Avoiding Complacency

Black History Month provides our society the important opportunity to reflect on our greatest national sin. That reflection should lead us to two very obvious conclusions. First, that we are not as bad as we used to be.[1] Second, that progress is not the same as attainment. In fact, the removal of the most obvious issues and concerns around race in this country only makes the insidiousness of the problem clearer.[2] Once we remove consideration of things like slavery and legalized discrimination, we can train our eyes to see how pervasive racism and its consequences are in our culture. We cannot be lulled into complacency simply because it used to be worse or some people of color managed to reach a level of success, overcoming the impediments that hindered others in our communities.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://spectrummagazine.org/views/2023/avoiding-complacency

Thanks, @JasonHines, for this excellent, compact essay.

I have never been clear on how, except for obvious markers, one would certify this as it pertains to white supremacy: “We’re not as bad as we used to be.”

I’d argue when Black people entered this land mass in 1619, we were dominated by people classified as white, and today, over 400 years later, we are dominated by people classified as white. One could say, then, on this meta-qualifier — the one which counts the most — absolutely nothing has changed.

I think this statement — “We’re not as bad as we used to be” — rewards and sates white consciences, somewhat akin to the manner, I hypothesize, that, when someone says, at the end of a brief chat, “Those were the good old days,” they briefly get a hit of dopamine.

Stated another way, I think, in order to agree with this statement, I would need a large set of more reductive adjectives than “bad” applied and utilized; i.e., ones which lend themselves to quantification, first.

In other words, what are the ills which beset non-white people under race? Whatever they may be, what are their quantified imperatives?


Are Black people, per capita, more, or less, lead-filled?

Are Black people more, or less, land-endowed?

When compared to white-owned land, are those lands more or less likely to be subsident, or challenged in other quantifiable ways?

Etc., etc.

With enough of these quantifications — there could be thousands, or hundreds of thousands of them — and, subsequently, followed by a roster of qualifying adjectives — thousands, or hundreds of thousands of them — I think, then, one might start to properly discern the question of whether “we” are not as bad as we used to be.

Any other approach, to my ears — especially when it comes from people classified as white — is suspect and glib.


this is quite profound…but i wonder if it reveals the possibility that Blacks are instinctively looking to Whites for validation…is it really the reality that no-one can feel whole and worthwhile without validation from Whites…do Blacks feel they’ve arrived only when Whites say they’ve arrived…is it impossible to live well in America without reference to how Whites think (if there is a White way of thinking)…

Can you clarify if you are referring to “White” (skin colour) or “White” (EGW)? It just that you reference EGW for everything, I thought this might just be another one.


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