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Dr. David J. Leonard

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Got Solutions? Beyond Denial and Toward Transformation (Part 2)

Posted: 09/07/2012 9:40 am

As I noted in part 1, white denial about racism and demands for solutions (for the racial injustices often dismissed) go hand in hand. As Mark Anthony Neal brilliantly reminded people in a Facebook status update: "The very essence of 'privilege' is when you enter into a space and are fundamentally unaware that not only have you changed the conversation, but have made the conversation about you." Beyond attempting to turn the conversation into what they want, what these demands fail to recognize is white denial about racism, male denial about sexism, and heterosexual denial about homophobia is problematic and is instrumental in the perpetuation of violence, inequality, and privilege. While I remain wary of the demands for solutions, especially in absence of a willingness to work toward social change and accountability, there are many individual and systemic changes that will not only foster greater equality and justice but will address historically produced inequalities. There is much that can and must be done as part of a movement of racial reconciliation and change.

Universal Health Care: A consequence of America's history of racism, violence, segregation, wealth disparity, and inequality represents stark differences between life and death. Whether looking at life expectancy, infant mortality, and countless illness, we see that racial inequality has consequences. In other words, racism kills. To combat the health consequences of American Apartheid, we must adopt a single-payer national health system. The grave impact of a Jim Crow system of "health care" is seen each and every day. According to a recent study from Harvard University, "Nearly 45,000 people die in the United States each year -- one every 12 minutes -- in large part because they lack health insurance and can not get good care." Race matters here. Tim Wise notes that each year 100,000 African Americans die "who wouldn't if black mortality rates were equal to that of whites." Universal health care would not solve these disparities but it would certainly dramatically intercede against racism's assault on the basic human right of life. Lesley M Russell makes this clear:

Racial and ethnic minorities make up more than half of America's uninsured and they suffer higher rates of chronic illness than the general population. They are more likely to experience risk factors that predispose them to chronic illnesses such as obesity, and are much less likely to receive preventive screenings, regular care, and to fill needed prescriptions that could prevent or ameliorate their conditions. Because being uninsured often means postponing needed heath care services, people of color are diagnosed at more advanced disease stages, and once diagnosed, they receive poorer care. Inevitably, they are sicker and die sooner.

A single payer system may not be a complete solution but it is a way to save lives, improve lives, and challenge the ongoing history of racism. Who is on board? It would seem that providing health care and dismantling America's prison nation is the ultimate fulfillment of family values. You want a solution, how about respecting and valuing every person's family; now that's some values I can get on board with.

While we are nationalizing things, how about we abandon the inequitable local funding formulas employed by school districts and ensure that equity and equality is maintained in each and every school district. Since I know everyone is interested in change, how about a higher education that is open and accessible to everyone.

Solutions are a-plenty. Abolish the Electoral College and move toward publicly funded elections.

There are of course many solutions, from the Dream Act to dramatically changing the tax code and increasing minimum wage would take us on a path toward equality, justice, and racial reconciliation. If you want solutions, join me in fighting for them: if people get to deduct mortgage payments from their taxes, how about rental tax deductions; if children are deductible what about no children? Free childcare for all; what about public transformation in every community - interested? An end to the war on drugs and the military industrial complex! Are these the solutions you had in mind?

I could go on for pages, but I am wondering if these are the solutions you had in mind. Yet, what I have in mind is an end to the war on drugs, the war on women, and the war on the poor; or maybe a program that actually works to address poverty and homelessness. How about a societal commitment to end rape culture; ready to help by showing zero tolerance for the criminalization, shaming and demonization of rape victims? Are those the solutions you are so interested in hearing about? You ready to commit to protecting the vote for every citizen with equal zeal as many fight for the right to bear arms? I don't know about you, but to me surely making voting easier than it is to get an assault weapon in some locales would be both a step in the right direction and solutions in itself.

Solutions abound; policy initiatives, personal transformation, and a willingness to listen, dialogue, and look inward are solutions. And while I don't think the requests for solutions are always genuine, every proposal, suggestion, and potential solution is one that is possible. Yet, we don't have to look any further than our history books to find solutions, to find pathways toward freedom and justice. "On the one hand we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway," notes Martin Luther King. "True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring." Or we can simply fulfill the demands of the Black Panther Party: "We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice, peace and people's community control of modern technology."

 

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