As a lad, I recall learning a simple limerick about the weather, "April showers, bring May flowers." I have never forgotten it. Plus, it has proven to be true (at least where I have lived in the U.S.). This past April, racist comments have been metaphorically showering through the airways. Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, Virginia KKK Imperial Wizard Frank Ancona, and California billionaire real estate mogul Donald Sterling have all made absurd comments about race.
Since the election of President Barack Obama, there are people who claim that we live in a post-racial American society. Unfortunately, that is not the case. It is true that people, especially the youth, are more accepting of others who are of different races/ethnicities, religions, sexual orientation and beyond. But sadly, the United States has not overcome racism. How could she?
Our legal system was founded on such evil and abhorrent thinking. It has only been 50 years since the signing of the Civil Rights Act. Prior to that, America had 250 years of chattel slavery and an additional 100 years of legal terrorism against people of color commonly known as Jim Crow. I am not sure how many people realize that between 1790 and 1952, the only immigrants guaranteed to receive naturalization in order to become legal American citizens were white. I am not saying that others did not obtain it. I am saying it was legal to deny people who were not white. This is our nation's historical truth.
With this as the larger backdrop of our history as a republic, some people, as well as laws and/or systems in 2014 still harm people of color based solely on race. Moreover, religion has played an extremely large role in this blasphemous distortion against humanity. Therefore, I receive no pleasure in saying, "Yes, Virginia: There are still racists in North America!"
In a society which created the 24-hour news cycle and reality television, people having capacity to record audio and video, or take pictures with their mobile phones, anyone's thoughts or behaviors (rightly or wrongly) can be utilized to fill air time on news programs or make profit. It may not be right, but it is what happens. There are people who crave "15 minutes of fame" and there are multiple venues through which they can achieve it. Racists included.
Yet, what is missing in this current landscape is the opportunity for all citizens of all races/ethnicities to publicly engage in a much needed conversation on race. Not for the purpose of blaming or shaming one another. But to educate, share experiences, lament and, most importantly, to acknowledge the pain and sin this nation unjustly heaped upon a group of people based on skin color. This would be no easy action to initiate. However, it is a necessary step to begin healing the wounded souls of many and this nation.
Fortunately for all, there are many skilled persons to aid in helping America launch this voyage. We need only the will (and perhaps, mandate) to do it. In my humble opinion, it is the only way we can begin to get at the desired outcome of a post-racial America.
Bentley de Bardelaben is the Executive for Administration and Communications for the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries.
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