Each week the Watcher's Council holds a forum. This week's topic is "how would you improve race relations in America." Having been invited to respond, here is the extended version of my answer. A shorter version will appear at the Watcher's forum.
Update: The Forum has now been posted. There are several very good answers to the question. Do pay the forum a visit.
There will always be some degree of tribalism, it being human nature. But racism today is largely absent from this country. Those who harbor "racist" views are relegated to the very fringes of society. Virtually all Americans of whatever color or political persuasion would like to see nothing more than blacks fully embracing the opportunities life in this nation offers, and enjoying the fruits of their efforts equally with all others. So why are race relations problematic today, and why, by all metrics, are black Americans worse off than others? It can all be summed up in one picture:
This picture is from one of Rev. Al's protests a few years ago. The sign the woman is holding up says everything. Racism is no longer a real issue in society, but the left must maintain the canard that it is. Blacks must be made to see themselves as permanent victims of racism and as being championed by the race hustlers of the left. Moreover, it's important to note the poor grammar used on the sign. It screams out that the woman who wrote it has been failed by whatever schools she attended, thus limiting her opportunities to thrive in America.
So with that in mind, the first thing to understand about race relations is that the left are invested in seeing that the "racial divide" remains as wide as possible. This is political, as it has been since the early 60's, when the marxist "new left" -- our modern left -- made common cause with the heirs of Martin Luther King's civil rights movement. They morphed that movement from an effort to build a color blind society with equality of opportunity for all into a color centric, unified block of people who are fed daily a tautology that they are, and will ever be, permanently victimized by white conservatives. Actual history of support for blacks and civil rights was ignored or rewritten, and it was done so effectively that, to this day, blacks vote 90% as a block for Democrats. If the modern left ever loses even a portion of that block of support, it would be catastrophic. While quite literally everyone I know on the right would like to heal the "racial divide," for the left, their very political survival depends on using it to "divide and conquer."
Thus do you have Rep. John Lewis claiming that any effort to insure the integrity of the vote, something that should be of greater importance to blacks than any other racial group, is actually an effort to deprive blacks of their right to vote. Thus do you have a man at the pinnacle of academia, Harvard Prof. Henry Gates, and other black intellectuals teaching their students about critical race theory, color blind racism, white privilege, and to believe that black slavery was an unpardonable sin such that, irrespective of today's reality, they should keep their two hundred year old racial grievances alive until all blacks are paid reparations. Thus do you have the Department of Justice using disparate impact theory to claim that racism is rampant, despite the fact that they can find no actual incidents of racism in any individual instance. For the modern left, it is critical to keep blacks beliving that all of America today is nothing more than 1954 Selma, Alabama writ large.
The second thing to understand is that blacks have paid a heavy price indeed for their Faustian bargain with the left. By virtually every metric, while the lives of blacks have improved, and while many black individuals have been able to embrace the opportunities this country has to offer, a very substantial portion of blacks have not. It is obscene that, in America, some 25% of blacks live in poverty. It is obscene that, where in 1965, less than 30% of black children were born into a single parent family, that number is now over 70%. It is obscene that that 30 to 40 percent of inner city kids don’t graduate from school, and a very substantial number who do graduate are functionally illiterate. It is obscene that blacks are seven times more likely to commit violent crime than other races. And it is obscene that these problems are cyclical. Nothing the left has done for blacks has broken this cycle, and it all portends to get much worse as cities, where large numbers of blacks congregate and many of whom take public sector jobs, fall into bankruptcy and economic chaos from the failure of the blue political / economic model.
The third thing to understand is that the left takes blacks for granted. In the pantheon of left wing victim groups, perhaps no group gets more attention and ink, but falls lower on the scale of importance. No two things would perhaps benefit the black lower and middle class than good entry level jobs and better education. But those needs run up against the reality that unions, and especially teachers unions, are the financial foundation of the left. Thus did you have Obama, almost in his first days as President, end the school voucher program in the nation's worst performing school district. Thus do you have the D.C. city council voting to, in essence, keep Walmart from opening stores in their district. And thus do you have Obama on the cusp of legalizing millions of Central and South American illegal aliens -- nearly all of whom will be competing for jobs with the black lower and middle class -- in order to gain Decomcrat voters. When it comes to blacks, the left feels no need to balance their needs against those of leftwing economic interests because they have the only thing they need from blacks -- their votes -- already locked up.
The fourth thing to understand is the race card. The race card has been incredibly powerful tool, and the left has not hesitated to use it whenever possible since the 1960's. It has been used to silence all debate and end careers. It serves the triparte purpose of mining white guilt, keeping the focus off of the real problems in the black community, and keeping blacks focused on nursing historical racial grievances. How many blacks today see imaginary racism as their greatest threat? And when was the last time conservatives made an actual, concerted push to reach out to blacks? The answer to that last question is never. The RNC at the national level spends next to nothing on reaching out, having written off the black vote since 1964.
So, how to improve race relations? The answer in today's post-racial America starts and ends with politics. Conservatives must convince blacks that they have their best interests at heart -- that we see them as equal members in the melting pot. Conservatives must also convince blacks that the solutions we propose will, in the long term, work to their advantage. When conservatives call for the end to teacher's unions, no single group of people would benefit more from that then blacks. When conservative call for an end to, or at least a lowering of, the minimum wage, no single group of people would benefit more from that then blacks. When conservatives call for altering laws that decrease the stability of the family unit, no single group of people would benefit more from that then blacks. Conservative must make their case, both that they have black Americans interests firmly at heart, and that blacks have been sorely used by the left.
But to do that, conservatives have to break through a wall of lies and propaganda from the left, at the national level, but most importantly, at the local level. They need to appear at every black forum to make their case, from the NAACP to Howard University to the inner city schools and the local black churches, despite the fact that they will be buried under an avalanche of race cards. And they need to become vociferous in immediately responding to the race card whenever it is played. All of that requires determination, money, and conviction. Rand Paul has flirted with it, and my hat is off to him for at least making some efforts in this regard, but it needs to become a focus for conservatives and Republicans alike, at all levels. That and only that is how you will improve race relations in America.