Father’s Day in Charleston

When will we finally do something about gun control and race relations in the U.S.?

Today my thoughts are with the children who lost their loved ones in a senseless and violent attack Wednesday in Charleston, S.C. While millions of families across America are honoring their Father’s, a handful of children in Charleston are mourning theirs.

I’ve been searching for the words to convey the sadness and anger I feel — not only at the senseless loss of life, but also at the way it’s been covered by members of the media, and the ensuing public reaction.

I’ve seen a fair amount of thoughtful commentary on race relations in the U.S. in the aftermath of the attack, but it’s been overshadowed by the finger-pointing and sensationalizing of a tragic event. I’ve witnessed a camera being shoved in the face of a sobbing family member, a lack of leadership from our elected officials, and even a refusal to acknowledge this attack was motivated by race.

What appears to be missing from the national dialogue is a discussion around solutions to these types of mass shooting incidents. Gun control is a politically dicey issue, but there is at least one measure an overwhelming majority of Americans support — universal background checks. According to a 2013 Washington Post-ABC News Poll, nine in 10 Americans support expanding background checks on gun purchases. There are very few issues in which 9 out of ten Americans can agree, and yet, still no universal background checks. When are we, as the electorate, going to demand accountability from our leaders?

On the issue of racial inequality, we appear to have made progress over the years, but you don’t have to dig very deep to uncover how slow the progress has been. While people of color make up about 30 percent of the United States’ population, they account for 60 percent of those imprisoned. And according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one in three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime.

How do we fix that?

Traditionally, education is seen as the only real solution to problems of black children. But black students are twice as likely as their white counterparts to fail state reading and math tests, get suspended, and drop out before graduating. Those who do stay in school often lack access to advanced placement or college-prep courses, and as a result, are less competitive in the college application process. Black and latino students make up 37 percent of high school students but only 27 percent of students taking an AP class and 18 percent of students passing AP exams, according to the Education Department.

Those who aren’t able to afford college are told to get a job. Yet the unemployment rate among blacks is double that among whites, as it has been for most of the past six decades.

Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. A continuing effort to disenfranchise black voters in the south. And to top it off, a confederate flag still hangs at the South Carolina Capitol.

This isn’t a black problem or a white problem, it’s a human problem — and an American problem. It’s on all of us to unify in the face of tragedy and lift our black brothers and sisters up. We must shed the hatred and racial divide of our past, once and for all, and begin to seek meaningful solutions to racial problems in our country. Until we do, America will never be whole.

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