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Letter to the Editor: Responding to ‘Who cares about you’

I feel called to respond to Walter Williams’ Oct. 9 article, “Who cares about you?” My answer is, “I do.” 

Mr. Williams suggests that because most whites give little or no thought to their black neighbors, there must not be, or ever has been, “a conspiracy to undermine the achievement and well-being of black people.” Therefore, those who perceive racist barriers are clearly playing the “victim” card in an effort to avoid responsibility for their own situation.

The problem with this is that history paints a very different picture. Richard Rothstein’s book, “The Color of Law” goes into great, and well-researched, detail about how our government segregated America. Blacks were effectively herded into limited and over-crowded geographies via policies like redlining, racially restrictive covenants and other mechanisms for limiting access to better neighborhoods as well as the education, jobs, et cetera that went along with them. This resulted in major structural limitations to the black community’s ability to create and pass along intergenerational wealth. Blacks today have only 10% of the wealth that whites possess. 

Mr. Williams assertion that one’s destiny is in one’s hands assumes a level playing field and equal opportunity. 

We’ve done much to address the opportunities for all people in America, but the playing field is far from level. The lack of concern and “benign neglect” that Mr. Williams suggests implies that the status quo is just fine – no need to address any wrongs. To my fellow white West County residents, I ask the question: If we took away 40% of your earnings and 90% of your wealth, how would the status quo feel to you?

Nearly every one of the world’s great religions calls for some version of love of neighbor. Humanists affirm the dignity and worth of all people. Benign neglect and an attitude of ignoring others whose opportunities are far less than our own appeal only to our “worst angels,” and gives those who have enjoyed unfair advantages permission to avoid the consequences that are lived out in the black community today. 

Who cares? I do and I hope many others with hearts and histories that go deeper than Mr. Williams’ do, too.

Jeff Schulenberg

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