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Black America Today Debate: Knowing Each Other
Hugh B. Price, National Urban League Hugh B. Price, National Urban League Robert L. Woodson, Sr. National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise Robert L. Woodson, Sr. National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise

In the aftermath of the 1992 riots in Los Angeles, President Clinton commented that "The problem is that all too few white Americans have a black friend, someone they know intimately." Is that a solution to building understanding across racial lines? And if so, has understanding between the African American and white American communities in the U.S. improved since then?

Hugh Price's Response: In many respects, race relations in America show signs of steady progress. I attribute this less to social relations than to the strengthened economy of the late 1990s, which produced solid livelihoods for more and more African Americans. I also believe the terrorist attacks helped pulled Americans of all races closer together. Finally, many religious organizations and community groups like the Urban League have done some excellent work in recent years in building bridges across racial lines and ameliorating tough problems like police brutality and racial profiling.

Robert Woodson's Rebuttal: I agree that race relations in America show signs of progress.

Robert Woodson's Response: Focusing on race itself will not bring about racial reconciliation, and it certainly will not address the real problems of the minority poor. However, if we come together to solve these problems, racial reconciliation will be a natural byproduct.

Hugh Price's Rebuttal: Much work on racial justice and reconciliation remains to be done. Crown Heights in New York City didnšt erupt when those verdicts were overturned a year or two ago thanks to the hard work of local black, Jewish and other groups in healing the earlier wounds and building the trust needed to keep race relations moving forward. I submit much the same was true after the convictions of police officers in the Louima case were overturned. Thanks to lots of hard work at the community level and with the police department, most people stayed level headed after the news. The eruptions in Cincinnati some months ago show the perils of glossing over tensions between minorities and the police, and the existence of longstanding racial disparities in the opportunity structure. Lastly, I would argue that latent racism lies at the root of Americašs persistent refusal to provide well-financed, first class education for every American child. The disparities in the caliber of education along racial lines are amply documented and plain as day.

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Debate Topics Menu
Affirmative Action
Diversity in Schools
Economic Future
Faith Based Initiatives
Knowing Each Other
Leadership Models
Media Stereotypes
Political Power
Race in the 21st Century
Slavery Reparations


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