During the High Holidays, we try to ask ourselves the toughest questions about who we are and what we believe; we do not shy away from uncomfortable truths about how we live and our place in society.
With that in mind, let’s focus on race in America.
For the past several weeks, we have decried American racism. We are horrified by videotaped examples of police violence against African Americans, and our system of mass incarceration. We rail against systemic or structural racism – in the criminal justice system, in schools and in workplaces. We abhor implicit bias, and how it restricts opportunities in life for blacks in America.
All of that is as it should be. But that’s the easy part. Let’s also consider some of the harder truths:
And now the hardest part:
Of course, we choose to live there because the homes are attractive, the schools are high-quality and the streets are safe, despite the costs we impose on people of color and those with lower incomes.
So are we all racists? Or are we simply the “limousine liberals” of the 21st century?
None of this justifies the killing by police of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, and hundreds like them. None of this means we should tolerate large and ongoing racial disparities in all walks of life. All of it can be viewed as the by-products of a long and troubling legacy of US racism.
But, to really confront and change the realities of race in America, we must be honest with ourselves and others about the hard facts and current complexities of racial issues. Feel-good slogans and one-sided rhetoric and prescriptions will not get the job done.
Let us pledge to honestly confront hard realities this year, and not recoil from difficult truths regarding this vexing issue.
Harry J. Holzer