Let's talk about white racism [Letter]

The commentary, "A necessary conversation" (Aug 17), by Loyola University Maryland assistant professor Karsonya Wise Whitehead, in which she claims that our nation needs to have "a serious conversation about race," is another see-no-evil, speak-no-evil, hear-no-evil lamentation about the state of race relations in America that is sure to offend nobody and solve nothing.

Ms. Whitehead uses the word "racism" only once in her long article. The way she sees it, what we need to be doing is "sitting down in small diverse community groups and wrestling with the question of how race and our feelings about it are still dividing our country." You know, like a class discussion. She claims we must have a conversation about race "before we begin the process of healing" and before events like those that occurred in Ferguson, Mo. happen elsewhere. Right. As if the race problem in America is caused by a failure to communicate.

It isn't. The cause of the race problem in America is racism, and I mean white racism. Since the founding of our nation, white prejudice against black people (and other people of color such as Native Americans, Hispanics and Asians, but black people especially) has been, is and always will be dividing our country. White racism is the rot at the core of our nation's social contract. It is white racism, in all its forms, from violent to silent, that has kept us and still keeps us from actualizing E Pluribus Unum, from becoming one people from many.

This nation doesn't need a "conversation about race." It needs a conversation about white racism. And who is to converse with whom? The leaders, public figures and people of influence in our nation and society need to converse with the American people about white racism. They need to call it out as the cause of the race problem in America and condemn it in no uncertain terms. And who, for example, might they be?

Our elected officials. Hey, President Barack Obama, U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, Gov. Martin O'Malley! How about giving some speeches about white racism? And holding some town meetings about it where you'd respond to comments from the audience? Hey, want-to-be elected officials, Anthony Brown and Larry Hogan! How about giving some speeches about white racism during your campaigns and let us know what you think about it?

Or what about our religious leaders? Hey, Archbishop William E. Lori, how about giving some sermons about white racism? Editors of The Baltimore Sun, how about printing some editorials about white racism? Or columnists Dan Rodricks and Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., how about writing some columns about white racism?

And let me be clear. Our nation especially needs prominent white people to stand up and condemn white racism. Black leaders, from Frederick Douglass to Malcolm X, have done it, but white people expect them to do it so they aren't likely to heed what they say as much as they'd heed what white leaders would say.

If more ordinary white people saw prominent white people do it, it's likely to embolden them to speak out against white racism whenever it appears in whatever social setting they find themselves — in the workplace, the PTA meeting, the church, the neighborhood bar, the home. And it would certainly gladden black people who have long been enraged and frustrated by the silence of white leaders about white racism. To quote the Latin phrase, qui tacet consentit, "he who remains silent consents."

That's the conversation our nation needs to have — a conversation about white racism, not some palliative "conversation about race." White racism is a socially communicable disease. To treat or prevent this affliction of our body politic we need the public figures in our country to converse with the American people about white racism and to condemn it unequivocally.

Roye Templeton, Parkton

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