A Letter to Black People: I Understand Why You're Mad About Racism, But ...


My last piece, "A Letter to White People," denounced the inherent bias and fear in many whites which is driven largely by media perception of minorities. I was, admittedly, pretty harsh, but even given the tone of my letter I know that there have been many whites throughout history who have seen the suffering of minorities in this country and have worked to do something about it.

There has been much racial angst in the U.S. over the past few weeks: The George Zimmerman verdict, the Supreme Court Decision on the Voting Rights Act, the passage of the North Carolina Voter ID law, the premier of "Fruitvale Station," and numerous other episodes have highlighted that the U.S. has yet to realize the goal of full equality for all people. Pundits and amateurs alike have commented on, railed about, and demonstrated for the continuing cause of racial justice, including here on Policymic.

In the run-up to the August 28 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s iconic "I have a Dream" speech, NPR has been running a series called The Race Card Project: Six Word Essays. As expected, the series has focused heavily on the experience of black people before and during the march, but sprinkled throughout have been a number of stories about whites who joined the cause of freedom and equality. These stories have been inspiring and a powerful reminder that, although the majority of the burden has fallen upon blacks and other minorities, a variety of people, racially speaking, have championed for the cause for freedom and equality.

That variety has spanned centuries of American history. Many of the earliest abolitionists in the U.S. were white. They operated stations on the Underground Railroad, helping escaped slaves or offering other help. There were a number of whites in the crowd that day on the Washington Mall when Dr. King and others spoke. There where whites among the crowd during the Selma to Montgomery Marches. The NPR stories detail other accounts of white persons who helped directly or indirectly, in ways large and small. Even now, there are outspoken whites, many of them clergy, who advocate alongside black people for equality and an end to injustice in all of its forms.

White people, I know that you get a bad rap when it comes to race (and let's keep in mind, much of it deserved), but many of your brethren — and many of you — have rendered much aide to the oppressed in this country over the course of history. Those actions have been recognized and are appreciated.

But understand that the goals of full legal and social equality have not yet been achieved. We still have a ways to go before Dr. King’s dream, which was so beautifully stated 50 years ago this month, is reached.

I’m confident that if we can face our fears about one another and move together towards real equality, that one day, our children won’t even have to ask whether race is a problem. Because for them, it won’t be.