially conscious hip-hop artist perform at the White House. And it’s clearly visible in the anti-immigration reform debates being held around the country, in venues large and small.
To be clear, this is not about blame. Personal responsibility is critical to individual success. But there is no denying that institutional racism and discrimination can derail even the most ambitious of us. If America refuses to address its ongoing race issue, then it cannot address the systems that perpetuate injustice.
(Judge Greg Mathis is vice president of Rainbow PUSH and a national board member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.)