The settlement against Bank of America because of the racist practices of its subsidiary Countrywide has really struck a raw nerve. I hope we’ll soon begin seeing reports in the major media regarding the longterm harm this has done to the individuals who were bilked by Countrywide, not just reports that analyze the financial impact this will have on Bank of America. We need news reports that will talk about:
- how a financial payout does not compensate the social and emotional harm done through such racist actions;
- how it will not impact the thinking of many Americans who at the beginning of the financial crisis just assumed the housing collapse was the fault of the individuals for jumping into loans they couldn’t afford as opposed to being steered to such.
Our closely held beliefs determine how we see the world, how we understand what we read, how we interpret the behaviors of others. This makes breaking the bonds of false beliefs extraordinarily hard. So I wonder, what would things look like if we discarded the belief that ours is a country founded on the ideals of merit-based advancement? What if we came to appreciate racism in a wide variety of forms still exists?
I believe this is more than a thought experiment; our communities and individuals within those communities cannot be whole and wholly who we were meant to be until we restore the harm done to people of color and to whites, to the economically poor and economically rich. As a start, we should go out and find someone who was bilked by Countrywide and apologize for our racist thinking.
Another news report also struck me badly. Yesterday during Mitt Romney’s campaign in New Hampshire, he stated the importance of returning to our founding principles of merit, not welfare. In hearing that statement, visions of slaves, and the attempted and largely successful genocide of native Americans came to mind as but two examples of the fallacy for many of merit as a founding principle in deed, not just word. Later I also thought of the robber barrens and their deplorable treatment of workers as a later anti-example of merit-based advancement. But so too we can think about the victims of Countrywide and realize merit-based advancement is still a fallacy for many in the United States, particularly for those of the wrong skin color.