It’s Not Easy Being White

Demonstrations or not, whites in America have to finally admit they have a race problem. The debate is long overdue.

Michael Brown was slaughtered like an animal, then given a funeral befitting a statesman on Monday. Thousands were in the church for the service, and countless others watched his funeral on television. His eulogy was delivered by one of America’s most prominent African-American civil rights activists.

His funeral was preceded by 16 days that moved the nation. People across the country reacted to the police gunfire aimed at the unarmed teenager. Some reacted with prayer, some with raised hands and the slogan “Don’t Shoot,” and others with acts of vandalism.

For everyone, Michael Brown was transformed into an icon — into a new face for the evil that’s just as old as American history: racism. The speed and breadth of the reactions show how widespread the incidence of social and economic discrimination and the depth of police harassment and violence directed at blacks is.

Civil rights activists now hope to use this latest deadly shooting incident involving young blacks to spur a long-overdue national debate about racism. They seek material and personnel reforms on the part of the police, better education opportunities for African-Americans, and a level playing field when it comes to employment and housing.

Spotlight on a Silent Majority

A transformation of the anger into political reforms makes it sound like something positive could still come from Michael Brown’s violent end. But for that to work, it will take more than protests by a minority of the population. The majority must understand that it’s every American’s problem when the police gun down unarmed teenagers, and there’s something rotten in America when the police aim their service weapons at demonstrators and journalists.

But in that regard, the past few days in the U.S. have shown little hope. Some in the white community solicit donations and demonstrate in support of the police shooter. Their numbers so far are few; it pales in contrast to the horde in the silent majority that show how deeply divided the nation is, how deep their fears are, and just how much many mistrust and openly hate one another.

The demonstrations and memorial services for Michael Brown should be welcomed. The fact that they include only a smattering of whites remains devastating.

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