John E. Stapleford's essay, "A Torturous Journey: The Condition of Black America," (Christian Scholar's Review, XXXVII:2, Winter 2008, pages 231-251) is very important work that deserves our serious attention. If you've been following his page, you've seen my attempts to summarize his extensive research. I've put it up here in hopes that it would further a conversation beyond this space out in the real world we all occupy.
Much of the research is downright depressing. A number who have taken the time to comment have asked questions about what to do and how to respond.
Stapleford ends his essay with a short section he calls "What Might Be Done." He writes from the perspective of a churchman, so his suggestions relate to communities of faith and their possible responses to the unique challenges facing African Americans in the United States.
Here's part of what he suggests as possible responses for the church:
1) Be a prophetic voice by making congregations aware of the reality facing black Americans and by speaking this truth into the larger society. People and institutions of faith should use their human capital to invest in and work for social and systemic change. Blacks and whites should be working together, side by side in efforts to create new partnerships, drive forward funding reform and by engaging in initiatives to work for real change.
2) Whites should support the efforts of blacks to build a better future. Commitment to working together to see improvements in public education, housing, health care, wage levels, employment skill enhancement and access to equal opportunity.
3) The 21st century should be the century of multiracial congregations. Work must be done to change the fact that 90% of blacks attend predominately black congregations and at least 95% of whites attend predominately white churches. All sorts of obstacles exist, but a change in behavior and mindset is called for here.
4) Whites should work hard with blacks to see significant human, social and educational capital growth in our national community.
I would add that whites simply need to open their minds and eyes to the unique and challenging positions that African Americans occupy in the United States. Listening with a new set of ears, learning the benefit of arriving at new understandings by simply hearing people out no matter how frustrating, challenging or new the ideas may sound. Seeking first to understand, rather than to be understood will be a key principle for achieving authentic community and informed attitudes.
Honesty and candor will be essential to any progress. Patronizing attitudes, flights of white guilt and continuing adversarial postures share the same debilitating character and should be avoided.
We must keep talking. We must learn new skills grounded in patience and a long-term commitment to breakthroughs, progress, community and reconciliation.
God help us to never give up. The cost of doing so will only continue to add to a national tab that we simply cannot afford to pay. Much work remains to be done.
I'd love to hear about your experiences. I'd appreciate your responses.