When did we make our biggest gains in reducing racism in America? I think people would point to the 40's-60's. The military, sports, and entertainment became integrated. Voting and some property and access rights were greatly improved. There have been improvements since then, but more gradual - no more big splashy stuff, and I think that is part of the frustration.
It is at least co-incident with the period when we had much less immigration, 1927-1964. The common declaration is that all prejudices go together, and reducing prejudice against immigrants is just the same thing as reducing it against blacks, with the requisite accusations of white American disliking "brownness" in general. That's a favorite formulation of Barack Obama.
What if it's just not true? What if it would be better and more praiseworthy if human nature were that way, especially in aspirational, open-hearted America - but it's just not? That black soldiers fought as Americans in WWII and Korea and acquitted themselves admirably was referenced repeatedly in the 40's -50's for integrating one area after another. Harry Truman mentioned it specifically when he integrated the armed forces, that it was a shame to do otherwise. It was a big selling point in integrating baseball.
Maybe as a practical matter no people expands their definition of "us" very easily and citizenist is the way to go. We sometimes speak of immigrants making it harder for blacks to get ahead in terms of employment and wages - it was one of Bernie Sanders's core values until he gave all those away. We aren't supposed to mention that, but it is likely true for economic gain. What if it is also true in an emotional, associational sense? What if Universal Brotherhood is actually a dead end, and step-by-step changes of becoming a people are all that is possible?
I don't know this to be true. I simply note that it is possibly true but no one says it. Which in turn immediately leads to "Why don't we want this to be true? Why is it not one of the cliches of the discussion, rather than an unmentionable?" There are plenty of untrue cliches out there all over the political spectrum, but this one is not even a Facebook poster.
The Kingston Trio nailed it more than 50 years ago:
"they're rioting in africa
they're starving in spain
there's hurricanes in florida
and texas needs rain"
Racism is a problem because there's money in it. Just like there's money in the poor starving orphans in Europe, the shame of psoriasis or the coming Armageddon of global warming.
It isn't that people don't care. Actually, people don't care. The world is constantly screaming at us about all the terrible problems - and for just $19 a month...
In the mean time we just happen to have better things to do.
Your last paragraph asks a very interesting question. I'd like to know if you have more thoughts about that.
I can think of a few of other big things happening shortly before to co-incident wwe ith that period of low immigration that probably had an impact on our definition of "us". We fought a couple of big wars where it was necessary to convince (to certain degree) white immigrants from Germany, Italy, and central Europe to fight against the people who had been their countrymen a generation or less before. Immediately after the second of those big wars we got involved in another conflict, not as hot, but one where we need to establish an 'American' identity in opposition to another super power. With the previous conflict in mind, white Americans were very conscious of that definition be one of racial, religious, and ethnic inclusion. Whites were, at that point, probably the most open-minded since the end of the US Civil War. While it's certainly true that blacks in the US, like Indians under Gandhi, need to make a show to push forward acceptance by the white majority, it's also true that the white majority was primed to accept and then move on the indictment that progress had to be made on racial inclusion.
I've made a comment on a few posts over at Instapundit when the topic of emerging white identity has been brought up that one of the unspoken principles of allowing various ethnic (and other) groups in America to openly express in-group pride while whites (WASPs, in particular) were not was that WASPs were allowed to define the core of 'American' identity. The rejection of that bargain is directly related to the increasing possibility of whites developing an ethnic identity.
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