June 19, 2014
U.S. Still a White-Supremacist Nation
“There’s a lot of folks who don’t believe that people whose skin color isn’t the same as ours can be free and self-govern.” – George W. Bush, in a speech affirming Iraqis’ capability to rule their country. The color he referred to, of course, is white. His statement implied that nonwhite U.S. citizens are less American. Ever since slavery and the Native-American genocide, America has remained a white supremacist country. Most whites—even some “liberals”—can’t recognize what nonwhite America sees and suffers every day.
The unconstitutionally separate, unequal schools nonwhite children attend in white-abandoned urban centers like Detroit half-a-century after Brown vs. Board of Education are concrete evidence of white supremacy and discrimination. So is what happened after Katrina. So are attacks on affirmative action and on reparations for slavery. So is the so-called “Patriot” Act and random wiretaps of Arab-Americans and other racial or ideological bogeymen. So is an imperialist U.S. government that invades nonwhite nations—most recently per a treasonous lie. So are the Third World labor and raw materials America greedily feeds on. So are the illiteracy and infant-mortality rates in cities like Detroit, our country’s disproportionately high African-American incarceration rates, the woeful 2% of corporate chairs occupied by nonwhites, and Hispanic/black salary disparities compared to whites’ significantly higher averages?
What can we do? Start with our schools. First, challenge the constitutionality of Michigan’s most needful schools getting less state funding than Michigan’s least and write in support of Rep. Lamar Lemmons’ House Bill 5600 that would forgive the debt the Detroit schools’ “reform” administration incurred. Second, set about the controversial but crucial task of desegregating them—an undertaking that failed in the 1960s and 70s thanks to White judges who compromised and White liberals who weakened.
These two explosive enterprises require renewed commitment from fair-minded whites. Without the efforts of Eleanor Roosevelt and martyrs John Brown, Robert Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, and C.O.R.E. freedom riders Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, significant non-White progress wouldn’t have occurred.
Locally, we’re indebted to the martyred Viola Liuzzo, Underground Railroad conductor Seymour Finney, Methodist pastor Ed Rowe, Focus HOPE’s Fr. Bill Cunningham, Senator Carl Levin, Wolverine Human Services’ Robert Wollack, former Anti-Defamation League director Dick Lobenthal, ACLU director Kary Moss, State Senator Liz Brater, NCCJ director Dan Krichbaum, attorneys George Washington, Deborah LaBelle and Robert Plumpe, WCCCD’s human-rights-oriented foundation director Josh Bassett, Common Council members Sheila Cockrel, the retired Mel Ravitz, and the recently-passed Maryann Mahaffey.
As Deputy Superintendent of Rochester Schools, I aggressively recruited and hired Black administrators in the 1980s and 90s, there was an outcry akin to my having committed bloody murder even among many who regarded themselves as non-racist.
In that era I appealed to the dormant consciences of white citizens like the group who saved my job by forming UPWARD (United Parents Working to Advance Rochester’s Diversity). Now I’ve been appealing to fair-minded whites statewide. Circulate copies of this column to your white suburban friends, and beyond. Separate and unequal schools cheat all children of their birthright. Segregated cities foster pervasive poverty and national divisiveness. Americans who look like me are morally obligated to effect a long-overdue re-distribution of resources. It is time for whites who venerate democracy to join hands with people of color and mobilize to dismantle discrimination, separation, and the imperialistic ideology of white supremacy.