Op-ed by Rev. Michael Vaughn
As I write this article the country is embroiled in another widespread controversy, the issue of racism in this country. Not that it has ever gone away, but we tend to act as though it doesn’t exist until there is something that reminds us of the evil that racism is.
In the aftermath of what happened to George Floyd, African Americans have again had to come to grips with the reality that the color of our skin truly does matter. Regardless of what Mr. Floyd was doing the way his life was taken is evil, dehumanizing and must be dealt with. There have been numerous protests across the country and even around the world against what has occurred. However, the question that must now be asked is what is the real change that is needed?
While peaceful protests are valuable and serve a purpose, they are not the end in and of themselves. When someone asks the question, what do we want, we need to have an answer for them. In my mind the change that is needed is to first, understand what racism really is. Second, is to work for lasting change with the definition of what we want and what racism is, in mind.
Racism isn’t just Blacks against Whites (as the media and some politicians portray it). There are four (4) elements of racism that need to be talk about and then properly addressed—individual, interpersonal, institutional and structural. Each of these manifestations of racism support each other and help to keep African Americans looking up at the bottom. Unfortunately, the media and politicians help to keep African Americans in a constant and perpetual loop of emotions that never get to the heart of the matter which is why we never see real lasting change.
The racism that is overt is the interpersonal racism which is pitting Blacks against Whites. That is where much emotion arises, name calling, etc. This is what many have called what happened to George Floyd. However, that is an incorrect assessment and if we don’t properly identify it, we won’t properly deal with the issue. What happened to George Floyd and the other African Americans whose lives have been taken by police officers is a manifestation of institutional racism. Many institutions in America do not see African Americans properly and therefore their treatment of us reflects this. Unfortunately, they may not even know that they are doing this because it has become ingrained as part of society; this is where education must come in. to truly change institutional racism takes longer and therefore requires more resolve and personal sacrifice.
The other major form of racism that keeps African Americans down is structural. The cultural structure of our society even has African Americans assisting in the agendas of keeping African Americans down—case in point, abortion. This single act has done more to affect African Americans than police shootings, gang violence, heart disease, etc., combined! However, African Americans support (and defend) politicians that support abortion, something that has been shown, factually, that is disproportionately impacts African Americans more than other groups.
True change is hard and will take time to see occur and it can come at an enormous cost, ask Dr. Martin Luther King! However, if we tackle institutional and structural racism in our police forces, educational systems, legal system, business arenas, etc., we will be able to see change that will truly last. Through education of those in the various sectors of our society and by getting African American representation in these sectors we will be able to stem the tide and I believe remove the evil of racism.
We also will need the help, support and leadership of elected officials and we need to have the resolve that if they don’t support us, they will lose our support and we will find someone that will support us. The time for change is now, I pray that the aftermath of the senseless and evil murder of George Floyd will be a catalyst for lasting change here in America!
Rev. Michael Vaughn currently serves as senior pastor at New Wineskin Church in Rochester. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(The views expressed on our opinion pages are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or viewpoint of the Minority Reporter.)