The US urgently needs to address the widely varying ways people of different races experience life in the country. Otherwise it has no business calling itself the greatest nation on earth, writes DW’s Spencer Kimball.
Segregation officially ended half a century ago, but in many parts of the United States, black and white Americans are still living in two separate and unequal countries. We cross paths in public and sometimes in the work place. We’re polite, kind to each other, as strangers should be. But at the end of the day, we too often come from and return home to very different realities.
Take me for example. I grew up in a small Kentucky town, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, a mid-size city that’s about half white and half black. But in my town, you would have never known the population was split almost evenly between whites and blacks. There were only a few black kids at my high school. To this day, they live in other neighborhoods and attend other schools – where the opportunities are not the same.
I am from an ethnic enclave, a wealthy and privileged one. Even now as an adult, I have far too little exposure to blacks and their experience in America. It’s not like this everywhere in the country, but it’s still the case in too many places. It’s lack of contact with people of other races that plays a major role in explaining the widely varying views of race and the police that are visible across the nation – most recently in the case of Sandra Bland.
A 28-year-old black woman, Bland was pulled over in Texas for failing to use her turn signal. She was upset that she’d been pulled over, refused to leave her car, was threatened with being “lit up” by a Taser, forcibly removed and arrested. It’s on videotape. Bland was later found dead in her jail cell, an apparent suicide, according to authorities. There are reports that she suffered from depression and may have attempted suicide in the past. That information is still coming to light.