The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Color-blindness and racial justice

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Liberty and JusticeMuch of the recent race debate has focused on the anger of both blacks and whites. This is new; I know white people talk to white people about feeling ripped off by Affirmative Action, and I’m told black people talk to black people about past and present inequities. But, of course, we don’t talk to each other about such things, knowing one another irrational (a excuse, perhaps, for ignorance so vast that the other seems irrational).

I read today a post on TPM by Glenn Loury (a world-renowned social science scholar in residence at Brown University) that was critical of some parts of the Obama speech on race. In a comment to that post, a thoughtful reader (AJM) added this:

clipped from
On a more serious level Obama explains to whites the anger of blacks in terms of the massive wrongs done to them in this society and then turns around and equates this to the anger of whites — immigrants in particular – to whom no such helping hand has been extended. It is as though he were equating the wrongs of growing up in slum areas with slum challenges in slum schools with facing the trauma of having your child compete for college slots with black competitors who have been granted a few extra points. . . . this may be the only option if we insist on being racially blind rather than racially just.
blog it

That names my discomfort with the white anger that pops up in my inbox, and I’ve not heard anyone say it better. Consider a paragraph from the post itself:

I know, just as Wright surely knows, that things have changed a great deal. I also know that, as I write this, one million young black men are under the physical control of the state; a third of black children live in poverty, and, the Southside of Chicago, with more than one-half million black residents, is one of the most massive, racially segregated urban enclaves ever to have been created in the history of the modern world.

I wonder if the plumbing works in their schools. I wonder if kids get beaten up by other kids if they get good grades. I wonder how often little children are pressed into the service of gangs. I wonder if their mamas and daddies fear for their grade-schoolers’ safety every day. I wonder if they have any access to healthcare or nutritious food (the stores and clinics may be long gone). I wonder if the inner city is the only world they know, and the only reality they dream about.

We are not equal. We are born into subsets of America that offer us vastly different opportunities.

So here’s a question, and one especially germaine to those of us who long to see our society reflect the grace of God: Shall we be racially blind, or shall we make faltering, imperfect steps toward making our society racially just? Which is like God: blindness or justice?

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Written by Monte

April 10, 2008 at 12:39 pm

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