Are Blacks 'Stuck' Because They Blame Others?

A reader asks if Blacks are stuck in the past because they can't "get over" color. No, says the White Guy, as well as another reader -- ignoring the past's impact on today is by far the bigger danger.

Luke Visconti's Ask the White Guy column is a top draw on Visconti, the founder and CEO of DiversityInc, is a nationally recognized leader in diversity management. In his popular column, readers who ask Visconti tough questions about race/culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age can expect smart, direct and disarmingly frank answers.

Are we stuck in the past because we can't 'get over' color, asks one reader?  No, says the White Guy, as well as another reader, whose comments appear after the White Guy's. 

Mr. Visconti,

I agree with all your points made to the white female, however, I did not see you respond to her comment about moving on and concentrate on the future. Being a European, having lived in the US, my impression is that there is a tendency to holding on to wrongdoings in the past - which Americans are not alone in doing, by the way. I do believe that we should know our history, but that we need to focus on the better for the future - if not, we just get stuck and we keep blaming someone else for our problems.


Thank you for an educational site.

-Sunniva Heggertveit


Thank you for your feedback.


You're right - we can't go forward by lingering in the past, but the reader's comments were so ignorant, I didn't think it was possible to address the future in my answer.


Regarding your e-mail: Since the entire column was about African Americans, I'll make the logical connection that your comments about being "stuck" included them.


I don't think African Americans are "stuck" because they're "blaming someone else." In fact, that is offensive. Black households have one-tenth the wealth of white households in this country. Do you blame Black people - or the system that denied opportunity by race for 300 years? The fact is that our Civil Rights Era enabled African Americans to make great advances in the past 40 years - achieving high school, college and post graduate degrees at accelerating rates -- but the disparities are still huge and will take many years to overcome without direct intervention. Does the leveling of the playing field hurt white people? No, it helps them. Enabling disadvantaged citizens (by race, culture, gender, age, disability, etc.) to contribute to the full extent of their potential helps the entire nation's economy.


Ignorance of the past leads people to "blame the victim." Aside from the economic damage to the society (by holding people back), "victims" tend not to take oppression well. Sometimes "victims" end up burning cars on the Champs Elysees.


Since your e-mail address is from France, I will add something else about history and mistakes.


This country would not exist had it not been for the direct and personal intervention of the French people. General Washington was able to surround the British at Yorktown and end the Revolutionary War due to the direct help of a French Army (commanded by Lieutenant General comte de Rochambeau) and a French Navy (commanded by Admiral comte de Grasse). Most Americans do not know that Washington could not have done this with the American Army alone.


This is why the ridiculous French-bashing at the beginning of the Iraq War by certain talk show hosts (and certain members of our Congress) helped us make the mistake of invading a country with bad intelligence, when our friends - a country that was responsible for us being here - were advising us otherwise.


Q. Your comments were on point.  There is nothing people of color want more than to NOT be judged by their color.  Unfortunately, too often the "mainstream" provides us with reminders of how different they perceive is to be.  The following story illustrates how far we still have to go.


During Black History Month, my 7 year old grandson challenged his teacher about black history.  He was offended that most of what she taught was "slavery and the civil rights movement [e.g. Martin Luther King].  He brought one of his black history books to school the next day and asked his teacher why she never mentioned any of the prominent black names found in his book.  Her first response was "I don't know anything about them and I won't teach what I don't know".  When he suggested that she learn by reading, she then told him the school district would not permit her to teach about "these people".


Many African - Americans know our history and take pride in our accomplishments.  To still be left out of American hsitory books is an offense and a constant reminder that we are still not accurately perceived by the mainstream.

- Blake McMorris

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