When it comes to race relations, we of course would not be returning to virtues of a golden era of racial understanding; rather, we are overcoming our past failings. The Declaration of Independence proclaimed that all men are created equal, but history tells us that we are loath to put that ideal into practice. As Americans, we tend to act like “it only happens here”, for better or worse. At the same time, we hear other nations berating America’s sordid, racially divided past. But guess what - most countries are much, much worse. Australia’s discrimination of Aborigines, France and Germany’s treatment of Muslim immigrants, Africans wholesale slaughter of fellow Africans from other tribes, China’s oppression of it’s non-Han minorities, Japan’s underlying prejudice against all gaijin, and so on and so forth.
This doesn’t excuse America’s past or current behaviors; instead, it serves as an illustration that this is a long-standing human problem, one that America addresses quite publicly for the world to see, and a problem we have made great strides in overcoming. America has been upfront about its race problems, even if it makes us uncomfortable. This is commendable, and demonstrates that America continues to address her problems and has used the ideal that “All men are created equal,” as our ultimate goal, expanding the idea well past its original scope - land owning white men - to include the entirety of humanity.
The virtues we learn from evils of racism are tolerance and patience. Tolerance for others and patience to consider how far we’ve come, despite acknowledging that there’s still work to do. We must also be vigilant to not fall into the depressing belief that everything is worse today than it was or should be.
No one can argue that America is not a more tolerant place than it was 50 years ago. The strides made are remarkable, not only in regards to race, but also gender relations, sexual preferences, and generally accepting the fact that others who are different are no less deserving of equality under the law because of their distinctions. Despite this growth, we still have people screaming at the top of their lungs that everything is awful and that Americans are more prejudiced than ever. You know, the most intolerant people I’ve met tend to be those that promote general tolerance the most, all the while berating those that do not share their beliefs. “If you are not tolerant of the things/people/beliefs I am, well then you are ignorant scum.” Does this help the dialogue? Whether we agree, or like, those differences is not important - we can’t force people to like something or someone. What is important is that we accept those differences and come to an understanding. Tolerance is measured by how you deal with those that are different from you and your peers. It is revealed by refraining from acting on some prejudice and not discriminating in a negative fashion, and also dedicating yourself to treating your fellow man with respect, compassion and understanding. This does not mean you have to like everyone. You have the right not to like a person, and I have a right not to like you because of those beliefs; tolerance is accepting those feelings respectfully and moving on with your life.
The virtue of patience not only comes in accepting alternate points of view, skin color, religious values, etc.; but also patience in understanding that prejudice is not overcome in one night. “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” and neither can we believe that we will wake up tomorrow with all racial issues resolved. This was a trap that many, both black and white, fell into with the election of Obama. Yet we woke up on January 21st to an America dealing with the same racial issues, just as we always had, and have done so ever since his becoming President. If we look at history, we can use our past to better measure how far we have come from the days of Dred Scott and Jim Crow.
We should always use Dr. King’s Dream as the goal, while using the struggles of his life in comparison to current societal norms to judge our progress. There is no magic bullet, but there is progress, hope and, with each successive generation, an acceptance that the worth of someone is measured in deeds and character, not skin color.
In order to judge our progress, we’re left with a simple tool: common sense. Common sense tells us and history has proven to us that humanity – or at the very least American society – is marching, even if too slow for some, toward an overwhelming age of tolerance and acceptance. The vast majority of people in this nation are not racist. The instances of true racism, where people are denied fundamental human rights based on the color of their skin, are so few and far between that what few spring up seem almost contrived or manufactured by race baiters on both sides who can’t help but bring them into the spotlight and then paint them as endemic or systemic. The instances of true repression and bigotry are made less significant when racism is asserted for every little slight or simple act of perceived or true rudeness. It becomes a case of the “Boy that Cried Wolf”, deafening folks to the actual cases of discrimination.
Looking at today’s society, systemic racism within the American populace is largely dead. What racism remains is often fomented by government policies that, while well intentioned, have created resentment and threaten those it is means to help with the “soft bigotry of low expectations”. In the end, this can only prove destructive.
Common sense tells us that the way race is seen in America today by some is immoral and reprehensible. Common sense tells us that we need to return to a policy regime that says no more set-asides, no more preferences, no more quotas, no more lowered expectations for entire communities in this nation.
This isn’t to say that there isn’t work to do in order to widen the door to opportunity in this country. Not at all. Far too many minority children are left behind in their sub-standard schools and underfunded communities, but what this says is that our education system and individual communities must be cleaned up and managed better; we must be innovative and thoughtful as we attack the problem on a global scale, and not on one that focuses specifically on skin color.
The vast majority of Americans have moved beyond race in their relations with other people. The question remains is, will their government finally catch up to them.