Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

America is not a racist country? Like hell it ain’t! That’s not the issue. The issue is what will America do about its racism? Our focus should be on resolution to the racism that exists. Never mind how it’s characterized.

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott’s opening statement as he responded to President Joe Biden’s first Congressional address has sparked debate among the American public. That shouldn’t be debated. Too much pertaining to racism in America is ongoing. We shouldn’t allow the central issue to be diminished by debate.

African Americans are being killed almost weekly by police, Asian Americans indiscriminately are being assaulted for no reason other than their ethnicity, and immigrants seeking the freedom of the American promise are being captured and deported. A lot of that sounds racist to me, and much of it is perpetrated by American governmental institutions.

Isn’t the American identity tied to its institutions? Are all Americans racist? Surely not. But when one considers that the character of a country is determined as much by the policies that govern and drive its population, there is little doubt about America’s characterization as a racist country.

While the question of American racism is worthy of discussion—since most issues must be discussed in order to effectively be resolved—we cannot let discussion be the end goal. The first step to resolving a problem is recognizing there is a problem. There is a place for discussion, but this continued discussion of whether Scott’s statement is true is pure nonsense.

From day one, America emerged as a racist country. I can think of no reason other than racism that would lead America’s founding fathers to discount the humanity of the emerging nation’s enslaved population as they outlined the rights of the citizenry. The atrocities that emerged from that discounting points to nothing other than inhumanity and racism.

We might include in the discussion whether American policy was born and driven by economics. I think there’s some merit to that argument. But among the factors contributing to choices made as to who would be exploited to achieve economic progress, I’m sure racism was included.

I think the recent murder conviction of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin draws a clear picture of the institutional racism that defines America. Millions watched Chauvin kneel on George Floyd’s neck until life left Floyd’s body. The jury in Chauvin’s three-week trial took over 10 hours to return a verdict. As many in our country celebrated Chauvin’s conviction and looked forward to his sentencing, I remained unmoved, knowing throughout Chauvin’s trial, his conviction was uncertain. I and many others held onto that uncertainty even until the verdict was announced.

Institutional racism within America’s police agencies perhaps is most evident. Because of that, it’s still rare for police officers to be charged in the deaths of African Americans — and even more rare for an officer to go to jail.

Chauvin’s conviction is a rare case. Closer to home, a federal judge sentenced former North Charleston officer Michael Slager to 20 years for the 2015 video-recorded shooting death of Walter Scott, who Slager shot in the back after a traffic stop. Ultimately, Slager was convicted not for murder, but for violating Scott’s civil rights. 

Now, the question is what will we do about racism that exists? Our country is at a precarious point. We can leave the issue in perfunctory stages of discussion or we can act to change. I really hope we choose the latter.

Stay cool. Support City Paper.

City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.