Let’s Talk About Race

We’re “a nation of cowards” when it comes to talking about race.

That’s according to our attorney general, a smart and accomplished black man named Eric Holder who is being succeeded after six years by a smart and accomplished black woman, both of whom work for our twice-elected black president.

I agree with Holder. Refusing to talk about race is cowardly, even if the reason is an understandable aversion to being called ugly names by those who might disagree with what we have to say.

Holder later said in the wake of the Ferguson riots, “It means that we as a nation have failed. It’s as simple as that. We have failed.”

I agree with Holder on that, too. Our nation has failed to overcome its racial divisions, notwithstanding the positions of power held by him, his successor and his boss. That failure threatens our continued existence.

As a conservative columnist in the People’s Republic of Aspen, I get called lots of things but never a coward. So now that the flames if not the fervor of Ferguson have died down, let’s talk about race.

The sorry state of affairs is illustrated by a tidbit from that American institution called Little League Baseball. The national championship was recently won by a Chicago team. They had recruited ringers from outside the geographic boundaries and lied about their residence. When it was discovered that many were ineligible, the national officials declared the team’s championship forfeited.

The players were all black. The officials were white. The Jesse Jacksons of the world contended that the forfeiture by the black team was an act of racism by the white officials.

It either was or wasn’t, and I’m not here to decide which. My point is that, either way, the story is a wretched commentary on race relations in America. We can’t even play Little League Baseball without tripping over our race problems.

Lincoln freed the slaves 153 years ago, the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery in the United States was enacted 149 years ago, the first Civil Rights Act prohibiting discrimination against racial minorities was passed 51 years ago, and affirmative action permitting discrimination in favor of racial minorities has been operating for over a generation.

Yet here are today’s sad facts:

• The black murder rate is seven-times the white rate.

• The most common cause of death among young black men is murder at the hands of other young black men.

• The black unemployment rate is over double the white rate.

• The household wealth of blacks is only one-tenth that of whites.

• The black poverty rate is triple the white rate.

• The black incarceration rate is six times the white rate.

• The black abortion rate is five times the white rate.

• The black high school dropout rate is double the white rate.

Most troubling is that it’s getting worse and not better. In 21st-century America, “We shall overcome” is just a slogan and a song.

The Irish, Italians, Jews and Asians have managed to overcome, one might observe, so why not blacks?

There are several answers. Perhaps most importantly, the ancestors of other minorities were not abducted from their homes centuries ago by a different race, brought to a foreign land and enslaved there.

Slavery. Is this America’s original sin, the one for which we will never atone and from which we will never recover?

Whatever the reason, too many blacks are failing. And they’re understandably angry about it. Whites, in turn, are angry at blacks for being angry. Neither trusts the other.

The president says race relations are better now than they were when he took office six years ago. Polls show that the people — both black and white — disagree with him.

In short, relations are strained, angry and sometimes violent. If this were a marriage, you’d not only say it’s irretrievably broken. There also would be a restraining order separating the parties. Is that where we’re headed?

I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that the attorney general is right. We must summon the courage to talk even when the words are hard and to listen even when they hurt.

We’re the exceptional nation of Meriwether Lewis, Neil Armstrong and Martin Luther King. We explored the undiscovered country, walked on the moon and dreamed a dream.

Our destiny is manifest, and it’s not to be a nation of cowards. Let’s talk again.

Published March 1, 2015 in The Aspen Times at http://www.aspentimes.com/opinion/15230252-113/lets-talk-about-race

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