Race relations — Making a difference!
Roy Williams, on behalf of the Birmingham Public Library, interviewed me recently about my book — “Better Than Them, The Unmaking of an Alabama Racist.”
He also asked me some important questions about the George Floyd incident and implications going forward. Copied below is that part of the Q&A plus my answer to a final question about my book that relates very directly to where we find ourselves today.
Regardless of your race or political persuasion, I believe that you can make a constructive difference in race relations by taking part in the day-to-day, grassroots change I propose. (The entire interview is available here).
BPL: Given the discussion on race that is going on in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, what is your reaction as someone who admits they were a racist before changing your views?
Otts: The incident sickened me. As a Christian, I saw his terrible killing as not only a legal matter deserving of severe charges, but as sin deserving of repentance (like racism itself). As shown in my book, race is way too convenient as a hook to hang hang-ups on. I do not think white people need to just shut up and listen.
We need to talk too! I think police reform is needed, but not some cookie cutter approach that ignores the need for transparent community-based discussion. That’s why I favor federal incentives to bring about change and community efforts to hold authorities accountable for implementation of the type of communication that will not just result in policy changes, but in relationship changes. On the private side, churches should step up without politics. Since people are church, that means folks of faith.
BPL: What do you hope comes out of this discussion on race in wake of Floyd?
Otts: I hope we finally gain a foothold on a major key to building better race relations – a form of communication about race and our personal experiences and views that is not dependent on fear or political correctness, but is characterized by the type of transparency reflected in my book and all I and others have done to communicate constructively. We have, as a society, been in our adolescence in this regard – time to grow up!
BPL: Why do you think this issue of Floyd death is capturing support from whites and other non-blacks while so many other killings by police and others of unarmed blacks did not?
Otts: I think it has gained momentum from an intersection of factors in our society, not the least of which is growth from the seeds planted during the Civil Rights Movement. People like me have either changed or are moving on! Racism is still a big problem. As a society, as I said, we have been adolescent – time to grow up!
BPL: What lessons do you hope readers of your book will learn?
Otts: I hope they will learn about the importance of process and transparency as it relates to racism and growing relationships across racial lines – as well as the practical difference they can make by taking improving race relations to be a day-to-day personal challenge. We all have something that will make a difference. Let’s tell our stories!
S. McEachin “Mac” Otts is the author of “Better Than Them, The Unmaking of an Alabama Racist”