The Story of Racism - 5 Chapters

The First Win/Win or Lose/Lose Chapter


Stories are the foundations of societies.  The story of racism has five chapters.  Four chapters have been written.  We are writing the fifth chapter now.  The first four chapters have dramatically advantaged Whites and disadvantaged Blacks (a win/lose).  


Unlike the first four chapters, chapter five will dramatically disadvantage Whites as well as Blacks (a lose/lose).  Unless we close our racial gaps and create a win/win.  There will be no win/lose in chapter five.  It’s either a win/win or a lose/lose.  And success it depends on committed sustained White action.  


Everything follows the story – laws, perspectives, values, actions, expectations – everything

#1 Stories Matter


“Story” doesn’t sound very powerful, but laws and policies rely on  a story for their legitimacy.  Stories are the foundation on which they are built.  Stories teach and guide and reinforce values and perspectives and beliefs and behaviors.  And then the laws and policies and values and perspectives and behaviors reinforce the story.  

“We live in the story and the story lives in us.”


The fundamental story behind racism has always been that “Blacks are inferior” and slavery – and now racism – is justified.  The stories are told in the media, in religious settings, in the educational systems, and are even embedded in businesses and social organizations.  The become part of – and reflected in – the institutions and processes of our communities.    


#2 Our History – The Four Win/Lose Chapters


The story of race in the US for the last 500 years has had a win/lose character  – until now – until Chapter Five


Chapter One:  Pre-US – the basis for European slave trade

Chapter Two:  Slavery – the basis for the southern economy

Chapter Three:  Jim Crow – post-slavery control 

Chapter Four:  Post Civil Rights legislation – things change, and they don’t change


The plots and sub-plots change, but the first four chapters were driven primarily by the economic interests of Whites, while the fourth chapter has an increasingly powerful political/psychological driver.  


The first three chapters of the story dramatically advantaged Whites and disadvantaged Blacks.  The fourth chapter of racism, since the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s, also benefited Whites economically, but to a lesser degree and it often didn’t feel like an advantage.  


#3 Chapter Five – Current Reality


Chapter 5 will either advantage both Whites and Blacks (win/win)or it will disadvantage both groups (lose/lose).


The fifth chapter is profoundly different because it will either advantage both Whites and Blacks or disadvantage bothChapter five will either be a win-win or a lose-lose.  


For a win/win, chapter five will need to be the chapter that closes the gap between Whites and Blacks and undermines the deep belief that Blacks are inferior.  And that will have to be reflected in a systemic redesign across American life – because “every organization and community is perfectly designed to get the outcomes it gets.”  


We have two choices for how chapter five is written and we “can’t not choose.”  We will either  passively continue down the path of chapter four and decline – or we will rise to the challenge of countering racism, reflect American greatness, and strengthen the American experiment.  


America WinsIf the fifth chapter sees racism countered, if it sees sees Blacks dramatically expand the middle class and enrich the economy, and if it sees America freeing its focus from racism and focusing on the other critical issues it faces, then it will be a win for America and a lose for America’s enemies.  


America Loses.  America’s enemies are counting on the difficultly, complexity and long history of racism to be too much for America to overcome.  We have over 500 years of history and the integration of racism into all parts of our communities to overcome and that is an extraordinary human challenge.  


We are the AuthorsWe are challenged to somehow get beyond blame or guilt for the first four chapters and take responsibility for writing chapter five.  


The American Experiment is just that – an ongoing living experiment.  It is not a “done deal.”  Chapter five will either dramatically undermine or strengthen that experiment.  


#4 America’s Greatness – Called for and Tested in Chapter Five


Racism is a fundamental truth about the American experiment.  We can either take it on as a challenge that calls for our best and gives us a chance to showcase America’s greatness – or we can run from it – and showcase America’s decline.  


America’s greatness isn’t grounded in never having made mistakes. It is grounded in our willingness to keep confronting our mistakes and gaps and keep relentlessly moving toward the fulfillment of the American vision/promise.


Success Factors.  There are a surprising number of factors on which our success in Chapter Five will rely. They include, but are not limited to the following:


  1. Racism is a human issue, not just an American issue – individuals, organizations, communities and nations need to be exceptional to deal with it.
  2. We must focus on the power of responsibility vs. blame or guilt that diminishes.
  3. We must focus on “more” – more GDP generated, an expanded middle class, energy and resources redeployed to productive ends vs. dealing with the downsides of racism –  an increased ability to compete globally.  It’s not a closed pie – not a zero-sum game.  
  4. We will have to draw on significant courage to face the unknown and move ahead quickly without knowing exactly what the path will look like, what will be required or what the new reality will be.
  5. We will need to persevere, be flexibly relentless, and “learn the way” because there is no recipe.
  6. Closing the gaps in some areas will mean at least leveling the playing field.  In many key areas, however, it will require going beyond just leveling the playing field to close the gaps in a reasonable period of time. 
  7. The democratic process and institutions need to be protected in the face of the current atmosphere of fear and uncertainty. 
  8. “Every organization and community is perfectly designed to produce the outcomes it gets” – So, actions will need to be taken on the individual, group and systemic levels
  9. Whites hold the greatest power, so need to take the initiative.
  10.  We will need to act individually and collectively and with a sense of purpose and accountability.