But whenever I read that XX field isn't diverse enough, I don't so much doubt the truth of it, as I think the charge deeply underestimates exactly the price being exacted for white supremacy in this country, and the length of time for which it went unchecked. We're 50 years into a truly democratic, non white-supremacists America. Congratulations. But we we spent some 150 years in which the country's major institutions--its government, its business, its churches, its block associations, its military, its police force, its labor unions--in the main, aided and abetted white racism. There are certainly exceptions, but I tend to think that the long-term damage done is incalculable and has a lot to do with how we live today.
I'm reporting out a story now in which I had to talk with older black folks who'd grown up in an industrial city in the 40s and 50s. One of the things that comes through from them is that being smart and black, during that time, was really scary. I keep hearing these tales of black people with degrees in electrical engineering, who ended up working in the post office, driving cabs, or worse, running numbers. This is toward the end of Jim Crow, and after slavery, both of which did their best to exact a toll on uppity nigras, who though they were above their station. I don't think I would have made it past fourteen in that world.
What is the long-term damage of communicating a penalty, including death, for black intelligence while rewarding white intelligence? What is the long-term damage of having a federal government policy which intentionally seeks to retard the wealth of black communities? What is the long-term damage of using the police--theoretically the guardians of all that is right in society--as a kind of thug army charged with enforcing racist edicts? These are, literally, questions. I don't have answers for them, but when I hear people asking Hollywood to grapple with a history that we, ourselves, don't want to grapple with I wonder whether we really understand precisely what happened, how much we lost, and how long it will take to get it back.