The Problem with White People

How to End Racism (For Real This Time)

4 MINUTES READ

If we want to truly rid our country of the toxic legacy of slavery, confronting our individual roles in a racist society is, of course, deeply important. But we must also address systemic inequalities. That means admitting that the entire structure that we exist within as Americans has been set up to advantage one group over another, and then we need to move to reform it.

Talk about it, for real

Jon talked to prominent civil rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson about this on our podcast, who spoke powerfully about how much the legacy of slavery continues to shape us and how racism is akin to a cancer in our country. Unless we diagnose the problem plainly and confront it head on, Stevenson says, we are never going to cure it. 

In our episode, Lisa echoed this sentiment saying, “All of us white people have a responsibility to engage in these conversations regularly.” It’s not always comfortable to talk about this, especially with people who have deep-seated racist ideas. But it can be done, as Lisa said: “We have to hold people accountable but we also have to hold them with grace and with compassion.”

Un-guard Your Resources

The issue of resource allocation to achieve change can be thorny. Take the idea that Black youth simply need access to better education, which is a common refrain, especially among Republicans. Ok, yes, but then think about what Senator Cory Booker said about the education argument:  

“One of the top indicators, if not, the top indicator of whether your children will be poisoned, is the color of your skin in this country, because, from the particulate matter that causes asthma, to the toxins in soil, to the contaminants in water, those are disproportionately in low income places. And so it’s hard to say just, ‘Oh, just give that kid more money.'”

The heart of the issue here is that racism has denied Black people a chance to build equity. There are plenty of straightforward ways to address that — even if America has proven consistently resistant to do that. On our panel, Chip Gallagher suggested creating something like a new New Deal or a Marshall Plan, a large-scale investment in infrastructure, schools, and more. 

(Whispers) Reparations

The most direct way to give Black people equity is to give them actual money in the form of reparations. This solution is not without its opponents — it sure seems to set off a lot of white people’s “They’re coming for my shit!” alarm. But there is an incredibly strong case in favor of reparations, and the call for them continues to pick up steam. It’s worth educating yourself about why they’re so critical.

Your Patriotic Duty

Racism is a big problem — really America’s biggest, most long standing problem, when it comes right down to it — and undoing it feels daunting. But it’s impossible to hear Bryan Stevenson or Senator Booker about the effects of white supremacy on this country and NOT want to make things better. As Senator Booker said to Jon:

“Patriotism is love of country. You cannot love your country unless you love your fellow countrymen and women. You don’t always have to like them. You don’t have to agree with that. But love is this radical idea that I am going to put your well being in line with mine and understand that they are actually bound together.”

Really taking that to heart is a good place to begin, and beyond trying to challenge the racism and racist systems in your family and your community, there are groups doing great work on a national level. Here are just a few to get you started:

SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice)

Race 2 Dinner

NAACP Legal Defense Fund

NAACP

Brennan Center for Justice