By Robert A. Vella

The biggest problem with racism in America today, compared to the Civil Rights Era of a half-century ago, isn’t that it still exists.  The real problem is that the majority of white people in this nation have largely gone silent on the issue.  During the 1960s, young white Americans actively joined the cause for racial and sexual equality.  They demonstrated on college campuses, they marched in the streets with their black brothers and sisters, they resisted the often brutal acts of suppression by police, and some of them paid the ultimate price in blood.  But today, in the current reemergence of racial disharmony, that level of commitment by the white community has been sorely lacking.

No image captures this problem better than some protest signs displayed this year around the country in support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement proclaiming that “White Silence = White Consent:”

White Silence equals White Consent

The message is very powerful, forcing the beneficiaries of racial privilege to confront their relative comfort while those not so fortunate bear the brunt of institutionalized bias and discrimination.  Sooner or later, it must strike a nerve in everyone who believes in America’s constitutional principles of equality in the eyes of the law.

With so many instances of racial injustice and violence plaguing the nation in recent years, as well as drawing worldwide attention, we’re beginning to see some movement in public opinion.  America is becoming more aware of the problem, and that is precisely the first necessary step towards positively addressing it.

From the Tampa Bay TimesA year after Ferguson, whites are far more likely to admit racism is a problem (w/video):

A majority of whites now say the country needs to do more to make equal rights a reality, and a significantly larger number of white Americans say blacks are treated less fairly than others by law enforcement officials, according to several new polls.

Asked whether the country “needs to continue making changes to give blacks equal rights with whites” or whether it already has “made the changes needed,” Americans by just short of 2-1 now say more change is needed, according to a new survey by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center.


The shifts are significant. For the last several years, a majority of whites consistently has said that the country already had “made the changes needed.”


Another measure — the share of Americans who say racism is a “big problem” — has also shown a significant increase. Today, half of the country says racism is a “big problem,” Pew found, up from one-third who said so five years ago and one-quarter who held that view at the time Barack Obama was inaugurated as the nation’s first black president.

Among whites, just over 4 in 10 now see racism as a “big problem,” up from 1 in 4 when the question was last asked in 2010. A majority of blacks, 73 percent, and Latinos, 58 percent, call racism a big problem.

Republicans remain the hardest to convince, although the percentage of them who now believe that changes need to be made has increased by 15 points over the last year.  Surprisingly, the polls also showed little partisan divide on race between older and younger Americans.

Additionally indicative of this shift in public opinion is the new polling results on America’s attitudes concerning the Confederate flag (see Poll: Majority of Americans support Confederate flag removal).

However, the renewed public focus on race relations is also triggering a fierce backlash from white supremacists who have long sought for a violent race war in America akin to Adolf Hitler’s “final solution.”  It must be noted that such individuals are often drawn to careers in law enforcement and the military, and that this has undoubtedly contributed to increased incidents of police misconduct in recent years.

In related news:

Single mom in Atlanta finds her home completely destroyed and covered in racist graffiti

Episcopal Priest on road trip with interracial family shares harrowing story of police harassment

4 thoughts on “Discussion of the Day: White Silence = White Consent

  1. Pingback: Discussion of the Day: White Silence = White Consent | The Secular Jurist – Never the less…

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