Thank you for your recent VOSD story on the backlash to anti-racism efforts in the Coronado school district. The sentiments expressed by David McElrath of the Graham Memorial Presbyterian Church sounded very much like my own family members who cannot understand why I feel that this country cannot progress until it finally acknowledges the deep-seated systemic racism that still exists despite all of the legislation going all the way back to the Emancipation Proclamation. Most White Americans are in denial about the existence of White privilege, but these same people tend to feel that any attempt at evening the playing field is an attack on that very privilege and thus a threat to be resisted at all costs.
Racial issues are some of the most divisive topics in the United States. I honestly believe that we might benefit from a South African-style “Truth and Reconciliation” commission at the national level to examine systemic racism in detail and work to identify and root out implicit bias wherever we find it. I know that most White people find the topic uncomfortable or disturbing. The fact that it makes them so uncomfortable means that there is something to it. As a middle-aged White man, I sometimes use the phrase “recovering racist” to describe myself. All people who grew up in this culture are indoctrinated into racism from before the time we can speak. The trick is to be aware of it and actively work to improve. You never completely eliminate something you learned that young, but you can learn to recognize it in yourself and take action to avoid it in the future, not unlike a recovering addict in a 12-step program.
Your story shined a light on a local instance of racial conflict. This is helpful because communities like Coronado can often seem like isolated bubbles free of the problems of the greater society. Racism is something usually discussed in national news stories. It’s important that people in such communities don’t get complacent and think that they are immune to these “outside” issues. There is nothing liberal or conservative about objective truth, and the objective truth is that the United States has a lot to atone for in the area of racial equity.
Scott Douthwright is a U.S. citizen living in Tijuana and working in San Diego.