So it's not merely a timely but an evergreen question that the Times is asking today: "When Will The North Face Its Racism?"
In matters of racial injustice, the South has been the center of attention since before the time of the Civil War. But the North, with its shorter history of a mass black population, has only more recently dealt with the paradox of an enlightened ideal coexisting with racial disparity. The protests have become a referendum on the black condition since the Great Migration. “The protests are beginning to wake people up to the idea that the problems are not only there but have been obvious all along,” the historian Taylor Branch told me. “It feels like the South in the 1950s.”Yet the parallels drawn aren't to the South in the 1950s, but to the South at the height of lynching. The parallel between lynchings and police killings of blacks is overblown, as we've discussed before, because even if the rate at which such killing occur is about the same, the population growth means that the rate per black citizen is a fraction of what it was. Still, "it feels like" doesn't require much substantiation: the feeling may not be purely rational, but feelings are often not. Grappling with the problem means both that many in the North may have to acknowledge a greater degree of structural racism than they want to admit to or recognize; it may also mean that some in the black community may have to admit to a kind of objective improvement in the facts, even if there are times when they still feel strongly the sense of oppression.