We've heard a lot about accountability from both political parties of late. The Democrats demanding accountability from Trump and his mob bosses, and the Republicans, apparently in payback mode, want to crucify the Biden family and investigate Nancy Pelosi's underwear.
Let's first develop a clear meaning of accountability, a short, succinct definition; "an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one's actions."
We believe in accountability in the United States; look at our court system. There are over 1,800 judges at the federal level, from district courts to the current stumbling SCOTUS. I've not tried to count all the state, county, and city courts, but I'd have no trouble multiplying the federal number by at least ten in searching for that number; if I'm in the ballpark, we probably have 18,000 courts around the country.
How many federal laws are on the books? Ha! No one knows for sure, although a good estimate is that there are currently around 200,000 federal laws on the books. Does this country believe in laws and accountability? You're damn right we do!
So, why are we so reluctant to own our history, all of our history? Why are we opposing Critical Race Theory and teaching our children the good and the bad of our existence? I guess the sociologists will decide that, but I'm guessing there are several reasons. Some of us simply don't give a shit about what happened to people in the past. Some people are hardcore racists and don't see that we did anything wrong. Some care but are so busy in their personal lives with careers, family obligations, and pursuing other goals that they simply don't feel they have the time to devote to any sort of activism.
But, wrongs were done, horrible things that destroyed people's lives. Grandparents died while their grandchildren were in institutions; those children never learned their family stories or practiced their ethnic cultures. Africans were not only kidnapped and sent to this country in chains, but for generations, they were slaves who were beaten physically and psychologically and often raped and murdered by their owners. Immigrants who came willingly and those who were shanghaied and brought here have been stripped of their true identities. This is the hard, honest truth about the evolution of the country we are rightly so proud of, but we have to own the bullshit along with the victories and social and technological advances we've made.
I listened to part of an interview on NPR this Thanksgiving weekend that addressed marriage and how that institution has changed dramatically over just a couple of generations. Without drilling too deep into the topic, the speaker made the point that as a child, adolescent, and then young adult, you are surrounded by family and friends, your personal village, so to speak. When you needed help with a problem or perhaps simply needed an emotional hug, you had several different people to turn to, depending on the issue you're struggling with. This circle of family and friends is your personal cultural roadmap through life, touchstones, or therapists. When you marry, you begin to release many of these people from being your "therapists," and you now rely on your life partner to fulfill all the physical and emotional duties that this cultural circle provided you. That is one of the challenges of moving from a "village" to a monogamous relationship.
The Native Americans and Africans were ripped from the arms of their loved ones and village and forced to live in a village where they not only knew no one but were despised and abused, or worse in many if not most cases. Others, like migrant workers and some Asians and other immigrants, may have come here on their own seeking a better life, but they, too, left their village behind to come to a strange village where they were not welcomed with open arms.
None of us alive today was responsible for these dreadful events, but chances are our ancestors were either active or passive participants in the abuses that took place. If you're white like me and born in the mid-to-late twentieth century, no one told you where you could or couldn't live or go to school. The opportunity to succeed has always been there if we are willing to stop up to the challenge and do the work. That was not the case for most of the people I'm talking about.
There's a lot of talk about reparations, and I'm not sure that is either possible or effective, but I do believe we have a responsibility to try to right the wrongs of our history. An example of what we can do is to try to wring racism from our culture; we've recently heard about the accumulation of wealth and how we white people have had a clear road to that while people of color have had roadblocks in their way.
The white majority was free to buy and own property and pass that on to their heirs; that was not the case with most immigrants, natives, and abductees. We need to help people of color and other immigrants make up some ground in that area.
There was a story just a week ago on King5 television here in Seattle about a Black family living in East Seattle, as I recall. They were in a nice neighborhood where houses sold for nearly a million dollars. They had an appraisal done on their home, which seemed to be low based on what they knew about local real estate. They asked a white neighbor lady to pretend the house was hers and get an appraisal. That appraisal was around $300,000 higher than when the Black family got the home valued. There's something systemically wrong with our system when that happens. Those are the kind of things we need to fix and look for a way to reimburse those who got screwed by a biased system.
In the areas of job opportunities, equal pay, opportunities to build wealth, and education, the number of areas where people of color have been denied, held back, or simply hoodwinked are there to be remedied. That is how we, as a society can help to right some of the wrongs done in our great society. We have to own this problem, and take both responsibility and accountability for curing the disease of racism in America.