Racism and the Race

This article: Racism and the Race — Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive brings to the forefront one of the issues that’s such a huge factor, but that everyone is tiptoeing around.

Racism in this presidential election really scares me. I know how racist lots of people are. Those who were born after desegregation not only don’t have, but cannot understand the racism of those who remember “colored” drinking fountains, and lunch counters where black workers weren’t welcome, and different doors into hospitals, different treatment at the hands of the justice system…it’s impossible, I think, for us to understand how radically the world changed because of Lyndon Johnson and his courageous decision to end his own political career and give the south to the Republicans, so that all people, regardless of skin color, would be protected under the law.

Segregation didn’t even start in some southern states until the 70s. I was one of the first kids bused into a “bad neighborhood”. And ya know, when I left the chain link fence, and went home with a school friend…there wasn’t anything “bad” about the neighborhood…it was just filled with black folks. The houses were just like the houses in our blue collar neighborhood…filled with kids and peanut butter and laughter.

But that’s not how the grown ups saw it. They threw rocks at our buses, angry at the government for busing white kids into a black neighborhood, and taking it out on the cowering 6 year olds in the bus. I can’t even imagine how horrible it was for the black kids bused into the white neighborhoods.

To this day, older towns in the South (this may be true in the North, I don’t know), are divided along an unspoken, but firmly dividing line. It’s weird. I recently visited a whole bunch of places, and every town had a street, or an avenue where one neighborhood stopped and the next racial neighborhood picked up…and there’s this sort of weird zone between the two where almost nobody goes.

I think the “black” thing is a much bigger issue than many people think it is. Especially those of us that are progressives. We want to believe that it doesn’t matter, that people have evolved in the 40 years since Selma, that equality has taken hold in the hearts and minds of the people around us.

But I fear that it hasn’t. I think the Republican-fed hysteria about “affirmative action taking away jobs from good white people” has taken root and grown strong. Media distortion of crimes have made people afraid of black men. I have two black families in houses across and catercorner from my house. One of the men is a doctor, and one of them is a social worker who fosters teen boys.  The first thing I heard from a few neighbors was how our property values were going to go down.  In the 21st century! Seriously. And when I said “Erm…how does a doctor make property value go down?”, they looked around and whispered “Well…you know…”, as though I were going to be part of their racist conspiracy by refusing to say “Wait? You mean because they’re Black?”

Racism is alive and growing, and I fear that it may be the downfall of not just Obama, but of the entire country. For if the electorate defines what’s right by the color of the candidate’s skin…we have lost so much more than hope. We’ve lost our humanity.

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