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.

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15 Comments on “Race and the “Level” Playing Field”

  1. Amy Eicher Says:

    OK, I get that this is a simplistic statement… but what about what God says, that all are created equal and we are to treat each other as such. For me this race issue is NOT the way God sees things. We are all the same in his eyes – created in his image-why is it wrong for us to see our world the same way. Sin stops lots of people from doing lots of things – no matter what their ethnic make up. Why do we need rules and regulations and political mumbo jumbo? Especially for Christians shouldn’t we see this as an image of God issue and not this political circus? Do we see people as made in the image of God or not? To me – this is the issue – not the color of ones skin. I have no more responsibility to one race than another, that responsibility is universal.

  2. boehadden Says:

    Amy, well put! I agree very much, of course, that it is an image of God thing. Thanks for making that point! …and it is not a simplistic statement at all! It’s the core of the issue for me.

    I would say that because socially, economically and politically whites have more power and privilege in the U.S.A. than other races that we have more responsibility to do what we can to get rid of such a disparity.

    I would disagree with saying the oppressed have equal responsibility to the oppressor. The bulk of the responsibility falls on the oppressor, of course.

    And as a Christian I support whatever means may help make the situation more like God intended, even if those means are political (i.e. passing laws that reduce oppression, etc.).

    Thanks again for your input! Keep it coming!

    Erik

  3. Chris Cole Says:

    My option would be option 3, which is option 2 with a slight word change, instead of saying “blacks are unable or unwilling” I would say, “blacks are unable and/or unwilling”. Basically saying that both are an equal factor used by both sides of the issue.

    I also think that race will never not be an issue, it will always be used by one group or another when it is convenient for them. A radical example for this would be when Michael Jackson died, Jesse Jackson made the the claim that the doctors had every chance to save his life, but didn’t do everything they could because he was a black man at a white hospital. Which is a ridiculous accusation considering all the efforts and time, over an hour, they spent attempting to revive him. A less extreme example would be something a pre-employment questionnaire that asks race. If race is not an issue than why are we asked it before anyone even reviews an individuals qualifications? It is so that if anyone were to question them on their hiring of any racial group they can pull out a sheet which simply says what percentage each group makes up in their company. So, this means that the best candidate does not always get the job.

    Also, I find it extremely frustrating that I am told by society that I should feel guilty for 400 years of oppression and slavery. I don’t feel this way because I think it wasn’t a big deal, I feel this way because none, not one, of my ancestors kidnapped, sold or traded slaves. As a matter of fact, my family has always stood up and fought against such tyranny, in both America and around the world. So, yes, I get very angry when I am told I am the problem and I owe something in return for sins of others.

    There is even a double standard when it comes to the current adminisatraion. If any other adminisatraion would have even suggested the things Obama has done, they would have been shut down in a second, and actually it has happened. Harry S. Truman, in my opinion the last good president we have had in this country, suggested the socialization of US Healthcare, but because it goes against the freedom this country was founded on, America shut him down. He is also attempting to rewrite the constitution; already cancelling the 10th amendment (the sovereignty of a state), attacking the 2nd amendment saying we shouldn’t have fire arms because it supports the drug cartel in Mexico… on a side note the numbers he found were skewed to support his views, saying that 95% of the guns come from America, what he doesn’t tell you is that America also means Canada and all the South American Countries, The US is actually responsible for more like 5-10%. He is also going against the 1st amendment, but you hear very little about this because he only wants to shut up the people who disagree with him and his political regime. Saying that these people are anti-American and putting them on a list of potential terrorists, this list includes; American Veterans of Foreign Wars (my father a Vietnam Vet), Pro-Life and anyone else who tends to lean more to the right; these people have been put higher on the list than Bin Laden. And lastly his socialization of everything he can get his hands on including US car manufacturors. My point is not that I disagree with with the administration with every move they make, though I do, it is that if any other president ever would have tried any of this crap he would have been stopped immediately, but America wants him to succeed because he is black and we want the rest of the world to know we are not about race.

    To make a decision based off of race, whether it be hiring someone because you are a racist bigot or doing so because you are trying to do something “new” is not a good policy. People should be hired/elected based off of qualifications period. I would also like to point out that race is not the only way this happens, religion and creed are also a factor.

  4. Chris Cole Says:

    1) While I am not going to sit here and say that no one agrees with his policies, I am willing to go out on a limb and suggest that most people approve because either don’t listen to anyone but his PR men or don’t care. Maybe thinking he can do no wrong because he is AA and not white… or even because he is in the Democrat party and not Republican. I am aware, and disgusted, that people vote and support candidates for all kind of unimportant reasons like race, religion and even which party they are running through. I always challenge myself and my friends to look at the individuals politics and choose based off of that and nothing else.

    2) While I will conceit that the race of the candidate may have been a factor in who was chosen to run for each party, I would suggest that the end result, which candidate was ultimately elected president, was not nearly as racially motivated as this past election.

    3)First I would like to point out that both John Kerry and Al Gore were said to be devote Christians during their campaigns against George W. Also, voting for someone based off of the fact they are Christian has more political applications than the color of someones skin; i.e. MOST people would suggest that a Christian politician would tend to be more conservative… I would not even know what to suggest someones political views were based off of the color of their skin. Quick note: I do know MANY Christians who are very much on the left side, I myself would tend to lean in that direction on several hot button issues.

    4) The only reason I was bringing up his policies was examples of how I believe people are trying to over level the playing field by turning a blind eye to what he has done and is still doing.

    I did forget one thing about the potential terrorist list that Obama asked his new head of Homeland Security to compile: America did this once before, during the height of the cold war Sen. Joseph McCarthy helped to Blacklist people that he and his comity said were Communists and therefor anti-America. While I do agree that political communism is not good, especially for America, what they did was a witch hunt, putting anyone who had a difference of opinion from themselves on this list. Obama’s list, just like McCarthy’s list, is an all out attack that spits in the face of the very first, and in my opinion the most important, amendment.

  5. boehadden Says:

    Thanks for the input, Chris!

    In response to your first comment:

    To clarify, I did not say anyone should feel guilt about 400 years of oppression. However, if the results of 400 years of oppression put one race in a position of power and privilege over another, the race with power and privilege (no matter their history) has an obligation to work to empower the other race. That’s what I mean…

    Again, thanks for your thoughts!

    • Chris Cole Says:

      Was not suggesting you specifically, just society in general telling me that because I am a white Anglo-sax son Protestant male who comes from a middle class family than the worlds woes are attributed to me. A stereotype, and isn’t that what we want we are trying to stop?

      • boehadden Says:

        Chris,
        Did you read the post on white privilege? My whole view on all this stems from my realization that as a white I have much more power and privilege in the USA than other races. Though I didn’t make it that way, do I not have a responsibility to try to change it?

        If you do not accept the premise that whites have more privilege, than all my arguments don’t work…

  6. boehadden Says:

    I’m finding it interesting that consistently in the comments I’m getting, people who do not like what Obama is doing is calling it a race issue: saying that we elected him and/or continue to tolerate him because he’s black.

    1) It is very possible that many (even maybe the majority of Americans) agree with most of his policies. Chris, I agree with most of his policies so far and I’d like to consider myself an educated, well-read man, world traveled man. The claim that people like me are not listening as well as you or being are easily duped by the color of his skin is a cop out…

    2) Do you really think that race DID NOT have something to do with (or played a small role in) the 43 white american presidents before being elected?… How can you say race was not as much a factor when the only selections before were white. The exclusion of all other races makes race a very big factor. People are saying that some voters voted for Obama just because he was black (this is very true). But what factor made is so that since George Washington, our ONLY choice has been white (up until Obama)? Answer: race and race only.

    I would hope that white people would be more outraged by the exclusion of all the other races for so long than outraged at people voting for Obama just because he’s black. But it seems that people are bothered more by the latter situation…

    Those who state that race shouldn’t currently be an issue are clearly part of the race that has the power and privilege. Trying to ignore race as an issue is a privilege only of the powerful majority. VERY few minorities are able to not think about race…they are forced to deal with or be reminded of the color of their skin everyday they walk around a white majority world…

    3) I knew MANY Christians who voted for Bush just because he was a born-again Christian…so they felt he was right for the job. How is that any different than voting for Obama just because he’s black? And, Chris, you of all people know that most people who would identify themselves as born-again Christians didn’t/don’t believe that Gore and Kerry were “really” Christians… so that’s not a good argument 🙂

    4) I never mentioned Obama’s policies or his views in my original post…I was simply mentioning that some people use his election to claim that the playing field is level…and I’m refuting that belief…

    Thanks again for all the great discussion and input!

  7. Amy Eicher Says:

    Erik,

    I am confused by your understanding of power and privilege based. Please explain, if you can in the limited text space, how you see this working with the view of all of us being equal.

    I do understand in these arguments that there is that strain between the ideal that God desires and the way that the world sees things and I hazard a guess that your view lies in here.

    If we are to see things God’s way only the Israelites have more power and privilege than anyone else. ( and even that is dependent on theological bent).

    God’s heart can never be legislated. All the laws in the world are never going to change the inherent unfairness in the world, it is a result of our sin. I feel like what I am hearing from the Christians in the social justice camp is that if people aren’t going to behave right we need to use law to make a change that they aren’t making themselves.

    Real change comes as a result of the individual heart, a personal encounter with our maker enabling us to see His children His way.

    I am interested in your thoughts on this – and once again wish we lived closer.
    ~Amy

    • boehadden Says:

      Amy,

      I wished we lived closer, too!

      Thanks for the input!

      Of course, I believe that God sees us all as equal. But, as we all know the reality here on earth is that socially and economically we’re not equal. Did you read my post on white privilege? It is key to my arguments, of course. Especially the link to that article about white privilege.

      I agree that laws cannot change hearts…but they can change some very important realities for people (e.g. put food in their mouths, improve their economic situation, etc…). Now, I’m not saying that legislation is the answer to all problems…I’m just saying that as Christians, I believe, we should try to use legislation to try to equal out some of the injustice in our society.

      I also realize that the presentation of my post was quite strong. Part of that I meant, the other part I didn’t. Maybe I should have asked people that if they believe the playing field is level, what do they think is the reason for the statistics? The logic seems simple to me…

      Thanks for your input! Tell Ben I said Hi and I miss him too!

  8. Jeanna Mahr Says:

    Jeanna Mahr at 10:30am July 13
    “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
    Martin Luther King, Jr.
    Erik I truly agree with your blog – there is still racism still in america – but I must tell you it is on both sides. It amazes me how true Dr. King’s… Read More words, if everyone would use this as a guide we may have a level playing field. Being in the south, I have truly seen the evils of racism. I was very excited to see a black president it has been something that should have happened many years ago, however I am not that overjoyed by Obama. In the south, a record number of voters came to vote -remarkable however, it was only due to race. People will admit that as much. As much as I want to see change in this country, the changes Obama has made so far have been (in my opinion) not the kind of changes this country needs. From abortion to the financial crisis
    the actions he has taken has been very detrimental. I also worry about the promises he has made (earmarks, lobbyists, Iraq) during his campain to which he has now broken. I wish this country would wise up and Judge a man by the content of his character instead of his color like Dr. King suggested – it would really help make this country a better … Read Moreplace to live.
    One final note – I am always amazed at my children’s “color blindness”. We never point out race, they don’t see it. I love the innocence and hope to keep it that way.

    To follow up Erik on your color-blind comment – I beg to differ with you… My kids really don’t notice COLOR the way you or I do… yes, they see a color of skin but they don’t react to it…. I know this becuase if we are talking about someone who is a different race they do not use thier race “color” to even describe that person instead they use hair color, eye color, clothes they are wearing… and most importantly they have not had the expereince of learning that races are any different – it has not been even questioned. They have asian, black and white friends and never has there ever been a difference as to who they are because of color – I agrue that KIDS LEARN how to view color by others – when they are ignorant to the “race issues” they are color blind! 🙂 That is why God wants us to have faith and minds like little children – innocent and without prejuduce…
    Again, I do agree with you and see an unequal playing field but its not created by a particular race it is created by individuals….

    • boehadden Says:

      But if the playing field is unequal between blacks and whites, how can you say that it was not created by a particular race?

      Our race stole people from their families and homelands, sold them like cattle, raped and murdered them and passed laws that kept them as unequal in society.

      I’m not saying we need to feel guilty (we personally didn’t do those things), but if we are reaping the benefits of the long oppression of another race by being on the “up” side of an unequal playing field, isn’t part of our duty as Christians and fellow human beings to do our best to level that playing field?

      And not just in our minds and hearts, but in practical things like helping African-Americans obtain education, build stronger communities, listen to their experiences and what it is like to be black in America?

      I have an African-American female friend who still notices that some white people will clutch their purses tighter when she walks on an elevator and white mothers take their children out of the kiddie pool when her niece’s children get in…she has countless stories… some may be coincidence, but there is no way all of them are…

      I was with another black friend in Massachusetts when we walked into Bertucci’s to have lunch. I myself saw the amount of double-takes a 6’2″ black man walking into an restaurant filled with white people got. Now, those were not racist people probably, but it speaks to an everyday experience that we as whites do not have.

      Imagine being always reminded that you look different than every one else…imagine getting double-takes wherever you went…now couple those experiences with others that were clearly racist experiences… we as whites have no idea what it is like…

      Thanks again for your input! That’s why I made a blog!

  9. dan-o Says:

    How does one help a culture/race overcome 400 years of oppression? Especially if they don’t want to change? Are we responsible as a nation, race, or culture – or as individuals? I think I hear you saying that it’s a racial responsibility – to help lift their lessened racial status to a more equalized level – because we’re the more numerous race.

    But why? Christians certainly have an obligation to Christ to love and serve others but why for a particular race? What should motivate that race?

    (so many potential facets to this discussion, whew)

    Should “democracy” motivate a race? It seems that aspect has been used up. It means having a equal vote in a civic arena. As far as I know all U.S. citizens now have the right to vote.

    Historical precedent doesn’t really set anything up as far as a know.

    I’m not sure where to find a motivation for a race to help in this way.

    Then we could start on the cultural divide, which may be greater than the racial divide at this point in history.

    Alas, we only have one computer and I’m being kicked off.

  10. boehadden Says:

    Dan-o,

    Thanks for your input!

    I would change one thing you said. You said, “because we’re the more numerous race.”

    I would change that to say “because we are the race that is still reaping the benefits of the 400 years of oppression.” My argument hinges on accepting the idea that whites still have more power and privilege in the US because of the oppression of African-Americans. Then, it follows, as Christians we are bound to do what we can to decrease our power and privilege in favor of raising theirs, as a race.

    The race-to-race thing is only relevant because that’s how the abuses started…

    Thanks for replying!

    • Dawn Says:

      Bless you Erik. Oh how I wish more whites had your insight on race issu es.
      To Jeanna, children DO learn how to view color by others. Just ask the children at the Valley View Swim Club (just ONE example) if it does. If those children didn’t know that they were black before, they sure do know now. Thanks to the whites that shouted, “why are these BLACK kids here?”, “I need to get my kids out of the pool before they get hurt”, “I’m afraid that they are going to steal our things”. These children have been isolated not as kids but BLACK kids, cited as violent and viewed as thieves. Now your burden as a parent is to somehow find the words to introduce as well as explain to your CHILD at a young, tender age the ugly, hateful, hurtful “thing” we call prejudice and racism. Just last week my nieces were visiting with their small children and as soon as our children (3) got in, “they” took their children out. Thank God our children were small enough (2,4 and 5 yrs. old) that they didn’t even notice but it was blatent and VERY noticable to us. Had they been older, quite possibly that would have been another “teachable” moment but this time the burden would have been mine.


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