Most white Americans know black Americans from going to a Beyonce, concert, watching Chris Rock on the Comedy Channel, attending a sporting event or perhaps working with them in the office or factory. Most white Americans never see how the vast majority of black Americans live, especially those who live in urban areas, except when a riot ensues. Even middle class blacks often live in largely de facto segregated neighborhoods or towns because they feel more comfortable around those with the same skin color. In large part Americans usually only see the real black Americans at the mall or an occasional visit to the city.
Most public opinion polls show that white Americans often define themselves as not racist and supportive of black people, and that attitude is correct. We do not live in the 1950’s anymore where Jim Crow laws ruled the day and whites both in the North and the South let their prejudice flow openly. But we do live in a time when there is little connection to the black Americans who are part of the growing underclass, victimized by income inequality and poverty.
Sure some black Americans make it out of poverty, and thankfully there are more and more examples of success stories. But not everyone who is black is part of a success story in this country, and even the successful blacks will tell you horror stories of DWB- driving while black- and being stopped by the police for no reason or hailing a cab only to be rejected while the white person a few feet away gets a ride or the subtle barriers to renting an apartment or buying a house. The list of discrimination is a long one, even today.
If we are to move forward to a truly race neutral country it is up to white Americans to take the time to find out how most black Americans live, not just Beyonce or LeBron James, and how they struggle to make ends meet, how they fear the police and how they believe that the American dream applies only to some, and not them. Certainly blacks need to also connect with whites and create a dialogue and a racial partnership, but for too long whites have ignored the lives of blacks in this country and just assumed that all was OK in the urban environments where hope languishes and fear reigns. It is time to admit that racism exists in this country and that all is not well within the black community. Whites need to step up to the plate and do more than say they are not racist.