letter to the editor

Retired school administrator: huge culture shift on race is needed

My sadness and anger overwhelm me.

George Floyd was the age of one of my sons. When he called out “Mama!” with his dying breath, I literally could not breathe. He was my child, as all these young people who have been senselessly ripped from our arms are my children.

As an African-American retired school administrator, mother and grandmother, this leaves me in a state of constant fear for my biological children, my grandchildren and every black or brown child in this country.

If we as human beings cannot internalize George Floyd’s death under the knee of another human being, then there is something basically wrong with America. This is a perfect storm of conditions that hopefully will blow off the cover of America the Beautiful and expose the ugly underbelly of America as it truly is.

But we’ve seen this rage before. And each time, America slaps a bandage on the wound and moves on. No lessons learned. This has never been the land of the free, only the home of the brave souls who have been fighting for generations to make the Constitution a document for all.

My father used to say that we can’t legislate the heart, but he believed that we can enact policies to protect all people. However, we have seen how these policies can be perverted and even completely obliterated when good people are silent. Our Democracy is fragile. We are witnessing how easily the Constitution can be destroyed in just a small amount of time by those who worship greed and power, even while posturing in front of a burned-out church with a Bible in hand.

In the meantime, what we must do is to change the heart of a culture that has purposely and willfully created a society which, through law, has predetermined the failure of an entire population based solely on color. If you don’t believe this, read The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein. We can’t just enact laws and policies. We must also expose the true history of racism in America the Beautiful, not just the white-washed version taught in schools.

I’m weary of talks about diversity and sensitivity training. Yes, it is part of the solution, but the solution is complicated and very difficult. It’s not my job to educate whites about what minorities want or have had to endure for generations.

White Americans must do the hard work and be willing to be uncomfortable. They must read books about white privilege and white rage with open minds, and must research to discover the true history of America through the years.

Then these good people who have stayed on the sidelines for far too long must look deep within their souls to find the scary truths about how they have been insidiously conditioned from birth to see minorities as “the others” and just not good enough. The very culture of our nation’s character must change, not only within businesses but schools, churches and the political structures. Change must also begin within the families where even now, unaware parents are perpetuating racist beliefs and stereotypes in our children.

Please believe me. Unless you actively and fearlessly confront racist policies, laws and especially jokes and statements among friends, you cannot claim to be “not a racist.” You are either a racist or an anti-racist. Period.

Only then can we begin to have a good


Carmen Hicks

West Knox County