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Thursday, June 24, 2021

Shabazz: America is not a racist country

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Is America a racist country? Of course not, even though some people think it is.

Allow me to explain.

In response to the president’s address to the joint session of Congress, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, said, “America is not a racist country.”  You could have sworn that he just told a bunch of preschoolers that there was no Santa Claus or Easter Bunny.

Scott was immediately vilified for speaking the truth. He was called everything but a child of God. He was also called “Uncle Tim,” a play on the “Uncle Tom” attack. But, of course, anyone who has ever studied the true history of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” knows the novel humanized the plight of slaves in the early- to mid-19th century. Tom is actually more of a Christ-like figure who is martyred and beaten to death for refusing to give up the whereabouts of two escaped slaves. In later “interpretations” of the novel, “Uncle Tom” is viewed as a more subservient character.

But I digress.

America is not a racist country. America is a country that has racists in it, but it is not a racist country.

Let’s take police-action shootings, which some say is the epitome of racism. But, of course, for those who say America is a racist country, the first thing they point to is police-action killings of Black men, mainly unarmed Black men. Well, a close look at the data shows there is more to the story.

Since 2015, more than 6,241 people have been shot and killed by law enforcement in the United States. And out that more than 6,200, 1,500 were Black, and 129 of them were unarmed men. And 25 of them had a known mental illness. So when you do the math, that amounts to 22 killings a year on average. Now, is that good? No, but it sure isn’t the open season on Black folks some people would like for it to be.

Now, let’s take a look at education.

In 1940, when the census started keeping data regarding high school graduation rates, it was 7% for Blacks; that number was 24% for the entire nation. Fast forward 80 years, and the Black graduation rate is 88% while the country’s is 90%. In college, the gap is wider, but improvement is still being made. In 1940, only 5% of the nation had a college degree; that number was 1% for Blacks. Fast forward to today, and that number is 36% for the country and 26% for Blacks.

We’ve talked about education and police-action shootings; now let’s talk about wealth. This one is a little trickier because Black wealth is only 14% that of white households. Black economic spending power was $1.4 trillion in 2019, which is larger than Mexico’s economy. This tells me we need to spend less and invest more.

And when it comes to political power, America had eight years of a Black president (you know who I’m talking about). And while she is not “Black” in the pure ethnic sense of the word, Kamala Harris would not be vice president if America was as racist as some people say. And for the record, there were only five Blacks in Congress in 1965, and they were all Democrats. Today, that number is 57 and of both parties.

As I said at the beginning of this column, America is not a racist country, but a country with racists in it. I also believe the good guys way outnumber the not-so-nice guys. I also believe that Blacks, as a whole, still have challenges that need to be addressed. But to call America racist, the land where anyone with a good idea and a little bit of luck mixed with smart work can grow up to be a billionaire, or a brilliant political writer and pundit, is just plain silly.

Abdul-Hakim Shabazz is an attorney, political commentator and publisher of IndyPolitics.org. You can email comments to him at abdul@indypolitics.org.

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