Recently in the amazing, albeit tardy, awakening of Americans that racism is, and always has been, an actual societal problem, I keep seeing people mentioning that one way to decrease and eventually eradicate racism is by discussion and talking.
I have news — that will not work. America has been there, done that, got the T-shirt. Talk is, as the saying so accurately goes, cheap. It is also basically useless.
The people willing to talk about race, racism, inclusion, and social justice are the ones who need it the least. If, as I did for a couple of years, you hold open forums on race and racism, guess who shows up? People who are already working to end racism. Guess who does not show up, racists.
We do not have a protocol for ending racism because it has never been tried. We have groups, organizations, agencies, individuals who fight to end racism, but virtually none of the above have either the knowledge, data, or power to actually effect change.
If people do not want to change there have to be methods to encourage them to do so and, failing that, penalties to require change. Saying please change because it is the right thing to do is about as effective as asking poison ivy to stop making you itch. When it comes to race, America has not wanted to really change since before it was called America. Lip service, yes, change no. Long on platitudes, short on action.
The way to begin to address racism, it surely will not be eradicated or even made less powerful in our lifetimes, is to approach it as one should approach any problem. First, examine the causes then explore solutions, then implement a detailed protocol that will effect change. In this case that would have to include some penalties for continuing to be a racist, or at least for expressing and practicing your racism outside of your home. You have the right to be a racist, just not to act upon it in your public words and deeds and certainly not in your employment.
In theory we have some penalties now. Social media at the moment is engaging in exposing racists on a daily basis. This has resulted in most of the so identified losing their jobs or being publicly humiliated or both. This is, however, haphazard and has some dangers. What people post on social media may or may not be interpreted accurately.
The governments, local, state and federal, supposedly have some punishments for racism. There are, in theory, rules and laws that outlaw certain forms of discrimination in housing, employment, etc. However, the object of the discrimination is required to file complaints and the adjudication of the complaints often takes years at huge expense and effort. Certain crimes are considered more severe if they are labeled as hate crimes, but that has to be proven and often is not. If the rules and regulations and laws worked we would not have all white police forces, fire departments, government offices, school faculties, etc., unless there were no people of color in the population.
People have become very skilled at rationalizing all forms of racism and discrimination. However, the basic foundation of racism is the belief that some races are superior to others. That way one can explain why there are no, or very few, judges, or police or city workers of color or any other dearth of diversity.
Black people and other people of color are often approached when the question of how to end racism comes up. You are talking to the wrong folks. We did not create it, we cannot get rid of it. Trust me, if we could have we would have by now.
Cookie Newsom is a Greene County resident and columnist.