Readers: this blog is set in the future (sometime after the year 2020). Each entry assumes there has been a 5th revolution in the US — the Revenge Revolution. More about the Revenge Revolution, a list of earlier revolutions and the author, Entry #1.

Periodically I write a “sense check” to assess whether in the next few years, a revolution in the US is still possible or whether the entire exercise is based on a statistical aberration — i.e., a roughly 50-year cycle between major upheavals in the US.  Most recent sense check, Entry #365.  

Some of the entries are part of a series.  Several series are available as easy-to-read booklets for download:

Prelude: I’ve concluded Trump is a lunatic and the administration filled with lapdogs save a couple of people at CDC.  Instead of wasting time commenting on actions by Trump, I thought it more productive to begin discussing what happens in the US once the coronavirus is more under control.  #378 began the series. At this point not sure how many entries.  Comments and suggestions welcome.

ENTRY #385: An unexpected addition to the post-COVID-19 conversation is whether widespread racism exists in the United States. While such a discussion comes to the fore periodically, the current discussion seems to be more intense and have garnered a broader audience.

As usual in this administration, comments from Trump have created frustration and anger among most blacks and many whites. The event that precipitated the current conversation was not Trump but the gross misconduct of the Minneapolis Police in the death of George Floyd.

Although Mr. Floyd had a minor rap sheet, by all accounts from bystanders, Floyd’s behavior did not justify actions taken by the police – a knee to the neck for nearly nine minutes, with the cop apparently unconcerned about a possible video from a bystander.

The protest against the police following Floyd’s death started with the release of the video.  The protests started in Minneapolis-St. Paul then spread quickly throughout the country. Protests have continued for more than two weeks, and as of today, still continue.

Actions taken by the Trump administration have created more anger and frustration. The most egregious action seemed to be when Trump, using a loophole in the law that allowed military troops deployed in Washington DC to bring protests “under control.”   Some of the protests included looting.

Last weekend (06/06-07/2020) Trump ordered Attorney General William Barr to have the military troops disperse peaceful protesters away from Lafayette Park. Protesters were met with “chemical” smoke (likely pepper spray or teargas), rubber bullets and low-hovering helicopters.

Why such drastic action? Was the White House in danger of being overrun?  Was there extensive looting?  No and no.  The protesters were cleared by military troops so Trump could walk across the street for a photo op at Saint John’s Episcopal church, often referred to as the “President’s Church.”  Trump, the paragon of Christianity, stood in front of the church holding a Bible.  What more could his hard-core base want than a picture of Trump in front of a church holding a Bible?

As the second week of protests progressed, conversations started to include demands for reducing funding for police departments, and in some cases, eliminating police departments. Other demands focused on improved healthcare, better education, improved housing and some discussions about reparations for blacks.

I’ve tried to listen and understand. Over the last week or so, I’ve also spent 4-5 hours on Skype with a long-time friend whom we met in our early days in Charlotte.  While we have great respect for one another, our ethnicity and backgrounds are vastly different. He grew up in eastern North Carolina.  His parents were sharecroppers with limited education, probably 8th grade. Interestingly, all six children of the sharecropper parents went to college.

My friend’s wife, whom he met in Charlotte. as did we, is a high-energy go-getter who’s had a very successful career in the insurance industry. One assignment was managing an insurance company’s operation in a very large developing country.  The couple has two children – one in college in California and the other finishing high school.

Our recent Skype conversations have included him describing the experiences of an educated, affluent black family with different police departments. Over the years I’ve heard bits and pieces of some of the stories.  However, until this series of calls and then when I read his detailed accounts, which I encouraged him to write, I never realized the entire story. Not pretty.

The Skype discussions also included what he viewed as ideas to address inequities between the races. Before we started that conversation, he said “Some of what I’m going to tell you will make you uncomfortable.”  He was right.

Every now and then I asked a question.  One question was, “How can some members of the black community seemingly justify looting?  How can one justify stealing, especially stealing from a neighborhood store?”  (His response paraphrased), “Whites have stolen from blacks forever. Some blacks feel the only way to get the white man’s attention is to steal from him.”  I found that rationale incredibly disturbing and still have not processed the idea.

Another suggestion was blacks should receive reparations from whites. The rationale, he explained, was if Republicans in the Senate were willing to spend $4,000,000,000,000 for a coronavirus stimulus package, they obviously didn’t care about deficits. Therefore, why not spend another $4,000,000,000,000 as reparations for blacks? Besides, he continued, the $100,000 per person (black population 45+ million so a bit high) reparation would flow back into the economy as recipients bought new cars, bought new houses, took vacations, etc.

At the end of that Skype call, the most recent, I indicated, yes some demands during the call made me feel uncomfortable. I also reminded him that I had listened carefully and didn’t challenge any of his statements. But the next call would be my turn. During that call, I might make some comments that made him uncomfortable.

What are we going to talk about the next call? First, I don’t believe the conversation about racism across the US should be viewed as a zero-sum game. If the parties involved will listen, and be willing to accept reasonable solutions, then everyone can come out ahead.  If one of the sides insists on their “solution” or none at all, then likely no progress will be made.

To me, the only issue that does not need a lot of debate is whether most organizations have some employees who are not performing appropriately and need to leave. Such organizations include police departments.  That conversation needs to include the police unions.  I understand the purpose and value of police unions. But the unions need to quit overprotecting the bad cops. Overprotecting is not good for the entire police force, not good for the union and not good for the community.

As far as the rest of the demands, I have attempted to frame the questions to allow more than one view to be discussed and evaluated.  The questions are:

  1. If every other ethnic group, many of which experienced extreme and overt discrimination, has been able to get off the bottom rung of the economic ladder and migrate toward the middle class, even though the journey often has taken several generations, then should blacks study these ethnic groups and consider a similar path? What’s preventing blacks from doing the same things as these other ethnic groups did?  While the situation for each ethnic group was somewhat different, the path followed seems somewhat similar.
  2. If there are reparations, is it fair to deduct certain amounts to compensate or repay taxpayers for the extra cost of education, the extra cost of welfare, the extra cost of incarceration, etc.?
  3. Wouldn’t money allocated for reparations be better spent on education, healthcare and housing? What happened to teaching someone to fish?
  4. If the percentage of blacks incarcerated is disproportionately high compared to the population, what percentage of crimes are committed by blacks? One can argue about the fairness of sentences for certain crimes, but that is a different issue than the percentage of crimes committed by blacks.  (And eliminate most traffic violations from the calculation.) Is there a reason beyond just “police harassment”?
  5. What percentage of businesses in predominantly black communities are owned by blacks? If the percentage is low, then why aren’t there programs by wealthy blacks to encourage and support such businesses?  Rebuilding black-owned businesses may be even more important post COVID-19.  A report by CBS News (06/12/2020) indicated that when restrictions are lifted, up to 40% of the black-owned businesses may not reopen compared to less than 20% of white-owned businesses. The higher closure rate was attributed in part to lack of available financing.
  6. Is it fair to demand quotas for white players in the NFL and the NBA? (Yes, that’s a joke.)

More to come.