Why We Can’t Solve Our Race Problem

With all the high-profile police shootings of African Americans and the accompanying backlash from all sides, it is easy to see the complexity of race relations in America. Or so one would think. However, the reality is that the very complexity of the issue of race relations in America is so complex that it almost defies all attempts at addressing the subject. From sound bites and media forums, no one is developing any practical solutions. Instead, it ends up going from one accusation to another until finally it is distilled down into mantras and slogans. None of which adequately address the issue nor the emotions involved.

It has been well established by the academic community that issues of wealth, poverty and other sociological aspects all play a role in the perpetuation of negative race relations in this country. However, these are only symptoms that continue the racial divide but are not the direct cause of said divide. Which is what partially makes the issue so complex. This can be further explained by the fact that a redistribution of wealth by artificial means will not elevate the overall African-American community nor will it reduce racism nor eliminate resentment. That does not mean to suggest that some redistribution is required, there is. Yet, any redistribution of wealth for the reduction of poverty must be accompanied by other policies that promote training and education.

All of the above are established the fact, still, they do not solve the racial animosity between African Americans and other racial elements. There are two competing theories as to the existence of the racial divide that exists and the perpetuation of said divide. These are the assimilation theory and the power conflict dynamic. The first basically holds that one race must assimilate into the other while still maintaining important elements of the original culture and that equality is based on the equivalent respect of the various cultural elements. However, this theory presupposes that any conflicting elements will be discarded as a part of assimilation. The problem arises when cultural elements are “perceived” as being in conflict with the perception being supplied by the absorbing society.

Which brings up the second theory of the power conflict dynamic. Certainly, the fact that African American culture has been subjected to oppression over a significant amount of American history supports this concept. Essentially, the power conflict dynamic is the competing cultures are divided based on past history and the perception, real or otherwise, that the oppression is continuing in more subtle but still effective aspects. Recent events would seem to support this theory as to being a primary motivation for the racial situation that exists. However, again, it is only part of the situation.

To place the concepts in simpler terms. Whites are expecting and in some cases demanding assimilation of the African Americans. While African Americans are not rejecting assimilation outright, they are however suffering under the power conflict dynamic. This suffering prevents assimilation from occurring. At this point, it should be noted that assimilation does not necessarily mean the destruction of the assimilated culture. In fact, there are several notable historical assimilations that were achieved peacefully. In those situations, however, there was not a conflicting power dynamic that prevented peaceful coexistence and eventual assimilation.

Furthering this concept, it must also be mentioned that “American” culture, while dominated by the whites is not a white only construct.  So-called “white culture” is, in fact, an amalgamation of a variety of different cultural elements. Many of which are not defined by racial elements. This is despite more racist caucasian elements insisting on “white power”. Debating any of these elements at this juncture would only distract from the overall point. Needless to say, American culture is unique to Americans.

Having discussed the above, the racial divide that exists in this country is complex due to the fact that multiple aspects are coming together to create the appearance of a cultural and racial conflict when in actuality it is competing assimilation dynamics coupled with the past and present history of established racism. While the elimination of one element might present the feeling that the situation has improved, it is in fact not improved because the other element has not been addressed. When this is enjoined with the other symptoms of the problem such as poverty, lack of education and more, the real complexity begins to appear.

How Do We Solve The Problems
Ultimately, there are no simple solutions for reducing either the power dynamic or the assimilation dynamic and opinions differ greatly on how to address even the symptoms of the overall problem. However, since a lack of addressing the problem only contributes to the problem some solution must be found. Perhaps one of the better suggestions is eliminating any noting of any racial differences. For example, reducing and eliminating the question of race in education. Increasing the opportunities for all repressed parties, regardless of racial makeup. Poverty reduction programs and more. Still, these will not address the power dynamic. Addressing that dynamic will take a more difficult approach. Yet, some attempts at reducing said dynamic can be done by increasing education and training for all parties on all side of the racial divide. At this point, an solution eludes us as a society. What we can say for certain is that the situation is far more complex than we realize and that it will take everyone working together to find the right solution.


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