Even the President Can’t Talk Openly About Race. What Does That Mean for the Rest of America?

Moving past racism "is about respecting and reveling in the humanity of every other fellow citizen."

Tavis Smiley: Racism is still the most intractable issue in this country and we are never going to make the progress, the strides on this issue that we ought or should if we can't come to realize that we have to have an earnest, honest, transparent conversation about what ails us. And America just isn't ready to have that conversation; as Americans, as I should say, we're not ready to have that conversation about why race is still the issue that it is. It is the most divisive issue in this country. And on any particular social or political issue, one sees the race divide, politically, socially, economically, culturally even; we're still divided by race. And so if we're not ready to have a real earnest conversation about it, I mean look at the trouble that President Barack Obama has gotten into on occasion by making pretty simple comments as far as I'm concerned. And by simple I don't mean to disrespect him; I mean he's made comments that are pretty basic, pretty normal, to me at least as a black man, but he catches all sort of hell for even injecting himself into these concerns even though he may be asked about it. And so if we aren't prepared to even have an honest conversation about this issue, then we're not going to — we're never going to make any progress on this.

I go back to my relationship with Maya Angelou for the best answer I think to this question. It is about respecting and reveling in the humanity of every other fellow citizen. Racism by any other name or by any other definition is the contestation of someone's humanity. And that always gets us in trouble as a society. Whenever we want to shrink rights as opposed to expanding rights; whenever we want to contest the humanity of any other fellow citizen. It could be ageism; it could be homophobia; it could be sexism or patriarchy; it could be racism. There's any number of ways in which people every day have their humanity contested. At the end of the day, if we cannot respect and revel in that humanity of every fellow citizen, then we'll never get past these social ills, the xenophobia, the racism, the homophobia that holds us back as a great society.

My Journey With Maya author Tavis Smiley calls racism "the most intractable issue in this country" and explains why it won't going away anytime soon unless society shifts how it values humanity.
Related Articles

How schizophrenia is linked to common personality type

Both schizophrenics and people with a common personality type share similar brain patterns.

(shutterstock)
Mind & Brain
  • A new study shows that people with a common personality type share brain activity with patients diagnosed with schizophrenia.
  • The study gives insight into how the brain activity associated with mental illnesses relates to brain activity in healthy individuals.
  • This finding not only improves our understanding of how the brain works but may one day be applied to treatments.
Keep reading Show less

Human skeletal stem cells isolated in breakthrough discovery

It's a development that could one day lead to much better treatments for osteoporosis, joint damage, and bone fractures.

Image: Nissim Benvenisty
Surprising Science
  • Scientists have isolated skeletal stem cells in adult and fetal bones for the first time.
  • These cells could one day help treat damaged bone and cartilage.
  • The team was able to grow skeletal stem cells from cells found within liposuctioned fat.
Keep reading Show less

How exercise helps your gut bacteria

Gut bacteria play an important role in how you feel and think and how well your body fights off disease. New research shows that exercise can give your gut bacteria a boost.

National Institutes of Health
Surprising Science
  • Two studies from the University of Illinois show that gut bacteria can be changed by exercise alone.
  • Our understanding of how gut bacteria impacts our overall health is an emerging field, and this research sheds light on the many different ways exercise affects your body.
  • Exercising to improve your gut bacteria will prevent diseases and encourage brain health.
Keep reading Show less