From: American Whitelash: A Changing Nation and the Cost of Progress,” by Wesley Lowery

Lowery, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist implicitly discusses polarities (“conundrums” or “tensions”) underlying our common conceptions of racism by probing recent surges in white-supremacist violence.

The central premise of “Whitelash” is “a pull back on the rope”:

“Each step toward a more racially just society, each step toward triumph gained by the anti-racist side of the struggle, each periodic collection against the unfulfilled pledges of the American promissory note, in turn, sparks a backlash.”

One of the core “conundrums” he describes, which I can’t help but to mention also concerns one of the five Polarities of Democracy (Human Rights And Communal Obligations), is the question of leveraging the rights of some Americans (even American racists) to free speech/free expression with the government’s sacred responsibility of ensuring safety/security of the rest of society.

Another tension question: “Is racism a social blight or a personal defect?” Is revealed not to be an “Or” question — it’s an “And.”

Racism is at once a systemic problem to be tackled by communities and a moral failing to be exorcised by acts of private penance … from unjust power and privilege with all its beneficiaries to the most harmful incarnations. The most dramatic examples are countered by what is often systemic — bureaucratic gerrymandering, mass deportations of undocumented immigrants. So, in terms of scale – those may be more consequential and broad than the headline and social media generating individual crimes of hate. Systemic perpetuated oppression is conducted efficiently and effectively in the light of day, by even well-meaning people, imposing “an unnecessary, systemic, and undeserved burden” that  “have this result whether or not they are performed with a racist heart.”

How we feel matters less than how we structure the world. Personal atonement is not an adequate solution to patently public problems.

As with many “conundrums” — the place to start is seeing where complex involve  supplementing thinking with “Or”, with thinking with “And.” Without “And,” polarization, resistance, painful “pull backs on the rope” escalate in severity.