Good stuff, Prof. John.

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I follow and enjoy your commentary. Even if I don’t agree with everything you say, I think it is grounded, thoughtful, researched, and compelling. Thank you.

In the 10 points you make at the beginning of the essay, there is a little bit of truth in each piece of what you critique, in my opinion. Racism is still real, bias still exists, and some racism is systemic in nature. You acknowledge this. There are real power dynamics that impact all of us in relation to our race. And privileges and barriers result. The more aware we are, the more we can try to balance out those power dynamics in a more fair and inclusive way. But if we only focus on the what seems endless and basically unsolvable (in the short and mid-term) impact at the systemic level, we miss at least 2 important things: 1) all of the progress that is being made at the individual level. Racial attitudes in terms of bias are improving, for example. This should be acknowledged and celebrated. 2) we disempower and stall, through rhetoric and punishment, individuals who want to see each other as individuals and create change from the bottom up.

It is implied in the title of your new book, that some of the social justice warriors are simply projecting their own unresolved racial biases onto other people. From a white perspective, if I am obsessed with systemic racism, is it not possible that I feel unempowered to be racially inclusive myself? There is so much projection in our society lately, but we’ve focused more on the projection coming from the right, and represented in Trump (the ultimate projector). We are all creating our racial status quo, from the overt prejudice and bigotry on the right, to the justice warriors on the left, but positive change is happening in the middle 60% or so of the country, and this bothers the other 40%.

The overheated racial dialogue right now, in my opinion as someone who works in organizational change, is a sign that change is occurring. Often, heightened overt resistance (e.g., polarized racial dialogue coming from many directions) means change is actually happening, because if change wasn’t really happening people wouldn’t be so upset and expressive. We are finally having that “national conversation about race” that so many politicians have called for over the years. And it isn’t pretty. Let the hundred blossoms of racism bloom where everyone can see, and then let us clarify our values of inclusion and individual agency, and keep going. This isn’t the time to describe the more overt racism in some quarters as proof of the unending power of racism permeating our entire society. In fact, that is exactly wrong, and is having the ironic impact of making racial reconciliation less likely. It is instead time to see our messy national dialogue as a stepping off point into something better, as a sign that we are changing, that we are finally grappling with the meaning of our demographic reality and our constitution. This is a time of taking 2 or 3 steps forward, if we let ourselves.


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