This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Let’s change, not manage, America’s systemic racism

For 400 years, no matter how many times people of color have asked for change, white America has decided to manage its systemic racism and refused to change its structure.

In recent months, as we witnessed institutional racism acted out in the killing of African American men and women by police, the call for change has been loud and clear, from city streets to board rooms.

Some have suggested defunding of the police in their cities. Others propose firing the officers who committed the crimes. However, firing one or two police officers does not change the racist structure. It only gives another police officer the opportunity to commit the same crime.

We recommend a conversation on systemic change in school boards, town halls, statehouses and the federal government. However, some in positions of power are talking about managing the system of racism and not changing the structure.

We have to stop singing the same old song of calling for improved services for people of ­color. This is a temporary, meaningless approach to dealing with century-old problems. When the leaders of racist institutions talk about more programs, recruiting people of color to the workforce, diversity training for staff or promoting some staff of color to some limited positions of power, they are simply managing the old system of racism.

People of color no longer will go for this bait. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr.: “The Negro felt that he recognized the same old bone that had been tossed to him in the past, only now it was being handed to him on a platter, with courtesy.”

The time has come to overhaul the system of racism. Social justice is not possible until the old system is dismantled.

Expressions of good will, such as offering thoughts and prayers, may be well intended but don’t change the brutal system of hate and murder by police.

For people of color, the way forward is to continue offering grace and forgiveness (like the members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., did after a white supremacist killed nine people at a Bible study five years ago) without forgetting the evils that kept them oppressed for centuries.

For whites, the way forward is to give up their power and unearned privilege and become agents of change.

Zenebe and Barbara Abebe

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