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Racism: America’s Proverbial Hydra

Wednesday, July 30, 2008 Leave a Comment

Special Guest Post by A.A.C. Puryear
(Enjoy this post? Read other articles contributed by A.A.C.)

Yes, this is quite a contrast from my usual writings about TV, movies, and other fairly trivial subjects. But after reading an article on cnn.com, I felt moved to speak out a little bit and share what I think is still a living, breathing controversy in this nation. Racism is not the issue it was in years past; many Americans have undergone great lengths to ensure that all citizens have equal rights regardless of their ethnic background. Slavery has been outlawed, we have equal voting rights, and the Jim Crow laws are nothing more than an unfortunate memory. And not too long ago, we achieved a new milestone in this fight when Barack Obama became the first African-American nominated for presidential candidacy.

But with every head we sever from the hydra that racism is, new ones grow in its place, subtler and more delicate than the conflicts of the past.

They do not pose the same threats to equality that the older issues spawned, but they daily affect the lives of all Americans, creating unnecessary barriers between different groups of people and proving the beast has not been slain. Over the years, I have heard numerous jokes stimulated by racial stereotypes that many find funny, but leave others hurt and offended. I have had friends in high school who were forbidden by parents to date because one was black and the other was white. The results of Affirmative Action programs have led to accusations of reverse discrimination. These occurrences generate hatred towards others for superficial reasons and divide us unnecessarily.

On July 9th, cnn.com published an article reporting that Rev. Jesse Jackson had apologized for the rude remarks he made in reference to Sen. Barack Obama. I write this post not because of Jackson’s apology or even his initial remarks for which he had to apologize, but because of what else was included in the article. The article mentions that this comment was not the first time Jackson criticized the Democratic presidential nominee; it referred to a South Carolina newspaper that reported that he had accused Obama of “acting like he’s white”. In addition to that, Ralph Nader, who has chosen to run for president yet again, accused Obama for “attempting to talk white”.

What baffles me is when did a skin color become a type of personality? Sure, I’ve heard people say things to this effect before, but they were ignorant immature individuals from my high school, so I paid it no mind. However, when such comments come from grown men who have believed themselves worthy enough to attempt to become the leader of our nation, something is seriously wrong. Public statements like these only serve to fuel stereotypes about ethnicity. Since I wasn’t exactly sure what Jackson meant by “acting white”, I combed the rest of the article to get an idea; his other major criticism of Obama is that he apparently talks down to other black people. Is that what “acting white” means? Talking down to black people? If so, it’s a terrible misrepresentation, because I know I, and countless other white individuals, do not treat blacks as such. The thought has never even crossed my mind to talk down to anyone because they had a different skin color than me.

Now don’t get me wrong; if the Illinois Senator is talking down to his fellow African-Americans, Jackson, as well as anyone else, has every right to have a problem with that, but don’t pass it off as “acting white”. Call the problem what it is, and certainly don’t do exactly what you’re accusing someone else of doing: stereotyping a group of people. All it does it creates division where none is needed and contradicts the ideals of unity for which America stands.

Clearly, it is going to be a long time, if ever, before racism is finally killed, and in the near future, we will see the terrible beast emerge with a new head. It is very possible that we could have a black president for the next four or eight years, and while some people can accept that just as easily as they can a white president, there will be those who cannot, subjecting us to a new side to racism that we have not seen before.

It is unfortunate that this is going to happen, but it is something for which we must be prepared. I only ask that each of you be cognizant of how these judgments, no matter how trivial or small they may appear, can truly affect our relationships with one other. Please help to fight the monster, so that it may one day be finally slain.

Once again, here is the article I am referring to:
Jesse Jackson apologizes for 'crude' Obama remarks

6 comments »

  • Anonymous said:  

    definitely heavier than your other things, but very interesting and very true!

  • Mark said:  

    ahh, yes, the slippery slope of modern racism. I feel like a racist every time I try to make a critical comment about Barack Obama, it's so difficult to work around everyone's preconceived views of some sort of divide!

  • Anonymous said:  

    i agree with you 100% so interesting that people who were once victims of racism can so easily and unwittingly promote it

  • Geo said:  

    yeah, as a black person myself, I've felt shunned by some members of my community who want to flaunt their lack of success and their inability to write a well-constructed sentence as some sort of testament to their 'blackness'. I tell those people, in whatever language they understand, that they're bringing themselves down at this point. I'm proud to be who I am, racially, ethnically, whatever, and I can do well as that type of person as long as I remember I'm a person like everyone else first.

  • Marie said:  

    so true. Also, good job of taking on a tough issue without getting too political.

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