top of page

Resetting our American Thermostat

Updated: Mar 27, 2023

Did you ever wonder what prevents us from moving closer to a climate of justice—a social predisposition for fairness? Could it be a kind of thermostat that shuts down progress when it gets uncomfortable for white people?

If there is such a thermostat, it has a long history, beginning with the writing of the Constitution in such a way that the slave states would not have to worry about the Northern states abolishing slavery. It then continued with the compromises of 1820 and 1850. The Civil War knocked out the thermostat, but it was reset after Reconstruction, in spite of the 14th and 15th Amendments.

Black communities could make some progress, but not too much, as evidenced by the massacre of Greenwood in 1921. The 1960s, of course, made whites quite uncomfortable, and it took some time for Reagan and his accomplices to reset the American Thermostat to an acceptable level of injustice.

One could say that each episode of the advancement of social justice required a resetting of the thermostat. Workers could unionize, Women could vote, Gays and Lesbians could be respected. At the same time, a lot of Whites were getting more and more uncomfortable. For them, the American thermostat seemed out of kilter.

Then a black family occupied the White House. After that, a woman wanted to be president. The climate of injustice seemed to be disappearing and each change increased white discomfort. Trump tried to make the American thermostat white again.

Capitalism, after all, requires a climate of injustice. Life isn’t supposed to be fair. Don’t play the “race card.” Comfort comes with success, not justice.

So, who will reset the American thermostat? After a long history of making sure whites are comfortable by setting the thermostat low enough to maintain a climate of injustice, can we reset the thermostat to enjoy a climate of justice for all of us to be comfortable in our shared habitat?

66 views1 comment

1 Comment

Stanley R Buller
Stanley R Buller
Jul 14, 2021

Brilliant! Very nice use of the thermostat analogy. As followup, I would recommend two recent KQED documentaries - "The Neutral Ground" (POV), and "Jim Crow in the North" Restrictive housing covenants.

Follow The Blog

Thanks for submitting!

bottom of page