Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Let's Change the Subject


The latest drama in 21st century race theater continues to unfold. Popularly dubbed "Gates-gate", the newest developments include the "devastated" caller to the police who set the whole thing in motion insisting she is not a racist, the release of the 911 tapes that offer little illumination on the incident one way or the other, and the impending White House "summit" between Gates and officer Crowley presided over by the President himself! Many are saying it is time to move on, to change the subject. I agree, though not quite in the way others may being thinking. It is time to change the subject from discussing whether an individual is a "racist" to talking about the persisting racial inequities in America and what we intend to do about them. The "you're a racist!", "no I'm not!" shouting matches that Americans often engage in have little practical value and are frankly a waste of everyone's time.
I have little interest in whether the person who called the police, officer Crowley or even Gates himself is a racist. I'm very interested however, in finding solutions to racial inequities in education, health care, criminal justice, housing, the environment, socioeconomic status and so on.

I have two basic questions for every American. Are you willing to live with the racial inequities that currently exist in our society? If not, what are you doing about it? Neither question requires me to spend time arguing about who is or isn't a racist. They do however, go to the heart of the matter which is identifying those who are willing to do the work necessary to get us out of this mess and those who aren't. As the saying goes, if you're not part of the solution, you are part of the problem even if your heart is completely free of racial prejudice.

"Let your acts be a guide unto all mankind, for the professions of most men, be they high or low, differ from their conduct. It is through your deeds that ye can distinguish yourselves from others. Through them the brightness of your light can be shed upon the whole earth." (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 305)