The Problem with Race Relations

I used to be a principal in an all-black school; well, let’s say about 95% black. I am white, and male. It was a tough situation. I found myself on the receiving end of a lot of anger. If I made a decision to discipline a Black student, invariably my decision was challenged based on my race not on what the kid had done.

But that’s not racism in America. If a white maniac shoots a bunch of innocent, God-fearing Black people, it sparks a discussion about race relations. But if a Black man takes out a white family who he worked for, tortures and kills them including a child, race isn’t even a consideration.

And what if it was considered? I believe America would actually twist it into a discussion about the rich white family’s mistreatment of the Black man. It would get morphed into a discussion about the racism of whites and while the torture and killing would not be excused, perhaps, the reasons behind the murderous events would infer justification by historical wrongs.

The problem with race relations is that no matter what society has done to try to offer a hand up to minority people, a leg up, a preferential hiring policy. an eased enrollment policy, welfare, health care, disability, loans, scholarships, Federal Education Title I, Title VII, Title II & III and on and on and on and on…a culture of entitlement has not resulted in self-sufficiency.

Racial preference isn’t a one way street.

But the feelings that produced the reaction to me were real, and they had nothing to do with me personally. True, I was a white male in a power position and this produced a knee-jerk reaction that was undeniable. But I was ignorant of my own racial bias and deeply in denial that there could be a racist bone in my body.

Soon I learned to question my own assumptions. I realized that my white way of looking at the world wasn’t shared or assumed, or even correct among my students. I realized that children who grow up in poverty grow up with a very different view of America and the world, and their own potential within the society. It is, in fact, an act of racism to dump my white views on Black people without understanding why my views can’t be theirs. A poor Black child does not, and this is the hardest part for most white people to accept, have the same level of opportunity, expectations and assumptions about opportunity are vital to reaching potential.

You might ask, why can’t they see the opportunity? Well that is a complex question that many white people will dismiss as irrelevant as soon as you begin to answer. Don’t we give free education to all? Don’t some Black kids make it in spite of the obstacles? Didn’t Obama become President?

Yeah, yeah, yeah. But what about a kid who grows up poor, no parents at home, just a tired out grandmother who’s under-educated, who can’t take them to movies much less a museum, who can’t help with homework. What about a parent hooked on drugs who leaves raising the kids to the eldest. What about a kid who is taught by friends and family that they won’t make it no matter what? Kids believe what adults tell them the same way I believed what my parents told me, that I could become anything.

I wish I had answers, but I do not. It comes down to individuals encouraging, understanding, loving, forgiving, and parents who raise kids agreeing to a common value and moral set.

We’ve drifted off course, father than ever. We’re a freaking mess. I just don’t see how anything short of bowing to God can fix this mess. Humans don’t have enough power.