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Letter: Healing comes when people better understand each other

Healing comes when people better understand each other

An indignant July 9 writer takes issue with both Douglas Turner’s assessment of the attitudes toward slavery of signers of the Constitution, and President Obama’s statement in the dreadful week ending July 9 that racism is “part of the DNA of America.” The writer calls Obama’s comments “incendiary.”

A full explanation of any social phenomenon must include its history. It is insufficient to focus solely on the Founders; one must consider the history of the African-American experience in America. That history is, indeed, the nation’s history.

From slavery through the entire period misnamed “Reconstruction” following the Civil War, the so-called Jim Crow years all the way up through the 1960s, blacks were systematically barred from opportunities of all sorts and subject to rank discrimination at all levels, from countless daily indignities, to “redlining” by banks, to public lynchings by smiling white mobs.

This is the history of experience that was described in the 1968 classic, “Black Rage,” by William Grier and Price Cobbs, and this is the history behind today’s movement, Black Lives Matter, nearly a half-century later. To explain the situation of African-Americans today, one must consider the total history of their experience in America.

Obama is absolutely right; true healing can occur only when this painful truth is realized by all.

Phillips Stevens Jr.

Associate Professor of Anthropology

University at Buffalo