Will Racial Tensions in America Ever Subside?

Frankie Fouganthin, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

My grandfather was born in 1900. Can anyone deny that he had more opportunity and a better chance of succeeding in America than an average black man born in the same year?

I bet there were white men at the time who said stuff like, “What more do they want? They are free now…they can go do whatever they want, nobody is stopping them!”

My dad was born in 1930. Can anyone deny that he had more opportunity and a better chance of succeeding in America than the average black man born in the same year?

I bet there were white men at the time who said stuff like, “C’mon, they were freed over half a century ago! When are they going to stop using “slavery” as an excuse?”

I was born in 1964. Can anyone deny that I had more opportunity and a better chance of succeeding in America than an average black man born in the same year?

I bet there were white men at the time who said stuff like, “We have given them everything they have asked for and they are still not happy. They will never be happy no matter what we give them.”

When I was born, segregation and Jim Crow laws were just ending. When my dad was born, he grew up in a world where segregation and Jim Crow laws were in full swing and embraced by so many. When my grandfather was born, we were only as far removed from slavery as we are now from when I graduated high school and Reagan was President.

Think about that for just a minute. Really think about it.

People who are now in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and older grew up and lived their formative years in an obviously racist, segregationist, Jim Crow laden country. Whether they are white or black, these people are still here with us, along with those full experiences.

And who do you think owns and controls most of the power, wealth and influence in the country today? Would it be reasonable to believe that the power, wealth, and influence would lean more toward the white men in their 60’s and above, or the black men? I’m talking about leaders in politics/government, in business, in the media, in education.

I think it would be fair to say that ownership and control of such entities is still firmly in the hands of white men who grew up in the 1930’s, 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. White men who grew up being taught that segregation and Jim Crow laws were right, normal, and acceptable.

Let me just pause here and firmly state that I am not suggesting that all white men who grew up in that era were taught that, and that all white men who grew up in that era were/are racists. Of course that is not true. There were many white men in America, going back even before the American Revolution that were fighting for the rights of black people. But it is undeniable that racist ideas and actions were widely taught and accepted (or at least tolerated) by white men throughout the Jim Crow era in a general sense.

Given all of that, is it so unbelievable that today’s America has still not progressed beyond racist tendencies? Is it really a rational position to think we are now beyond the problems of the past and that everyone is now on an equal footing? Do we really believe that after the Civil Rights Act was passed in the mid 60’s, that a light switch was flipped and everyone’s attitudes also changed along with it?

Why is it so hard for so many white people to understand that, yes, while laws and attitudes are most definitely much better today than they were 50+ years ago, we still have a good ways to go before people are truly equal in opportunity and treatment?

My kids had the benefit of full opportunity and equality passed down from a father (me) who was born with the benefit of full opportunity and equality that was passed to me by my father who also enjoyed that benefit, and on and on. Nobody can honestly state the same for our black counterparts. There is no doubt that they have had to endure more obstacles.

That is not to say that everything is just handed to white people. We all have obstacles to get over. Most of us still need to work very hard for what we have. Many of us have had to endure growing up in broken and/or abusive families, and many white people have grown up in poverty. So, no, white people are not just given a golden key that opens up all doors. But when I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, looking for my first job in order to start my life and chase opportunities, I didn’t have to worry about all of the doors that closed in my face simply because of my skin color. Remember, the people that controlled all of the power and wealth and influence in the 70’s and 80’s were even more entrenched in the old, racist, segregationist beliefs than those in power today. And when my dad was looking for his first job opportunities in the 40’s and 50’s, many of those holding the power were born in the 1800’s, some born during the Civil War era.

This is all to say that way too many people look at our issues with race and our not so great history with it as “ancient history”. They believe we have resolved it…that blacks today have as equal opportunity of success as whites. The law says so. But how can that possibly be? Laws cannot and do not change ingrained attitudes. The only thing that will change that is time. Each generation gets better. Things are better today than they were in the 60’s and 70’s and they were better in the 60’s and 70’s than the were in the 30’s and 40’s and were better in the 30’s and 40’s than they were in 1900, and better in 1900 than in 1850…

I believe we are getting close, but we are not there yet. We can’t be while power, ownership and control is still owned by those who grew up in Jim Crow America and taught their children similar (but fading) beliefs. The next generation of ownership and power will shift further in the right direction, largely controlled by those who grew up in the post-Civil Rights Act era. As these power shifts are made, more and more people who were never taught that segregation (and worse) was right or tolerable, will gain control and racial issues will continue to improve.

I think what we are seeing now is a realization of that by many who are now in control of things but are in sort of a “last gasp” to hold on to that power and control…to get back to when America was “great”. The last vestiges of blatant, accepted, or tolerated racism in America.

But the shift in attitude and in power is inevitable.

If you still believe that the Civil War was really about anything other than attempting to preserve the institution of slavery, if you still believe that it’s noble, honorable, and right to continue to display heroic statues of those who fought on the side of doing that, if you still believe that white people really have no advantages today over black people, and that black people really have no legitimate reason to be demonstrating in the streets anymore, then I believe you need to reevaluate your thinking.

I can admit that during my adult life, I have been sympathetic to each of these beliefs at one time or another. I think that is a result of being in a bubble of misinformation to varying degrees. However, having done more research myself, and really giving things a lot more thorough thinking, I have adapted my thoughts and attitudes on these issues.

Unfortunately, we can’t force attitude changes, but I do think that as soon as that generation who did not actually grow up in segregationist America is really in charge of things, racial tensions will dissipate rather rapidly. People tend to really only believe things that they have lived through (or have been directly taught)…everything before their actual birth is alien to them, much like most of us simply cannot understand for a second how anyone could possibly think it was ever okay to own another human being.

I look forward to that day and truly hope I am still alive to see it.

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About Steve Wood 257 Articles
I am a husband, a father, a small business owner, a veteran, and a Citizen of the United States. As my avatar depicts, I believe The People need to relearn and focus on the basic principles that our Republic was built upon. My contributions here will be geared toward that end. Please join me in rational, civil discourse.