Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Racism - The Underbelly of American Society

I found this image on a blog that appears to be anti-Obama and in fact is attempting to turn racism on its head by making the argument of "Why is it that only Whites can be racist?".

While it is true that all races can be racist towards one another and that there are lingering divides in this country it seems some people, that blogger included, are taking the wrong approach in this election season. They are embracing racism by pointing fingers and saying everyone else does it rather than universally denouncing and rejecting it.

Certainly there is inherent racism from parts of the African-American community towards Whites. We also must remember that many in the White community that have worked so hard to devalue them in society, first as slaves then as citizens without the right to vote and later as citizens who were given far less advantages than their white counterparts.

Also Whites still openly are racist towards Hispanic immigrants (legal or otherwise). It makes it very difficult to see racism coming from the other side when Whites still perform this practice so openly.

For instance look at the Confederate Flag. Every white politician that goes to South Carolina panders and agrees that the flag should be flown. Southerners write off what is rightful Black anger on the issue and claim the flag is a symbol of Southern Pride and nothing else.

Of course African Americans know better. They know that the Confederate Flag was flown as a symbol of secession from the Union mostly because the Confederate States refused to end slavery. It is a symbol of the South's unwillingness to treat Blacks as equals or even as people but rather as worthless slaves.

Even when some Whites battle for equality through protest and government there is always some member of their peers more than willing to battle against the rights of "colored people".

Certainly there have been racist minority groups but none of them had the power of a group like the KKK nor were they a part of the government in the same way during any period of time. That David Duke could actually run for office and garner national support after his KKK ties were revealed says a lot about the lack of speed in which our country has moved on civil rights and equality. He may not have won but for anybody to support him proved discouraging in how Americans saw the concept of freedom and liberty.

It's happening again. Maybe local and national news programs are ignoring it, but it's out there. Burning the embers of anger and hatred that lie beneath the surface of our country. Racism isn't shouted in the streets anymore. It's whispered in small settings amongst friends or talked about with family or emphasized in a secret voting booth.

The Obama campaign has attempted to address these issues head on. They carry no illusion that this can be solved in a single campaign cycle. But the question is, at this juncture, we as a society have not moved past this?

What makes Americans so much more stubborn or ignorant than our European counterparts? Surely racism exists in those locations as well but at a far smaller amount and it is openly discouraged.

It seemed we were making amazing progress on this issue until Ronald Reagan came into office. Then they started a "War on Drugs" which was clearly a codeword for "War on Blacks". They penalized crack smokers at three times the rate of an upscale white cocaine user. The prisons began to fill with majorities of young black men who never had a real future for themselves once getting out.

They began a three decades long defunding of the Public Education system, a system which most African Americans send their children to. They continuously cut welfare benefits (Bill Clinton and the GOP's Welfare Reform was devastating) purposely aiming to cut blacks off the rolls and claiming that they were having children for benefits and defrauding the system. They went on the attack to try to eliminate Affirmative Action.

Ronald Reagan and his minions made racism acceptable again. They didn't call it racism. The word "nigger" was never uttered. It was a different type of racism. It was now loading the terms "lazy", "freeloader", "scam artist".... they made all blacks out to be looking to game the system and steal whatever they could get their hands on from the honest hardworking white taxpayer.

The reality couldn't have been further from the truth. The real thieves were the Corporate Elite. Reagan, the Bushes and Clinton all looked out for corporate friends that kicked back their success to the President and their closest advisors. It was never citizen welfare that was the problem, it was corporate welfare... to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, that was killing our economy and hurting taxpayers.

It wasn't the black "criminals" that was a danger to America it was the White Collar criminals like Enron that put thousands of employees out of work and out of life savings or the War Profiteers that sent poor white AND black soldiers to die for their financial gain.

But if you keep repeating that it's those people different than you that are dangerous it's easier for Whites to feel a justifiable reason to be an isolationist.

For example, last year I worked out in a rich White suburb and most of my co-workers were upper middle class White suburbans. We got word that our office might be moved downtown in the city which was far more Afro-centric in ethnic makeup. My co-workers, all of which were White, began panicking and worrying that they would be mugged, their cars would be broken into or stolen, they would be raped. The hysteria was amazing.

Their department ended up staying put but I ended up working downtown. My new car was never broken into, I never witnessed a single crime and in fact I made a lot of friends from diverse backgrounds.

I push this a little further and believe this is the problem with Suburbs and Rural areas in our country as a whole. Being isolated from people on a regular basis allows you to build up false biases that are not based on reality but rather on comfortable theories that makes you feel justified in not living in the city or reaching out to people different than yourself.

It's easier to judge other ethnicity's than it is to understand them. Most people feel that their viewpoint, since it is easiest for them to understand, is the viewpoint everyone should have and if they do not then there is something wrong with them. Being isolated in areas where people are spread further apart and do not face the same hardships as neighbors of a different background that would live closer to them prevents people from truly knowing and understanding the experiences that their counterparts from different backgrounds face on an every day basis.

We as Americans have closed our minds to the plight of others because we believe too much in our own righteous views to allow for a convergence of attitudes.

'We are born here and have a right to be here... Immigrants should wait their turn or be deported.'

'Most people are straight so homosexuality is a sin and they should never marry or have children.'

'Christianity should be the official religion in this country and anybody who disagrees with our religion or God should not be elected to important offices.'

'English should be the official language since it is what most of us speak. Learn it or go home.'

These are all examples of overt ignorance towards other people's beliefs or personal cultures.

Our lack of willingness to open our minds is the primary culprit here. Can we move past this? Can we finally stop spreading racism by whispering things like "blacks only look out for blacks" and such?

It's not apparent that without new leadership that is open to changing the language of American racial discourse that we can ever make such strides. When we had leadership willing to work for change, change happened. When we were granted the rule of the puppets of White Corporate Elite, Blacks were subjugated to being nothing more than criminals or athletes in society.

This article from MSNBC in particular disturbed me most (emphasis added):

Racism alarms Obama's backers
Candidate's foot soldiers encounter name-calling, vandalism, bomb threats


For all the hope and excitement Obama's candidacy is generating, some of his field workers, phone-bank volunteers and campaign surrogates are encountering a raw racism and hostility that have gone largely unnoticed -- and unreported -- this election season. Doors have been slammed in their faces. They've been called racially derogatory names (including the white volunteers). And they've endured malicious rants and ugly stereotyping from people who can't fathom that the senator from Illinois could become the first African American president.


Victoria Switzer, a retired social studies teacher, was on phone-bank duty one night during the Pennsylvania primary campaign. One night was all she could take: "It wasn't pretty." She made 60 calls to prospective voters in Susquehanna County, her home county, which is 98 percent white. The responses were dispiriting. One caller, Switzer remembers, said he couldn't possibly vote for Obama and concluded: "Hang that darky from a tree!"

Documentary filmmaker Rory Kennedy, the daughter of the late Robert F. Kennedy, said she, too, came across "a lot of racism" when campaigning for Obama in Pennsylvania. One Pittsburgh union organizer told her he would not vote for Obama because he is black, and a white voter, she said, offered this frank reason for not backing Obama: "White people look out for white people, and black people look out for black people."

What kind of nation are we that this kind of behavior is still prevalent even after all of our struggles? Was not a war that nearly split the nation enough? Was not the civil rights battles that saw losses of important leaders and jailing of thousands of citizens enough? Wasn't the passage of over 40 years enough for us to finally get it?

What is liberty and justice for all if all is but a meaningless term shadowed to mean "a few"?

Our country deserves better. Our fellow man deserves better. Our children deserve better.

Equality for all or equality for none.


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