Racism not dead

Published 10:13 am Friday, May 2, 2014

What do Donald Sterling, owner (for now at least) of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, and Clive Bundy, Nevada farmer and tax deadbeat, have in common? Probably not much beyond being two old white guys imbued not with blatant racism but filled with a latent belief that people with black skin are basically inferior to people with white skin.

Bundy offers that African Americans might be better off as slaves picking cotton and Sterling likes “blacks” just not at his games or beside his mistress.

But what these two old men represent is important, for their views are not theirs alone. Instead the idea of inferiority continues to lie deeply within American society.

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In many ways America has never resolved the Civil War.

The Southern states that chose secession from the Union fought to preserve the crime of human slavery. Yet today the rebel flag still remains proudly in use across the South as though it somehow marks anything other than racial enmity.

And the heroes of the Southern war effort remain honored by statues and their names on institutions, highways, and educational locations.

Is it remotely possible that such idolatry is not offensive to those whose freedom was gained at the highest price?

Beyond the failure of America to tear down those metaphorical walls of the stain of slavery is the continuing use of race in so many venues of American life.

The States Rights movement, once openly racially intended, still exists as a more nuanced platform now designed to push back voting rights, underfund poor schools and cut needed social services.

The Southern Strategy, invented by Republican Nixon campaign manager Lee Atwater still resonates in securing white votes in the Southern states. Some would argue that Ronald Reagan, beginning his 1980 presidential campaign at the Neshoba County Fair, in Philadelphia, Mississippi was simply coincidence.

But Philadelphia was the location where three civil rights workers were killed in the 1960s, and the only African American presence at the fair were those employed in the concession stands. Reagan spoke his support of “state’s rights” that day as code for halting the advance of black social advances according to the film “Neshoba: The Price of Freedom.”

In the more recent past we listened to Rick Santorum while campaigning for the presidency say: “I don’t want to make Black people’s lives better by giving them someone else’s money.” Apparently Mr. Santorum was unaware the majority of welfare goes to white people.

Rand Paul, Kentucky Senator and potential Republican presidential candidate speaks in favor of the right to discriminate on the basis of color for private business: “Requiring private individuals to treat black people with a modicum of human dignity is one thing and dictating what kind of oil they can cook their French fries in or how much salt they can put on them is quite another. But, in principle, they’re not much different.”

So Paul equates racial equality with cooking oil.

Then of course we have the Supreme Court, deciding in two recent decisions that racism in America is over. First, Shelby County v. Holder ruled that some sections of the 1964 Voting Rights Act need no longer exist. That prompted Texas, within two hours, to move forward to change its voting laws to discriminate against minority voters and North Carolina to pass the most restrictive voting bill since the Civil War.

The more recent Court decision was to allow Michigan to end affirmative action in college admissions, a decision that has resulted in several other states in reduced minority acceptance in universities.

In the 2012 presidential election President Obama received approximately 10 percent of the white vote in Mississippi and Alabama, half what past white Democratic candidates received in those states.

America needs to acknowledge that we have issues of race that now need to be opened for an honest public discussion.


Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.