Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Race(ism) In America

Recently the topic of race has been featured prominently in the news. There have been triumphs, and the breaking down of racial barriers, such as Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, and the ground breaking on the national mall of the Martin Luther King Memorial. However these achievements have been overshadowed – as the good news in the world often is - by the hate and intolerance that still lingers below the surface of our society.

In the last few months, I think we can all think of several cases of individual bigotry splashed on front pages and headlines worldwide. The top three that come to me: Mel Gibson, Michael Richards, and most recently Tim Hardaway. In these three you can see that the most historic hate and bias still exists, not only in the places we consider backwards and behind, and but in people Americans consider the upper echelon of society. These are the heroes and the celebrities of our movies, television shows, and sports.

Mel Gibson’s Jew bashing, brings back thoughts of Nazi rhetoric, and propaganda which led a country to believe that the a religion and it’s people could be responsible for all of it’s ills. Him claiming Jews were responsible for all wars, is something anyone could imagine Adolf screeching before lines of goose-stepping storm troopers.

Richards racial tirade against blacks and his the use of the N-word reflect decades of America’s Jim Crow society that existed for years after slavery, in the north and south, that pushed Black families into ghettos and slums, and spurred a white flight from America’s cities into it’s suburbs.

Hardaway’s deep-seated belief that being homosexual is simply wrong, and doesn’t belong in America or the world, seem extreme when broadcast all over the media but the same opinion and attitude is broadcast and accepted in churches and in the family first campaign.

Even here in Sacramento, a community with many different races and cultures, there is hate. These cases don’t make network news, but show that at all levels, there is hate. Since I have been here there have been a number of racial crimes – hate signs, carved into cars, and teens in an upscale Stockton community attacking minority security guards with fire bombs, and slurs.

All of these things show that there is a still deep intolerance that still exists in our country. In Obama’s new book Audacity of Hope he talks at length about race. He citing the divide that still exists, how a black teen on a street late at night could strike fear in a white couple, yet if their son or daughter had a black friend from school, they would have no problem inviting them over for dinner. However the same kid is left wondering why he is more qualified then his black best friend but he gets the scholarship, or the admission letter because of affirmative action.

Even the steps forward seem too be rife with setbacks. Obama’s presidential race will certainly show a spotlight on race, like when Joe Biden’s called him the first black candidate that is “clean” and articulate.” The media pounced on these words, reading into what Biden meant and if he was calling all other blacks dirty, and all candidates before him inarticulate.

I look at the money that will soon be spent on building a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. on the national mall. It will be a great achievement, the first tribute on the mall to a black man. Yet I can’t help but think if that is what he would have wanted. Would he want that money go to programs that help move his dream forward? Ways to eliminate racism and hate that is so clearly still prevalent in our society?

It is being built and will serve as a beacon of hope for racial equality, but it is being built at time where the KKK and neo-nazi parties are seeing their ranks swell, and it is not so far fetched to say that hate seems to be on the rise.

I think of the dream that King had, and if we ever will reach a place where children of all races and creeds will be able to call each other brother. Of course I think of the old joke that says we should just keep screwing each other until there is no Black White Mexican or Asian left just one mixed race…but I guess when we have no outward differences we can still hate one another for who we love, and what we worship.


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