Letter from a Reader
Racism Number One Concern
In response to the 25 September 2000 issue,
"The Top Ten Reasons to Vote This November"
Thanks for Northern City Journal. It's a good, fast read and helps to focus issues. In response to your top ten list of campaign issues, I would point out that, while you list racial injustice as one of the top ten, it is clear that at least seven of the ten issues are in whole or in large measure about racism. To wit:
The most important issue relating to our criminal justice system is that it is overloaded with prosecutions of people of color, while whites get slaps on the wrists for the same crimes. Taken together, our drug laws, our immigration laws, our law enforcement practices (racial profiling), and our sentencing guidelines constitute government-sponsored racism -- aimed mostly at African-Americans.
One of the most important issues relating to Social Security and Medicare is that the structures of these programs tend to underserve poor people. Due to racism, our poor people are mostly people of color. Furthermore, almost everyone who fits into the group you identify as the "underclass" is a person of color. And in education, a fundamental problem underlying vouchers, performance standards, and many other specific issues is an inequitable tax system that guarantees people of color an inferior education. In all these cases, if we could do away with racism, the problems would be small. On the international level, it is apparent that the IMF and World Bank bail out countries with white majorities more often and more deeply than countries populated mostly by people of color.
Thus, racism is the number one problem in our country -- and in the world.
How can we eradicate racism? While passing legislation to outlaw racial discrimination has some utility, I am convinced that racism is a personal, spiritual matter. People are not willing to say that they are prejudiced. But it appears that racism is an endemic, natural phenomenon -- an outgrowth of the fundamental "fright or flight" instinct found in all creatures. In humans, this instinct has evolved into a knee-jerk distrust of anyone perceived as different. If everyone could accept our unfortunate susceptibility to this racist tendency, we could begin to strengthen our resolve to avoid it. But as long as it is politically unacceptable to admit that one sometimes has racist ideas, there will be little progress. As always, the first step in finding your way out of the woods is to admit you are lost.
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
28 September 2000
Your comments about racism being widespread are well-taken. It's a problem that starts within us and we need to start by acknowledging the problem. However, there are also things we can do to make it easier for people to overcome the handicaps of racism in the meantime. For example, inner city schools once offered children of color a way out of poverty and the ghetto. Some astounding achievers came out of the schools of Harlem. We need to ask ourselves what's changed in our culture, our laws, and our schools that seems to make that harder today.
On an international level, the IMF and World Bank aren't really in the business of bailing out any countries, though they give that impression. They're really bailing out big lenders who made bad loans. We need a foreign policy that provides developing countries with fair and equitable access to world markets and capital investment.
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA