Not Yet Beyond Racism

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[Black Star News Editorial]

During the 1960s when this nation made great strides in beginning to heal the wounds of centuries of racial hatred and discrimination, which had been the basis and justification for maintaining exploitation and equity during Slavery, there were many who resisted this march of progressive.

Yet Black people and many White people joined hands to fight the ugly system which was an ugly blot on the history and legacy of the United States of America--the original sin had been codified in the constitution of the United States, which had once deemed Americans of African descent to be only 3/5th equal to White people.

From the plantation fields where people of African descent were treated worse than animals, it was on to "freedom" of abandonment after legal abolition; there was more than another century of living as less than human beings; lynching and burnings at the hand of mob violence; all manner of discrimination--in healthcare; in education; in employment; in housing; the whole gamut.

By the 1960s, modern communication and information systems made it impossible to hide the ugliness which was still the South's legacy, from the rest of the world. The bus boycotts in the South anchored by courageous ministers such as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and others less heralded including ordinary people who carried the just and righteous cause of Rosa Parks; there was the brutal murder of Emmett Till, a 15-year-old boy who allegedly had the temerity to whistle at a White woman; the vicious beatings with truncheons of civil rights activists by police officers as well as their assault with attack dogs and water cannons on demonstrators; the murders of campaigners who went from the north to join the freedom marches; the ugly racial taunts against young Black students who sought to seek education in good schools and were blocked by Whites, including adults; all these images seared the conscience of the rest of the United States.

Many Americans were repulsed; when they got to see the ugliness of racism in plain view. It could no longer be pretended away. Something had to be done.

Dr. King, the spokesman of change, became a great vessel for harnessing and channeling the feelings and the tumult of that era, towards a new dispensation. He was one of those God sends that come in every generation; for every generation.

Yet Dr. King, that eloquent communicator of the time, was accused of all sorts of calumnies: he was denounced as a communist agent and instigator; a Russian agent; a homosexual; an ungodly man; a "monkey; and, yes, even a racist.

These charges came from people who were so steeped in the old regime of exploitation and privilege that they could not fathom the possibilities of the unknown: a United States of America devoid of Jim Crow; a United States of America where Black and White students could seek education in the same schools; a United States of America, where the law and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty applies to all Americans and not just Whites; a United States without summary lynching; a United States of America where Black people could actually vote for elected officials; a United States of America where Black people could seek employment and aspire for senior executive positions; a United States of America where entry to any facility could not be denied to a person on account of their race; and, a United States of America where Black people could actually seek elected public office and even aspire, God forbid, to the Presidency of the United States.

Some minds could not tolerate the possibility of such a United States; especially when people like Governor George Wallace proclaimed "Segregation now; segregation tomorrow; segregation forever."

Yet within a few years, change had swept much of the South and the rest of this country. It's quite possible that some of those people who committed crimes against those fighting for change, or those adults that shouted racial epithets against Black children who simply wanted to be educated, look back with embarrassment and regret at their actions.

Yet, as recent events show, there are descendants of those that wish the tide had flown the other way.

Dr. King paid the ultimate price. Ironically, he foresaw his death in an emotional speech a day earlier.

The United States is a much better country today because of the sacrifices of people like Dr. King and the freedom marchers and all those who bore the brunt of hatred; and the many, mostly Black but including some Whites, who did not live to see the new dawn.

Two years ago, the United States embarked on another major stage of that march to the mountaintop that Dr. King envisioned, when then Senator Barack Obama launched his bid for the White House.

Many Americans and people around the world initially saw Obama's as a quixotic campaign. It was much later, when he had established himself as a credible candidate with the possibility of winning the White House that blatant racism and hatred emerged. Again, the language was akin to the vitriol that had been directed at Dr. King: Obama was un-American; he was no even American; he was a "Communist" or "Socialist; he was un-Christian, the anti-Christ, or Muslim; and, he "palled around with terrorists."

There were even open calls to "kill him" by some people during rallies for Republican candidates John McCain and Sarah Palin. No major Republican official, including the candidates, stood up and denounced this ugliness. Why should they have, if there was a possibility it could win them the White House?

Today, many who share the sentiments of those who once stood before progress in race relations during the 1960s are at center stage; we have seen some of the ugliest displays of racism during this past summer when the town hall meetings intended to debate the President's healthcare reform proposals were sometimes hijacked by racial arsonists. Some showed up with loaded weapons at town hall events, including ones where the president appeared at; they showed up with posters denouncing the president as a "communist" or "Nazi" --notwithstanding the fact that the Nazis and Communists were mortal enemies-- or with images of Swastikas or pictures of Obama bearing Hitler's likeness.

Unlike the 1960s when people saw the ugly images of attempted suppression of Civil Rights activists, in today's media environment, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh tell their audience that it's actually okay and patriotic to vilify the president as "communist" as "un-American" and as Beck even put it, as a "racist" who “hates White people.”

The Republicans have found what they believe to be a working formula to undermine Obama's presidency: constantly generate White racial fears and animosities in order to maintain the status quo. It's served them well in their efforts to derail the national healthcare reform debate.

The ugliness reached its zenith when a Confederate politician, Congressman Joe Wilson, stood up in Congress and ambushed the president during his speech with the vile "You Lie" charge, when in fact Obama was stating a matter of fact.

The ugly outburst, and those around the country at town hall meetings, prompted former president Jimmy Carter to say an "overwhelming portion" of the "intensely demonstrated animosity towards Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a Black man."

Carter, who grew up in the segregated South knows what he's talking about.

Are we at the initial stages of a transformational period that's inexorable? It would seem like it. Young White voters helped elect this president, by voting, by converting their parents, and by teaming up with Black and Latino voters.

The future is in their hands.

They are the ones who will benefit the most from healthcare reform, which should provide coverage to all Americans; they will benefit from the tens of billions of dollars that the president has directed towards education; and, they will live in a healthier environment as carbon emission levels are reduced and Greener jobs created.

The United States is perhaps the greatest country in the world, because of its ability to constantly recreate itself.

One day, some of the racial arsonists who are still very invested in the politics of vitriol will also be able to look back and ask "What was I thinking?"

Please post your comments directly online or submit them to [email protected]

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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