Monday, September 26, 2022

Larry Buford: Addressing Individual and Systemic Racism (We’re Still Waiting)!

Colored waiting room sign
Sign posted at a southern bus station

*A White southern Christian talk show host has lodged a challenge to the Black community to prove that systemic racism exists in America. He singled out Blacks of all people of color (POC) and said he won’t believe it until we show him proof, so this is my attempt to show him.

There are two kinds of racism – individual (which Blacks experience everyday), and systemic which is ingrained in our society. I found a blog that lists some interesting statistics, and points to the head start advantage that Whites have had for generations.

That said, let’s first put some meat on the bones of systemic racism with a few historical examples. Let’s talk about what ended the Reconstruction Era in the south which opened the door to Jim Crow. Let’s talk about Tulsa, OK where a prosperous Black town was destroyed by jealous Whites; Rosewood and other prosperous Black communities that were destroyed. Let’s talk about the Bruce family – Blacks who owned shoreline property in Manhattan Beach, CA that was taken away from them (thank God that wrong is now being righted).

It used to be Germans against the Polish, against the Russians, against the Swedish, against the Italians etc., all of whom had white skin, but that changed when America made “White” the premier race. So, if you had white skin you had carte blanche to the American dream. Blacks did not for obvious reasons. Whites boast about giving money to Black causes, and point to the success of a few Black celebrities and dignitaries, but they miss the point – equity, equality and dignity are afforded as a whole to every race in America except Blacks. It’s like a multi-ethnic foster home where all the children have access to the same cookie jar except Blacks. Why is that you ask?

Slavery broke up so many families, that it was impossible to trace even our American history especially if Blacks were not allowed to read and write. The census listed many slaves as chattel (property), no names, so how in the world do we trace our ancestors? The narrative of why, just because I am White, must I pay for the sins of my father, doesn’t fly. White privilege has benefited in this country far too long. I agree that the challenges Blacks face must be dealt with from the inside out, not the outside in. We tried that with Tulsa and look what happened. Leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and others were labeled by the FBI as communists and nationalists; why? because they were trying to unify Blacks. After they were assassinated, many in the Black community began to lose hope.

As our leaders were being killed one by one, our hope, trust and belief in the American dream diminished, and was replaced by cynicism and anger. We had strong, vibrant family-oriented neighborhoods that were destroyed through drugs, welfare, gun violence and other dynamics that somehow crept in designed to do but one thing, divide! Where did the drugs and guns come from? Who came up with the idea to allow Black women so much government aid for every child as long as no man lived in the home?

It’s not about getting free resources; it’s about the indignity that has brought us to where we are now. America needs to take off the bandage and cure the infection of racism.

Concerning individual racism: I have many instances I can point to, but as a supervisor at an Orange County, CA firm, I and other managers/supervisors were asked to interview/vet a White guy to see if he was leadership material. We all, Black and White alike, agreed he was not. He was promoted anyway. Months later, to add insult to injury, he was promoted to become my manager. He was not a qualified person; he was White!

So, don’t tell us to “just get over it!” We are Christians and we are qualified, but our blackness causes people to prejudge. An Asian shopkeeper had a salesperson that was outright prejudiced. I bought my wife a gift that she returned to exchange for another size. She told me when she took it back, the salesperson was so rude, that I personally went there to complain to the owner. He tried to tell me that Blacks are not good customers. I told him we are not all the same – you have good customers and bad ones, but the salesperson you have is not good for your business, and you just lost a good customer. That’s the story of Blacks in America – we are prejudged at almost every turn.

Individual racism works both ways, and sometimes it just comes down to bad, inappropriate behavior which I witness all too often. Many Blacks have no parenting skills because they were never taught. Father-absent, or single-parent homes are so prevalent, and we see the results in our angry, misguided children. We can point to factors like unemployment, under-education and under-served neighborhoods – conditions that Blacks have lived with far too long! Problems don’t go away by just throwing money at them; they just become bigger problems.

I’m not excusing Blacks; we also have to take responsibility. If we don’t act like we care about our own, why should anyone else? Case in point: The former mayor of Detroit, Dennis Archer, once called upon Detroit citizens to show interest in their own neighborhoods. He was addressing low-hanging fruit one of which was “if you see trash on the ground and there’s a receptacle nearby, pick it up and toss it in.” One Black guy responded, “Why should I pick up trash? I pay taxes for others to do it!” With that attitude, we’ll never get anywhere, and just the same, we won’t get anywhere if White’s believe systemic racism does not exist in America. People, we’re in this nation called the United States together!

Dedicated to my uncle, Walter J. Buford, May 11, 1927 – May 1, 2021

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Larry Buford is a Los Angeles-based contributing writer. Author of “Things Are Gettin’ Outta Hand” and “Book To The Future” (Amazon); two insightful books that speak to our moral conscience in times like these. Email:

Larry Snip1
Larry Buford

Larry Buford
Larry Buford is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer, and author of Book/CD titled "Things Are Gettin' Outta Hand" (Steuben Pub.) He writes Human Interest articles and entertainment reviews for various newspapers across the country. He is also an editor, and provides services for press releases, interviews, business letters, resumes, etc. A native Detroiter, he is a former Motown songwriter.




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