Issues brought home: Race

Acel is working on a book of his best and most popular columns. Here’s a glimpse of a chapter on one of the issues that affected people not only in Philadelphia but around the country – race, its impact and its entrenchment:

Race: A defining factor then and now

Nearly 100 years ago, African American scholar W.E.B. DuBois wrote that the problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line. African Americans began that century as pawns in a black and white chess board, fought midway to assert their rights as citizens and ended it in a racial stalemate of sorts with their white counterparts.

The civil rights movement that culminated in the 1960s certainly helped change laws as blacks struggled to make “real” the words of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. They faced attitudes about race that were deep, insidious, and filled with hatred and ignorance. Racism fought back mightily, but determined men and women of all races pushed back even harder to dismantle some of the entrenched beliefs about the humanity of black people and the forces that kept them second class.

As it was a century ago, race is still a defining factor in the lives of Americans, black adn white.

But not entirely. Blacks still are subjected to bad schools, the lowest-paying jobs, the worst housing and unequal justice in the courts. While many have risen to middle class and upper middle-class status, others have become part of an underclass. They are the people of little or no means living in drug-infested and crime-ridden neighborhoods that are barely livable and un-leave-able. Those are the people for whom race defines and infiltrates all aspects of their lives.

That’s where we find ourselves in the second decade of the 21st century. Race is more nuanced, and class has become a defining factor that separates even people of color. We have created a class of African Americans who are third-generation children without fathers, drug addicts and those who only see drug-selling as a means of employment. We have neighborhoods overrun with guns used by people who no longer see humanity in each other.

In my columns, I tried to show that there were also people in those neighborhoods who – hampered by race and other issues – had middle-class values. Their ideals and moral standards were the same as black and whites who were economically more secure. The neighborhoods may abound with abject poverty, crime, drugs and other ills, but in some homes, people believed in the notion of right and wrong.


A Column Excerpt:

The racial divide is only widening

Dec. 20, 1990

Each day as I flinch at the race-baiting rhetoric of some political leader or strategist appealing to the lowest common denominator of the American public, two prophetic assertions about racism in America ring with a numbing and chilling truth. The first was made by black scholar and sociologist W.E.B. Dubois 87 years ago, and the other was contained in the 1968 report by the Kerner Commission, which studied the causes of the 1960s urban riots.

Confirmation of DuBois’ prophecy in his study “The Souls of Black Folk” that the problem of the 20th century would be the problem of the “color line,” has never been more apparent than it is today in America.

And the assertion by the Kerner Commission – that “this nation is rapidly moving toward two increasingly separate Americas,” one black and concentrated in large urban areas, the other white and located in the suburbs, small cities and the peripheral parts of large cities – has also been realized.

The consequences of those dire prophecies will continue to haunt us into the 21st century and may eventually destroy this nation unless strong leadership emerges to change our priorities and direct us onto a new course.

Unfortunately, the leaders who have come to the forefront in the last decade have promulgated policies that have served to worsen the breach between black and white America. …


Read excerpts from other sections of the proposed book:

People who dared

Close to heart









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