IT WASN'T LONG ago that the election of Barack Obama was seen as ushering in the age of "post-racial America."
As recent events show us, clearly that couldn’t be further from the truth.
If you’re as tired of reading my columns about race as I am of writing them, I can only imagine how tiring it must be to actually live these issues day to day, hour to hour—something I’m fortunate enough to be sheltered from for the most part.
But with each new shooting on the streets of Savannah, the vast majority involving African American men on both sides of the gun, these racial issues will come home to all of us at some point or another.
After years of sticking their heads in the sand on local crime and at the beginning of an election year in which they will desperately try to save their careers, City Council last week hosted a “Call to Action Summit.”
Based on the Cities United initiative begun by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter in 2011, the idea is to “contribute toward an outline for a strategic action plan to close the achievement gap for young men and boys of color in the community.”
Whoa! Contributions toward an outline for a strategic action plan! Really taking the bull by the horns, aren’t they?
Alderman Van Johnson, widely seen as having mayoral ambitions of his own, says, “It’s time for a courageous conversation about the taboo issue of race. If we’re going to continue to thrive as a community, we must frankly, holistically, and exhaustively address the issue of negative outcomes of African-American youth.”
I sincerely commend Johnson for wanting this “courageous conversation about the taboo issue of race,” though in this case the motive appears to be raw panic over crime.
It’s something I and others have urged from our leadership, in almost those exact words, for years. But better late than never.
The links between crime, education, and socioeconomic status which contribute to that achievement gap are both controversial and obvious. Add the toxic effect of police brutality against people of color, a very real phenomenon, and you get... well, you get “negative outcomes.”
My worry about the initiative is that, like most efforts in this regard, it will focus more on explaining criminal activity than helping to eradicate it—which should after all be an ultimate goal, for everyone’s sake.
Our community faces two metastasizing cancers: The cancer of institutional racism and the cancer of crime.
Just as doctors do, we can fight two diseases at once—especially if, as in this case, they’re related. A truly “courageous conversation” will address both.
Otherwise the taboo issue will remain just that.