A few months back, my church had an essay contest on “Should the N-word be abolished?” One student responded and it led to a discussion on the word. While most were against the use of the word, one pre-teen got up and said, “The N-word doesn’t mean the same thing. Can’t we let the past stay in the past? I mean, racism doesn’t exist now like it did back then.” You can imagine the shocked adult faces throughout the congregation. How could he not see that racism is among us?
In his defense (not in his support), I stated to the panel next to me that we cannot fault him. His memories of the Civil Rights Movement are from picture books and are limited to one month out of the year. He lives in Brooklyn, NY, goes to a school dominated by people who share his colored complexion, whether Black, Latino, or other. He lives in a city where homosexuals can make out on the trains without the homophobic hostility found in many other US cities. He sees Arabs and Indians without questioning if they have a bomb under their jackets. He has not entered the work world and had to worry about being a part of the 16.5% of unemployed Blacks in America compared to the 8% of Whites. He understands that while Blacks are no more likely to be criminals than are Whites. However, he does not realize that African Americans more likely than others to be arrested and convicted of a crime. We cannot fault him for not being in direct contact with this information. It must be nice to grow up believing that equality exists everywhere and that because we have a Black president, all of our sons can be one, too. Racism is dead, right?
On February 20th at noon in Nanhunta, Georgia, The Knight Riders, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan had a rally. It was said to be organized “to raise public awareness on sex offenders, illegal immigration and prayer in school.” Gene Spalding, who traveled to Nahunta from Brunswick, said he supports the rally. "I think they're wonderful. They ought to be in every town and every city all over the United States. They like white people, I like white people. They got some good views." This is not February 20th, 1965…This happened a week ago!
While the KKK may be considered extremist, please believe that racism is REAL, and no one thing (Obama being in office) can change that. My friends that are police officers are trained to pull cars over based on the “look” of its passengers. (Ask them how many Whites have this “look” and you’ll get silence.) In the North, we’re more likely to be faced with institutionalized racism (not getting hired based on race, hearing things like “Wow, you talk so proper for a Black person,” and not being able to catch a cab). My Southern friends constantly tell me of blatant situations where the color of their skin got them in trouble. Regardless, keep in mind, it was only a few years that an expose put out on the racism and the omission of racism in our High School history books. Many said that the reason for racism was because “[African Americans] looked different from members of white ethnic groups. The color of their skin made assimilation difficult. For this reason they remained outsiders.”
I will never say that I am color-blind. I am aware that I am a Black woman living in America. I do not believe that race should play a role in where I live, where I work, who I date, what I can accomplish, or any other aspect of my life. However, I will not be blind to the fact that the battle for equality is NOT OVER. We have a LOT more work to do.