Race and the “Level” Playing Field
My post about white privilege caused some questions about how Obama’s election may indicate that positive racial change has taken place. Change is TAKING place, but I have to vehemently disagree with those fellow whites who say that the full change has already occurred (citing Obama as their evidence). (Disclaimer: some things in this blog will be offensive…however, I’m just putting in writing offensive ideas I have heard from the mouths of fellow whites. If we hide the ugliness of our thoughts we cannot change them.)
Let me make one thing very clear: Obama’s election DOES NOT indicate that the playing field is level. And the following is the logic by which I have come come to that conclusion.
Firstly, to say that because one African-American was elected to the highest political position equates to a level playing field is to commit one’s self to an extremely myopic view of history. One African-American president to 43 white male presidents. A “score” of 1 to 43 is hardly an equal score. To say that all African-Americans now have the same opportunity as all white Americans because ONE African-American was able to become President is to make a giant leap in illogic.
Secondly, if one declares that the playing field between whites and African-Americans is level one must explain the statistical evidence to the contrary. For example, I just saw today that the African-American jobless rate for May of 2009 was 14.9% while the white jobless rate was somewhere around 8.6% (all other minorities’ jobless rates were still lower than African-Americans). Also, rates of college education and incarceration all slant against the African-Americans. (Also of interest is this study.)
To explain such differences, those of the “level playing field” camp say that the black community has not stepped up to change themselves for the better. The question they then have to answer is, “What keeps the black community from being able to make positive changes for itself?” The ONLY options are: 1) blacks, as a race, lack some ability to do so, or 2) blacks are unable or unwilling to do so because of the lingering effects of 400 years of oppression. If you reject option 2 and insist that the playing field is level, the only logical conclusion you must be ready to admit is that African-Americans are an inferior race. If the playing field is level and blacks as a race are equal to whites, why the statistics? (Note: some whites may say that African-Americans have learned to play the victim and therefore dodge their own responsibility to step up onto the level playing field. Again this begs the question then: IF true, how did they learn to play the victim? To answer the question, you must still choose option 1 or 2.)
If you admit to option 2 (as I do) you realize the playing field is not level: the awful affects of slavery and racism cannot be overcome in one generation just by putting some laws in place. Though civil rights and affirmative action have made extremely positive changes they cannot have yet made the playing field level. The psychological, social, and economic effects of oppression still linger…not to mention the racism and prejudices of whites that holds on to this day.
I used to think, “Racism isn’t that much of a problem anymore, c’mon! African-Americans just play the race card or take every little affront as a racist thing!” Then I stopped and combed my memory. I am 35 years old, born way after civil rights past and Dr. King, Jr was gunned down. However, even I have witnessed, with my own eyes, the charred smoldering cross on a front lawn, the remnants of the KKK rally the night before. And the boys in the back of my bus putting down the bus window to yell “Porch Monkey” to the young African-American girl walking by on the sidewalk.
So, fellow whites. Make your choice. Either we still have a lot of hard work ahead of us to continue to “level the playing field” or you must admit to yourself that you think African-Americans are an inferior race.
Either side you fall on we have a responsibility. If you believe the playing field still needs to be leveled, more of the onus falls on us whites, like it or not. By logic, if the playing field is not level it means we still have more power and so more responsibility.
If you believe the playing field is level and the problem lies with the African-Americans, your responsibility is to own and make known your racist views and quit hiding behind politics and flimsy “Obama” arguments.