As one of the largest, most powerful, multicultural nations in the world; why hasn’t America moved beyond the days of Martin Luther King Jr. and other equal rights activists? With a brief look around you, this question may come as a surprise. “We attend the same schools, use the same public transit, and work for the same companies; we even have a black president. We’ve come a long way from those days,” you may say. However, if you take closer look you will see that the racial divide is still there, and it may be growing wider. With special programs and government funding available based on race or gender; laws in effect that grant special privileges for specified race, class, or minority status; and regulated education programs to segregate History Education, how can anyone look at our nation and say that we are progressing?
The fact of the matter is we are stagnant, and if something doesn’t change we will begin to regress back to the days of separate schools, organizations, media, and communities. But, what happened? How did we get here? And how can we move forward?
Let’s look first at the past. We could go back and prepare a History lesson from Christopher Columbus sailing the ocean blue, to Harriet Tubman and her underground railroad, to Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. and their civil rights movements. It isn’t necessary, however, to go back that far. Just looking at American history of the past 4 decades is sufficient enough.
Discrimination and prejudice led to long standing racial conflict here in America. After the abolition of slavery, there was a darkness covering American culture. Whites of power, who believed in equality, attempted to bridge the divide. While whites who saw no error held onto their racial pride and drove segregation into what looked like a separate nation amidst this nation we called a melting pot.
Activists, such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., led their people with assertive separation tactics. They formed groups and worked against the majorities’ messages. They reminded the dominant society of their years of oppression and abuse. They made the dominant society of America aware that they were no longer going to tolerate the biased, inequality they (and their predecessors) had suffered for centuries. This caused a great movement in American History. It was one that forced change, but allowed stagnation.
These movements caused a split in the majority group. Some members felt guilt for their (and their ancestors’) past actions. While other members held on tight to the culture which was passed down to them. While one part of the dominant group tried to adjust policies and procedures to include the minorities, the other side revolted in protest. Likewise, the non-dominate group began to divide; with some wanting to just blend in peacefully, and others wanting to fight for equal rights. This divide caused what I call the white guilt/black pride conflict.
After the equal rights movements of the 60’s, Americans were divided into four groups, all approaching the divide in their own ways. Instead of coming together as a civilized society, over the next 4 decades we see them actually working against each other. By the 70’s we had a bigger problem than slavery, oppression, and segregation. The issues went beyond equal rights and treatment, to reparations for past sins and domination. Our racial divide not only separated the minorities from the majorities, it pitted whites against whites and blacks against blacks. One portion of the white culture tried to pay for the sins of their fathers and grandfathers; while the other portion refused to admit guilt and held onto the discrimination and prejudices of their forefathers. One portion of the black culture tried to blend into society, while the other portion held onto their heritage and tried to use it to gain power.
Here we stand in the 21st Century, and we are in the same place we were 4 decades ago. College grants and scholarships are earmarked for specific groups based on skin tone, gender, and social class. Television broadcast stations use skin color as part of their tagline. Qualified men are unable to land a job, while unqualified men get the position by the backing of affirmative action laws. One month of the school year is completely devoted to one culture’s impact on history. This is not a blended diverse, multicultural society, it is segregation.
The White Guilt/Black Pride conflict will not allow our nation to move any further than what the historical activists did. The generations alive today have not been enslaved or oppressed by culture, and they have not been practicing slavery or oppressive actions. Today’s whites cannot pay the debt for their ancestors, and even if they could, today’s blacks cannot wipe away the pain and suffering of their ancestors. The only way to move beyond our barriers is to rid our nation of this conflict.
How can we move forward? The answer is simple my friend, almost too simple really. We need to stop talking about our differences, stop focusing on the past; and begin celebrating our commonalities, and looking into the future with color blindness. We need to find the similarities in each of the four divisions, and unite them to find longstanding solutions. Our children need to be taught all of our nation’s history the entire year of school. We need to see a beautiful color blend in every television show. We need to hear our ethnic brothers and sisters speaking their language and feeling comfortable to do so. We need to nix the affirmative action laws and begin seeing a prospect for what they can bring to the company instead of their race or gender. We need to provide funding for all students, based on their achievements and need; not their skin tone or blood line.
As long as things such as Black History Month, Affirmative Action, and BET are airing freely in our nation, the racial divide will continue to widen. These all served their purpose and helped the nation see that there is a culture that has been ignored. However, these things are now counter-productive; instead of creating equality they are segregating our nation’s children. They are teaching our children that our differences are too great to overcome, and a true union is never possible. They are telling our children of color (black, red, brown, or white) that differences will always keep us separate from society.