The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.

APRIL  2008

                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.







Let's End Racism

by JC Bowman

Racism has been frequently discussed across our community in recent days.  I think the dialogue is appropriate and long overdue.  It is a simple perception that before fixing a problem, one must realize that there is a problem.  Increasing awareness of race is more important in changing racial inequality than judging whether individuals are racist.  I was troubled by recent comments by People News Columnist, June Griffin.  Her comments were unacceptable, inappropriate and not reflective of my worldview.  Free speech comes with responsibilities and must be self-tempered.  Even though commentary of that nature should not be included in a community paper, it is not the role of government to silence opinions with which it disagrees.  But I was also disturbed by comments Barack Obama's Pastor Jeremiah Wright, Bill Clinton, Geraldine Ferraro, among others have made in recent days.  The silence was deafening in many circles to badly chosen comments, but I would have hoped that we all share a visceral revulsion to the doddering fulminations.  The challenge for all of us is to rise above our differences and to climb above our own human imperfection to move this community forward. 

I am often moved by Nelson Mandela whose very life reflected magnanimously the principles of racial reconciliation. In September, 2007, I visited District Six in Cape Town, South Africa with my friend, Rushdi Harper, and we met with Joe Schaffers, who spends his life educating those who want to learn about the forced removal of 60,000 inhabitants during the 1970s by the apartheid regime.  Rushdi's own family was among the unfortunate victims.  I also witnessed firsthand how much progress has been made in South Africa on the subject of race, and I wonder how much more is left to do in our own country.  I work with a friend, Gary Edmonds, who is doing some incredible ministerial work in Rwanda to reconcile their diverse cultures.  Americans have been such vocal leaders of breaking racial barriers globally.  Yet I fear we may still be on the problem side in America and not on the solution side of our own racial progress.  We need to bury our prejudice in the past and we need to advance onward to bridge the gap between the powerless and the powerful in our society.

J C Bowman

-J. C. Bowman, a native of Cleveland, is a well informed and outspoken conservative educator. Is a freelance public policy analyst who resides in Cleveland, TN. Prior to this, he was Director for the Center for Education Innovation at Florida State University.  He served as the Director for the Florida Department of Education Choice Office and as the Chief Policy Analyst of the Education Policy Unit for Florida Governor Jeb Bush.



Perhaps no book in my own library has been read more than RFK: Collected Speeches.  One day after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in April, 1968, Robert Kennedy challenged the City Club of Cleveland (Ohio) by defining the issue of racism starkly:  "When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies, to be met not with cooperation but with conquest; to be subjugated and mastered. We learn, at the last, to look at our brothers as aliens, men with whom we share a city, but not a community; men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in common effort. We learn to share only a common fear, only a common desire to retreat from each other, only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force. For all this, there are no final answers." 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. correctly understood that people must not be "judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."  That is a position I have adopted in my own life. Moral character stands at the heart of self-government, which is the true strength of American democracy. Dr. King sadly understood that racism existed throughout human history and he challenged his fellow Americans to be different and rise above the past. Throughout his brief life, Dr. King sought to heal the wound of racial hatred in our national soul. Dr. King, like many others, also understood that there was still much work left to do in regards to civil rights, namely the rebuilding of America's families and communities. 

If the goal of America is freedom, then racism has posed an impediment to the attainment of that goal. The obvious solution to racism is freedom. Racism is the hatred of one person by another -- or the belief that another person is less than human -- because of skin color, language, customs, birthplace or any factor that supposedly reveals the characteristics of that person. The ugly specter of racism and xenophobia still haunts the world.  The morally wrong views of racism place the future of democracy, the future of peace and prosperity, and our very future in jeopardy.  

Racism is simply a more hideous form of collectivism.  Racists think only in terms of groups. It is a terrible mindset that views humans strictly as members of groups rather than as individuals. It is the political and economic activities of the past decades and centuries that have fueled inexcusable social conflict. Our ethnicity is part of how God made us. It is a gift to be celebrated, not something to suppress. However, when we let racism continue, failing to confront it, we risk losing our own identity and freedom in the process.  If you don't see my skin color, then you are not just colorblind; you are totally blind!  But do not judge me by that color, no matter what the color.

Racism is a very emotional issue, especially as related to free speech.  Some people argue that it is just words. Others point out that these words can lead to some very dire and serious consequences. I argue that the challenge of racism and xenophobia is a global challenge and words in fact really do matter. Racism has influenced wars, created slavery, public policy, legal rules and regulations.  Intentional or not, many advocates of "diversity" in reality perpetuate racism, by encouraging people to adopt a group mentality to fight an issue they purport to abhor. Racially divisive ideology, language and subsequent action vilifying others must be confronted when it occurs.     

The discussion in our community about racism should also take place in our homes, around our dinner tables, in our places of worship and in our classrooms.  We must challenge and educate ourselves to remove the obstacles that hinder effective social change in racist structures.  It is not simple optimism to believe if people understand where racism originates, how it functions and why it is perpetuated that we can also end it.  This means we must learn to focus less on group differences and more on individual achievement.  The skills pool, not the genes pool, is the key to disassembling structures of dominance, dependence, and inequality.  In addition, we must defuse the collectivist mindset that polarizes our community.

In a free society, every citizen gains a sense of himself as an individual, rather than developing a group mentality. When you understand who you are individually you have a renewed sense of individual responsibility and pride, making the color of skin immaterial.  This makes the systems that keep racism in place obsolete.  It is our institutions and organizations, which often perpetuate the inequity of power, that are sadly to blame for maintaining the status quo enjoyed by racists.  They must be defeated. 

We must work immediately to build bridges within our communities. I do not want to be dismissive. Great efforts that have already taken place toward restoring racial harmony. But I want to also point out it is a fallacy to embrace a government oriented method alone to changing our culture.  We cannot simply let a movement striving and advocating on behalf of equality and opportunity turn into one focused on enforcing results.  We must acknowledge that most of the work done fighting racism has been too individualistic in regards to trying to erase racial boundaries.  If we want to eradicate racism, we need to do more than contemplate the issue; we must take the necessary action in the pursuit of justice.  That means equality, liberty and dignity of all people.

Racism will continue until we stop thinking in terms of groups and start thinking of individual liberty. I contend that liberty is best promoted by a limited, constitutional government devoted to the protection of individual rights rather than group claims. Freedom is best served by free-market capitalism, which rewards individual achievement and competence - not skin color, gender, or ethnicity. Equality recognizes that racial judgment is intrinsically unjust, and our judgment better served based on moral character of individuals. Furthermore, we must be prepared to candidly deal with the truth. Only through real contrition and repair of broken relationships and violated dignity can racial reconciliation occur.

As Dr. King reminded us, "when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

I hope our community here in Bradley County Tennessee will become more inclusive, and reject policies of exclusivity.  This means more than simply celebrating Black History Month in February in our classrooms. This means hiring minority teachers and administrators.  Not one minority candidate was considered in a recent search for Director of Schools, and we should be ashamed of that fact. Business leaders must likewise demand more of their elected and appointed officials.  We cannot accept students trapped in failing schools, whether here or across the nation.  The soft bigotry of low expectations lies quietly below the surface and we need to continually confront that issue.  Lee University, a wonderfully diverse campus, can lead some of our efforts.  They have broken down some of the walls, but their leadership is again needed. And we should welcome their involvement to bring together churches of many denominations to share knowledge and bridge cultural gaps.  I will commit to being part of this effort.

I hope the glass ceilings that restrain those of different sex, race, age, religion or national origin will be shattered once and for all.  When he visited South Africa in 1995, Pope John Paul II stated that the only path forward, out of the complete moral bankruptcy of racial prejudice and ethnic animosity was the belief that unity of all people was based upon the belief we are all "created in the image and likeness of God, have the same origin and are called to the same destiny."  Freedom of conscience and freedom of religion remain the premise, the principle and the foundation of every other freedom, human and civil, individual and communal. Therefore we must reject the process of dehumanization and the disintegration of the social fabric which undeniably aggravates racist and xenophobic attitudes and behavior.  Dehumanization results in rejection of the weakest, be it the foreigner, the handicapped or the homeless. True greatness is being willing to serve even if the people you serve are at the bottom - something June Griffin, Jeremiah Wright, Bill Clinton, Geraldine Ferraro and others seem to have forgotten by their words.   

Almost rhetorically Robert Kennedy once asked: "But suppose God is black? What if we go to Heaven and we, all our lives, have treated the Negro as an inferior, and God is there, and we look up and He is not white? What then is our response?"  I would add what if God was Hispanic or Latino?  Middle Easterner? Asian? If your vision of God is blonde hair and blue eyes, I maintain your view of God is probably too white. 

--J. C. Bowman is a public policy analyst who resides in Cleveland, TN..
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