Deborah Daniels: Whites must concede publicly that racism still exists

Deborah DanielsAbout every 50 years, our nation seizes the opportunity for groundbreaking, even earth-shattering, systemic change.

In 1863, President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. In 1920, after decades of struggle by women to gain the right to vote, the 19th Amendment was ratified. In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision, followed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, mandated equal opportunity for African Americans.

As we all know, legislating change did not fully solve the problem of racial inequity in this country. And it cannot if hearts do not also change.

The events of the last few weeks have underscored the fact that there remain significant inequities in the treatment of minorities in the U.S. But, as in the circumstances that led to major changes in the past, the drumbeat of public pressure is beginning to produce a recognition on the part of the majority that inequitable treatment of minorities is not just a myth spread by a bunch of whiners—it is real, it is tangible, and it is damaging the fabric of our nation.

African Americans have tried for decades to get the rest of us to take seriously their claims of disparate treatment, seemingly to no avail. But there is real cause for hope today.

Suddenly, leaders in the sports world are saying, “We get it.” Starting with Drew Brees, the Purdue alum who quarterbacks the New Orleans Saints, realization is dawning among whites. Last week, Brees apologized publicly for his prior disagreement with Colin Kaepernick and others, expressing a newly-acquired understanding of the true sentiments of those who choose to kneel. It’s not meant as an insult to our flag or our veterans: it is a cry for help.

Here at home, Chris Ballard, general manager of the Indianapolis Colts, discussed his own awakening and increased comprehension of the pervasiveness of racial inequity. Kevin Pritchard, president of the Indiana Pacers, teared up as he confessed he previously had no idea how bad the situation was, even for members of his own team. Even NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, “We were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier.”

Leaders of the Indianapolis business community, including Tom Linebarger of Cummins and Dave Ricks of Eli Lilly and Co., are making it clear that racial inequity is real and that it is intolerable. Members of the police force have demonstrated their sympathy for the views of those peacefully protesting over the past two weeks. They, too, recognize the need for greater racial equity.

Some of my fellow conservatives are still not convinced. I would refer them to a thoughtful statement released last week by former President George W. Bush, calling bigotry and racism “stains on our character sometimes difficult for the American majority to examine.” Pat Robertson calls for white introspection. Condoleeza Rice suggests each of us must accept individual responsibility to become part of the solution.

People who look like me need to move away from the state of denial we have been in for so long. We need to first acknowledge that we all harbor biases, and our collective bias has endowed some of us with greater privilege while restraining those who are too often seen as “the other.” We must listen carefully to our brothers and sisters of color, and we must change the circumstances that cause a disparate impact on minorities and the poor.

Whites must concede publicly that racism still exists, is morally wrong and should be rejected.

If not us, who? If not now, when?•

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Daniels, a partner at Krieg DeVault LLP, is a former U.S. attorney, assistant U.S. attorney general, and president of the Sagamore Institute. Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.


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4 thoughts on “Deborah Daniels: Whites must concede publicly that racism still exists

  1. Totally disagree with you, and find the premise of your article insulting. Sadly, way too blacks in America have been held in economic and social captivity by their Democrat white & black masters who run most of the big cities, and deny minorities access to good schools via the charter school programs which are strongly opposed by the teacher’s unions – one of the biggest contributors to the Dem Party.

  2. Yes, all true… BUT… change will never be successful until the black community also owns up to an honest self assessment. Many whites who are sympathetic to ending racism are also worried about the internal struggle which hampers any progress. The number one cause for black death is black crime. 70% children growing up w/out fathers, 28% of all black children are aborted. And most recently, the violence and misguided aims amid the protests … resulting in more than a dozen deaths, hundreds hospitalized, crippling law enforcement beyond reasonable reform, and $350M in property damage to black communities. No way this works w/out reform that looks at ALL of the issues. The kind of movement that Dr. King lead and the dream he spoke of was not self destructive. Black LIVES matter …. Life not DEATH.

    1. Steve M, all of those statistic you point have an almost universal root cause, and that is the economic reality that racism causes. Which came first, the chicken of the egg? I would say in this case racism came first and we need to make an extraordinary effort to not only eliminate racism, but to provide a minimum social safety net for all poor Americans to give them stability and the ability to become educated and fully contributing members of society.

  3. On June 10, Thomas Sowell Tweeted the most accurate assessment of current events imaginable:

    “Have we reached the ultimate stage of absurdity where some people are held responsible for things that happened before they were born, while other people are not held responsible for what they themselves are doing today?”

    BINGO…yet the pandering continues…

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