Note: This is another in my continuing series on Possible Racial Futures for the US. This one is based on the last chapter of “The White Racial Frame” (2010) by Joe R. Feagin, a White American sociologist.
The US is capable of becoming less racist and more democratic, as shown by Reconstruction in the 1800s, which freed slaves and made them citizens, and Civil Rights reforms in the 1900s, which overthrew Jim Crow.
But both Reconstruction and Civil Rights were later seriously weakened because they left two things in place:
- Ideological: The white racial frame (white racism).
- Economic: Huge racial inequalities in wealth, income and education.
Therefore you need:
- Ideological: The liberty-and-justice frame of the Founding Fathers along with an understanding of stereotyping and institutional racism.
- Economic: Reparations, especially for Black and Native Americans.
Reparations: Crimes against humanity, like slavery, genocide and Jim Crow, have no statute of limitation. Without reparations it will take hundreds of years for the wealth gap between Whites and Blacks, for example, to close. Whites need to be educated to understand the huge historical damages of racial oppression and the need for major government compensation to pay for said damages.
The damage has not just been material but psychological, so something like South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission is needed as well.
The liberty-and-justice frame: Whites say they believe in it, but their enforcement of civil rights laws shows that deep down they do not, at least not when it goes against:
The white racial frame. It cuts off Whites culturally from much of the US and the world. It leads to bad foreign policy abroad and a huge waste of human capital at home. It limits freedom and democracy. It limits White thought, feeling and action, making Whites severely lacking in empathy for others. It makes them into hypocrites, saying one thing (the liberty-and-justice frame) while doing another (the white racial frame).
Some ways to weaken the white racial frame:
- Teach Racism 101 and Stereotyping 101 at all levels of education.
- Teach about famous people of colour, especially the racism they faced.
- Read first-person accounts of Americans facing racism.
- Teach the true history of racism and anti-racism in the US.
- Teach how civil rights organizations apply the liberty-and-justice frame, seriously and carefully considering their point of view.
- Consciousness raising: Have students keep diaries of racial discussions and events and then discuss them.
- Train teachers to understand stereotype threat, etc.
- Teach critical thinking.
- Show people of colour in less stereotyped ways.
- Calling out racism, best done by:
- appealing to a sense of fairness.
- appealing, where possible, to common religious moral ideas.
- making the racial “they” into the American “we”.
- having support groups for outers.
The US needs strong enforcement of civil rights laws, which requires:
- Leadership that looks like America at top institutions, particularly the Supreme Court, leadership that supports racial change, reparations and restoration. That in turn requires:
- An anti-racist movement supported by people of all races, one like the abolitionist movement of the 1800s or the civil rights movement of the 1900s.
Over the next 40 years or so Whites will have to come to terms with becoming a minority. That presents a golden opportunity to change the US for the better.
- Other possible racial futures:
- Other posts based on Feagin’s book:
- Ta-Nehisi Coates: The Case for Reparations
- Jim Crow
- Nelson Mandela