Abdul-Hakim Shabazz: America is not a racist country

Abdul-Hakim ShabazzIs 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 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 are the epitome of racism. 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. Out of that number, 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 to say it is.

Now, let’s take a look at education.

In 1940, when the U.S. 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, 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, 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% of 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.

As I said at the beginning of this column, America is not a racist country but a country with racists in it. I 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.•

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Shabazz is an attorney, radio talk show host and political commentator, college professor and stand-up comedian. Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.


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