Our country is again twisting itself into knots over the issue of white privilege and racial injustice. That issue is at the heart of America because our country’s founders decided to kick the can down the road leaving it for someone else to solve.
We fought a Civil War over it. The 1950’s Civil Rights movement and the 1960’s Black Power movement were about it. The most recent spark was the death of George Floyd (and others) at the hands of police officers.
What underpins this issue? Fear of losing. Our country is going through a gigantic transition that is changing us socially, economically and politically and people are afraid of what those changes will mean for them.
Our country is turning brown. Within 30 – 50 years, whites will be a minority in the country. We already have many people who are racially or ethnically mixed. That scares a lot of people who aren’t sure what a new multi-racial America means for them.
Our economy is evolving due to technology and now the coronavirus and no one knows how many jobs are gone forever. The losses so far have been borne by the working poor who are fed by food pantries and who face homelessness in the next 60 days as landlords resume evicting tenants who can’t pay their rent. Their children are losing a chance to escape poverty because they can’t keep up with their school lessons since they live in homes without internet access.
Helping these economic losers would mean spending more money on education, health coverage and job training programs for them. That scares the winners of the current economic system who wring their hands about social and racial inequities while simultaneously rejecting any tax law changes that might reduce their economic privileges.
Amplifying these social and economic fears is the November election. Most Americans view the election as a zero sum game of winners and losers. Both sides of the political divide are terrified of what they will face if their side loses the election.
But before we give in to our fears, let’s acknowledge how far our country has come. In the 1950’s the police officers who caused Mr. Floyd’s death would not have been charged with murder. The economy has transitioned before and we have always found a way to help the economic losers have a chance at becoming winners. Our democratic institutions stand strong which allows protesters to march in anger at the injustices that linger.
If we can overcome our fear of losing, we can find the courage to accept the changes needed to finally fix the issue of white privilege and racial injustice. It won’t be easy and everyone will need to compromise. But it’s better than living in fear of losing.
About Norma Shirk
My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy. To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).
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