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One White Man's Point of View on the Issue of Racial Discrimination

Updated on August 27, 2017

How About a Little Humility (and Empathy)

There is still (thankfully) a general consensus in the United States that racism is a bad thing. This is possibly the greatest achievement of the civil rights movements that kicked into high gear in the 1950s and 1960s. Through most of American history, a certain amount of racism was viewed as perfectly normal. You could say things out in the open that today would be considered blatantly racist without causing most people to even bat an eyelash.

But ever since these civil rights movements achieved a certain degree of success, there has been an ongoing debate about the best approach one can take to address the problem of racial discrimination. This debate, however, has shifted a bit in recent years. Rather than debating about the best policies to combat discrimination, there is a debate about the continuing existence of racism and discrimination. Liberals tend to view discrimination as a serious, persistent problem, while conservatives tend to think that racial discrimination is largely a thing of the past.

While I recognize that this is a complex and divisive issue, my point of view is actually rather simple. As a white middle class American, I am not qualified to judge the prevalence of racism in our society. I can educate myself about the many disparities that continue to exist among people of different ethnic groups in terms of social class, rates of incarceration, education levels, and so on. I can also speculate as to why they may continue to exist and examine the evidence to support these explanations. But the simple fact is that I have never experienced life in the skin of a non-white person living in the United States. I have never walked in their shoes. This is why it amazes me how many people are out there with the same background as I who are convinced that they are absolute authorities on racial discrimination. I just want to say, "What the hell do you know? And for that matter, what the hell do I know?"

Two of the biggest things lacking in our society are empathy and humility. So many Americans are not even humble enough to admit that they don't know what it's like to be in someone else's shoes. They see no need to even try to empathize with others. (Someone like President Trump is a perfect example of this.) And this is especially ironic in a nation where so many people consider themselves to be Christians, to be followers of a man who epitomized traits that they are so sorely lacking.


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