The first step in resolving any conflict or problem is to admit that you have one. Let's admit that we have a race problem. Not only is it divisive, but it is killing us - literally and figuratively - impeding our progress and overall welfare.
Half a century after The Civil Rights Act (1964), The Voting Rights Act (1965) and legislation dealing with housing and employment we have failed to achieve the goals Dr. Martin Luther King elaborated in his "I Have a Dream" speech. We passed laws but attitudes and prejudice obviously haven't improved as much as many hoped and may even be worsening.
Whether we Caucasians want to admit it or not the road to better incomes and conditions is much rockier for African Americans than it is for us. There is now, as it has always been, white privilege and we can talk all we want about equal opportunity, achievement through hard work and level playing fields but it isn't completely equal.
Let us agree that the vast majority of men and women in law enforcement are good people earnestly trying to ensure our safety, but people of color are more likely to be stopped while driving and given citations in larger percentages than are whites. People of color are more often involved in shootings and violent crimes. They belong to gangs in greater percentages. People of color receive harsher court sentences and represent a larger percentage of the prison population than do whites. They drop out of school in higher rates, forcing them into lower skilled, lower paying jobs. Single-parent homes are too prevalent.
There is evidence of racial prejudice and even hatred among all races. It's no wonder we can't even talk to each other about race. Conversations quickly turn emotional, inflammatory, include code words and racial undertones. Blacks don't trust whites, whites distrust blacks and both have issues with Hispanics. And when we hear elected officials like Congressman Robert Pittenger making comments that are obviously racially biased it only fuels the fires of prejudice, distrust and hatred. Talking about the recent riots and racial problems in Charlotte Pittenger told a BBC interviewer, "The grievance in their mind is - the animus, the anger - they hate white people because white people are successful and they're not."
Statements like these should repulse whites, but understandably reinforce the beliefs among minorities that they are considered inferior.
Before things escalate further we need to stop the battle among the races and open meaningful, unemotional and fair-minded dialogue. Those of all races must begin with the acceptance of and responsibility for attitudes and practices that disrupt racial harmony, promote discrimination and prevent equal opportunity. Each must redouble efforts to repair trust and improve the status-quo. Not only must they respectfully speak their truths but also be active listeners to hear the positions of others. It cannot be a one-way street, but if people of goodwill come together and charitably and humbly accept responsibility and pledge to work for the betterment of all we can find ways to improve racial harmony and the wellbeing for all.
We are not and never have been a homogeneous society. That's not the goal, but we can and must be better than we currently are. There are enough issues for us to fight without fighting each other.
Publisher's note: Tom Campbell is former assistant North Carolina State Treasurer and is creator/host of NC SPIN
, a weekly statewide television discussion of NC issues airing Sundays at 11:00 am on WITN-TV
. Contact Tom at NC Spin.