Columnists, Opinion, Upon Further Review

Americans have not had their day of reckoning with race

In my last column, I wrote at length on pundits’ appropriation of Martin Luther King Jr. as a way to decry today’s movements against racial injustice. What I think this all points to is a surprisingly common misconception amongst Americans, particularly white Americans – that we have had our day of reckoning with race.

The way many white Americans talk about race suggests that the subject is decidedly a thing of the distant past, it may as well be myth. A topic relegated to the arena of Oscar-winning dramas and the occasional reference in history books.

But this moment in time, the one where Americans like to imagine that we all sat down and talked through our differences and put this whole “race” thing behind us, it never happened.

The civil rights movement represented some meaningful steps on the legislative level toward racial equality, but that doesn’t mean the American populace’s views on race suddenly changed on the whole. That doesn’t mean we’ve dismantled the centuries of open racial violence and oppression that have occurred on our soil and beyond.

The proof? People were saying in the 1960s exactly what they’re saying now. Eighty-five percent of white Americans believed that black children had just as good of a chance to get a good education as white children in a 1962 Gallup poll, despite the fact that segregation was still in effect with blacks being openly resigned to separate, poorer schools. The percentage of white Americans who believe blacks have equal educational opportunity hasn’t changed by more than 7 percent until 2016, more than fifty years later, according to a July 15 Gallup study.

The reality is that white America has found a convenient habit for itself; look fifty or so years into the past and say “Well, blacks have it better now than they did then, that must mean racism is over!” The polls make it clear; at no point in our history (the emancipation of slaves, perhaps, excepted) has a meaningful majority of white America stopped in the moment, acknowledged racial discrimination happening at the time, and taken steps to correct it.

White America lives under a constantly cycling, self-perpetuating lie that whatever bad has happened, it’s a thing of the past. And whatever’s happening now is the product of ungrateful, self-victimizing rabble-rousers who demand “special treatment.”

We have not overcome racism.

That can’t happen until a decisive moment of reckoning for our nation. What would it take to trigger such a moment? It’s hard to say. Is it even possible for such a moment to occur? Also hard to say.

Many African Americans have resigned themselves to the probability that such a moment of collective clarity is little more than a fantasy, that’s just not the manner in which large groups of people, bound by centuries of cultural habits and ideas, operate.

I myself find my belief in such a change has faded almost completely. Whatever the future holds for the African American, wide-scale acknowledgement of present-day racism doesn’t seem to be in the cards. But the fact still remains; that moment of reckoning, fantasy or no, has not occurred. And the longer we cling to this lie, the more ingrained in our cultural psyche it becomes.

Andrew Allen is a senior majoring in communications. This is the first column in a two-part series on contemporary racism. Upon Further Review runs alternate Thursdays. 

October 20, 2016

Reporters

Andrew Allen


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

The Miami Hurricanes had to adjust their offense at halftime Saturday to pull out a road win against ...

Photo Gallery: UM v. Virginia Tech | Saturday, November 17, 2018 … Click to Continue » ...

The Miami Hurricanes found new life Saturday — despite so much seemingly going wrong. Big plays on o ...

At least in terms of their bowl situation, the Miami Hurricanes can take a deep, collective breath. ...

Thoughts, notes, reaction and postscripts after UM’s 38-14 win on Saturday at Virginia Tech, making ...

UM Libraries is presenting an extraordinary exhibit that immerses the audience in an emotional journ ...

A UM researcher is helping to lead a study on how smoke interacts with clouds and its impact on the ...

People are bombarded with news and information these days, providing opportunities for discourse tha ...

Students, faculty and staff stopped by the School of Architecture’s Korach Gallery to learn what Mag ...

The On Campus event featured innovative National Geographic Explorers—photographers, scientists, sto ...

The No. 24 Miami women's basketball team dropped a 75-52 decision Sunday at Iowa State in the P ...

The Canes got back to their winning ways with an impressive 38-14 victory at Virginia Tech. ...

20-point performances from Chris Lykes and DJ Vasiljevic led Miami past Bethune-Cookman. ...

The University of Miami volleyball team forced No. 10 Pitt to five sets in a thrilling match on Seni ...

The No. 24 Miami women's basketball team is headed to Iowa State for the Preseason WNIT champio ...

TMH Twitter
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.