During racial debates, one of the questions that often comes up is "why can't we all just get along?" Both sides seem to want to work towards racial reconciliation, but no one can agree on how to get there. Getting along is a nice thought after all, who wouldn't want that?
Despite the pure intentions behind it, it has always rubbed me, and most likely others, the wrong way. It's clearly a good thing to want to get along, and I'm sure that the backlash it has met with can be confusing, so why is the question so problematic? \
For starters, I feel that the idea itself is shortsighted. That's the end goal, sure, but there are a few other things that we need to do first.
The idea suggests that we simply move on from the whole race issue, or assumes that we already have. While most people would love nothing more than to just move on from it, the issue itself still has yet to actually end. It's not the same as it was in the past, but it shouldn't be that hard to believe that racism has adapted within our society. We don't see many public lynchings, thankfully, but we can't deny that racial hate crimes still happen. Jim Crow laws aren't in practice anymore, but racism still ties in systemically to our society. While it has been stated that "progress" has been made, that "progress" has no substance.
Typically, you hear this question after some activist has spoken out against racism in some way. Their words could've been interpreted as hostile, prompting the popular question. If that's the scenario when the question is usually asked, what result would be expected other than having the activist stop talking about racism? It should be obvious by now that not talking about these problems isn't an option. Hearing someone ask this in response to racial outcry often comes across as asking that they pretend things are fine and that they just stop talking about these uncomfortable issues.
The question itself seems to be directed at the wrong people. Why would you ask the people who claim to be oppressed to change the dynamic of the relationship? It would be like an abuser asking the victim who speaks out against them to stop vilifying them and ask that the victim change themselves to make the relationship more mutually beneficial. In a situation like that, the more appropriate and meaningful action would be to ask that the abuser acknowledge the hurtful things that have happened and change what they do to fix the problem. It's not just the responsibility of the oppressed to incite change. If the condition of the black community is to improve, the white community needs to take action alongside them to lessen the community's hatred.
The question seems to be a poorly veiled attempt to sweep things under the rug and avoid an uncomfortable subject. It's true that not every problem is so complex, but that doesn't mean that these issues have simple solutions. It's like checking off a box on our "Racial Reconciliation List" without actually having anything to show for it. It's not that it's a bad question to ask, but it's just not the right time to ask. The only way I think I can answer that question would be something along the lines of "hopefully someday." Until then, we'll have to buckle down and engage in the uncomfortable, but necessary, discussion about race.