Albatross of Race: Can We Change the State of Race Relations in America?

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By: Chris Williams

Throughout the history of the United States, the issue of race has been at times our undoing or our unifying factor in helping bring about the process of change in our society. To this day, the motif of race evokes certain emotions in all of us. It often goes unaddressed due to the stances taken from different sides of the conversation. The lack of comfort can be attributed to the lack of education we have about other cultures. Race, creed and color are three things that continue to define all of us much to our chagrin.

Race is looming larger in growing political debates across the country regarding many sectors of our everyday lives. The usual suspects of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin among others chimed in with their virulent, separatist rhetoric regarding these issues. They all have one thing in common, they love hearing their voices all over various media outlets and having nothing of consequence to back up their statements.

On immigration reform, the former maverick John McCain seems to send mixed messages. He once stated during a televised 2008 presidential debate the United States is still that “shining city upon a hill” where everyone is welcome, a reference back to Ronald Reagan’s 1974 speech. But in a May 2010 ad for his reelection campaign, he is seen with Arizona’s “Sheriff Paul”  stating that we will “complete the danged fence.” This is, of course, referring to the fence being built to keep illegal Mexicans from crossing the border.

Jan Brewer, interim governor of Arizona, hit home with her party locally yet enraged the nation when she signed into law the SB 1070 bill in April 2010. The law essentially creates unprecedented parameters to allow racial profiling on levels never seen in the United States.

The bill reeked of remnants from the Apartheid system in South Africa and Reconstruction Era policies held up in the Southern states after the Civil War. It has allowed Blacks and Hispanics to rally in a unified fashion to fight against this racist law. In June this legislation went to the Supreme Court, and by July parts of it were blocked as the courts proceed to make their decision on it.

In Texas, the State Board of Education has decided to rewrite history. The desire of conservatives on the board is to demount Thurgood Marshall’s influence and him from the Supreme Court in their textbooks. They’ve also called on removing the term’Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade’ and replacing it with the ‘Atlantic Triangular Trade,’ which will undoubtedly marginalize the impact that the slave trade had on the United States.

What makes this an enormous problem is 75% of textbooks for grades K-12 that are bought and produced around the country are from Texas. It makes Texas the second largest buyer of textbooks behind the state of California.

This wretched assault on Black history has the potential to become a catastrophic brainwashing of our next generation. On May 12, 2010 the State of Arizona (again, with Jan Brewer leading) signed into law SB 2281 banning Ethnic Studies at their state colleges and universities, as they fear that what is being taught in these classes is anti-American.

It’s blatantly apparent Texas and Arizona are trying to one-up the other when it comes to setting the country back to the 1950s. Governor Rick Parry of Texas threatened secession from the United States during his election campaign, and Immigration Law advocate Senator Russell Pearce of Arizona has strong neo-Nazi affiliations. Their constituents are blindly loyal, which poses another problem entirely.

Since taking office in January, governor Bob McDonnell and his attorney general Ken Cuchinelli have done their damnedest to set the state of Virginia back to the days of Jim Crow. Their assault on the previous administration’s groundbreaking legislation has been indefensible to say the very least.

The fact they purposely left out slavery when Gov. McDonnell revealed his proclamation to make April Confederate History Month to “promote tourism in the state” was troubling. The half-hearted apology they issued for failing to mention slavery in the proclamation made evident their true agenda of turning the clock back. This was only one in a series of missteps by this administration.

It is clear the country as a whole is sick and tired of the same old partisan politics going on in the halls of Congress. Many stalwart incumbents in the House and Senate have been dismissed by their constituents due to their perceived ineffectiveness during their time in Congress. This next election cycle has both Democrats and Republicans worried.

The Tea Party and extreme militia movements have been a barometer for the disappointment and anger towards our government. Many proponents representing these movements will say that their cause is justified because of their worry over defense, immigration, and the outlandish governmental spending. Others view the movements as spectacles of privileged, middle-class and poor whites refusing to be told what to do by a Black president.

Tea Party candidate Rand Paul from Kentucky has stormed onto the national scene like a Category 5 hurricane. On May 19, 2010, Paul’s comments regarding the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show, and the criticism of President Obama’s besmirching of BP and their culpability in the cleanup of their massive oil spill left him back peddling faster than an NFL cornerback.

Paul is under the impression that we still reside in the 1940’s. Although, he later retracted his statements and said he would have voted for the historic Civil Rights bill, he is yet another example of how the issue of race keeps rearing its head in the political discourse of this country.

One of the latest incidents citing race happened on July 20, 2010 when former USDA administrator Shirley Sherrod was fired – supposedly over racist remarks in a speech she gave at an NAACP event in 2008 about not delivering monetary assistance to a white rural farmer. This clip was provided by right wing extremist Andrew Breitbart, and little did everyone know that the clip was edited and distorted to make Mrs. Sherrod appear as a racist. But upon release of the footage in its entirety, it was evident that she was actually telling a heart wrenching story about how her perception of race changed during her exchange with this poor, white farmer.

Everyone from the Obama administration to the major media news outlets were culpable in throwing Sherrod under the bus before understanding the full scope of the situation. Every week, this disturbing trend continues to reappear into our national conscience.

On August 12, 2010, Dr. Laura Schlessinger dropped the N-word repeatedly on a Black woman calling in to her talk show about the difficulties the woman had been experiencing when dealing with her white boyfriend’s family.

Schlessigner apologized the following day and then quit the show, but this type of unacceptable behavior keeps rearing its ugly head time and again.

All of these incidents indicate that the albatross of race is still hanging around the country like a storm cloud. It makes one wonder if we’ll ever address it, or if we’ll keep letting it rain until we drown in our own dysfunction.

“A fully functional multiracial society cannot be achieved without a sense of history and open, honest dialogue.” – Dr. Cornel West

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