"United States Is a Nation of Cowards on Matters of Race."

Chamba SanchezBy Chamba SanchezOctober 20, 2021
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The daunting challenge in the debate about racism is, how do we make the case to whites and others that this democracy is not sustainable if this society does not stop marginalizing blacks and other racial minorities? And that “racial economic equality” is not attainable with “non-racial means”? So, it is fair game to discriminate against whites.

In the current sphere of political discourse, where partisan polarization is deep and civility and respect no longer exist, talking about racism can be arduously difficult.

In 2009, African American, Attorney General Eric Holder told employees at the Justice Department in a speech that the “United States is a nation of cowards on matters of race.” He denounced racism and found it appalling that many Americans avoid talking about racial problems.

Some conservatives and others contend that it is not safe to say anything about race. They do not feel comfortable speaking even about the most banal issues that will affect a black individual. They fear being attacked and labeled “racist.” So they avoid talking about race altogether.

The consequences for avoiding conversations dealing with racism can be immense.

From Trayvon Martin to Breonna Taylor to Eric Garner to George Floyd, Americans have witnessed a level of grotesque killings of unarmed black men killed by police officers. Many disturbing videos that went viral showed the savagery of racism. Many people of all walks of life joined the collective choir of outrage.  They also marched and protested. These tragedies shook our collective consciousness.

Critical Race Theory’s central premise is that race is a “social construct” and that racism is not just concentrated among white supremacist groups, but racism is deeply embedded in American institutions. It is argued that “America is not the land of opportunity for all. People’s race, ethnicity, and background are determining factors in getting ahead in this country.”

Critical Race Theory endeavors to create knowledge about power and inequality.  It is an interdisciplinary field that helps students to have a deeper understanding of how American society is culturally and institutionally structured by ideas of race, ethnicity, gender, and class. Its fundamental goal is to look at the culture of power and domination using “race,” “ethnicity,” and “indigeneity” ideological frameworks. So, marginalized groups can start thinking about their struggles for “liberation and self-determination.”

Critical Race Theory developed out of a framework for legal analysis in the 1970s. Those making this argument provide examples of blatant racism in the enactment of public policies. They point out times in 1930 when the government drew lines in neighborhoods deemed “financial risks” where people of color lived. Financial institutions eventually were reluctant to offer mortgages to black residents of this area.

Not much progress has been made as we still create racist policies that target poor individuals of color. They also examine policies like “single-family zoning” that would not allow affordable buildings in predominantly white neighborhoods. Hence it mocks the desegregation efforts that were fought in the 1940s.

Nonetheless, Critical Race Theory’s critics see “Marxists” being behind this movement. It is the 1960s all over again, and the “Marxist scholars” just reshuffled their “revolutionary theory.” Now, it is a new revolution being waged. It is no longer about “Marx’s economic dialectic of capitalist and workers.” Marxists have now replaced class for race and are forming a new revolutionary coalition of new proletarians based on racial and ethnic categories.

Conservatives categorically defend this country’s history. They see Critical Race Theory’s narrative as destructive and have vowed to do whatever they can to stop it. They contend that it is utterly counterproductive to make white people feel guilty and minorities feel “disempowered” by their race.

They insist that it makes no sense to discriminate against whites to achieve racial equality.  They note that folks behind Critical Race Theory paradoxically advocate for discrimination which is the evil they abhor. Chief Justice Roberts infamously said that “if we want to end discrimination based on race, we should stop discriminating people based on race.”

Critics vigorously argue that America was not founded on racism but rather on the “possibility of creating a society governed by ordinary citizens that gives full expression to the ideals of liberty, justice, and opportunity for all. “They detest what they see as “massive indoctrination” is taking place in American classrooms with the nonsense that this country was founded on racism and that all whites are racists.

Progressives in this country, led by Justice Ginsburg while she was in the Supreme Court, forcefully argue that achieving a specific racial outcome in our society can not be done with “non-racial means,” These progressives succinctly assert that it is not about discriminating against anybody but about “power.”   And white men have it in abundance.

Critical Race Theory is gaining traction at the local level. School boards and superintendents are busy addressing pedagogical approaches dealing with racism to concerned parents and other stakeholders. At the same time, blatant racial inequalities persist in K-12 education in racially segregated schools.

Finally, a recent survey shows that “46% of whites think that giving increased attention to slavery and racism is a good thing, compared to 75% of Blacks, 59% of Hispanics, and 64% of Asians.” Racial and ideological differences structure perceptions.

Critical Race Theory is not perfect, but it may help many engage, empower, structure, and change this community for the better.

Thank you for reading.

Chamba Sanchez


Photo Credit: Bigstock

Sources consulted.
“Attorney general says the U.S. a nation of ‘cowards’ when it comes to race.”  Editorial. The New York Times 8 Nov. 2009.
Booth, Willaim. “One Nation, Indivisible: Is It History? The Washington Post 22 Feb. 1998.
Galston, William A. “How should we address the US’s history of slavery and racism? Here’s what Americans think.”  Brookings.edu 17 August 2021.
Gilpin, C. Caroline. “Why Is Race So Hard to Talk About?” The New York Times 27 Sept. 2017.
Korten, David. “Renewing the American Experiment.” DavidKorten.org 31 Jan. 2004.
Sawchuk, Stephen. May 18, 2021 “What Is Critical Race Theory, and Why Is It Under Attack?”  Edweek.org 18 May 2021.
Vasilogambros, Matt.  “Why Is It So Hard to Talk About Race?” The Atlantic 10 April 2015.
“What critical race theory is — and isn’t — and why it belongs in schools.”  Editorial. Los Angeles Times 8 August 2021.

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