Race – it’s a concept, a word, a phenomenon, an identifying factor, and an issue which has spanned many centuries and knows no geographic borders. Often, what comes to mind when people think of race in the U.S. is slavery and segregation in the South. Many think that due to the enactment of civil rights legislation, race is no longer a priority. This is because racism is not as blatant as it once was, but presents itself behind the scenes, which is why it is more important than ever to pay attention to it.
Where does racism still exist? Wherever we are willing to admit that it exists. After watching thirteen documentaries exploring different aspects of racism and reading twelve articles addressing these issues, I learned how prevalent race still is and that it presents itself in different forms all over this country and the world.
Contrary to popular belief, racism is not limited to issues of black and white. In the late 19th and early 20th century, Native Americans, Chinese Americans, Mexican Americans and Jewish Americans were discriminated against. Latino workers were discriminated against in Farmingville, NY in the mid 1990’s by people who just didn’t want them in their community.
I also know this from firsthand experience. At the tender age of eight, I attended a community meeting with my father where the goal was to organize a response to the dot-busters, a group promoting violence and hatred towards the Indian and Indian-American community in New Jersey and throughout the tri-state area. The sad thing is that my examples only represent a small sample of the full universe of ethnic and religious groups that have been unfairly discriminated against.
In addition to racism not being limited to a specific group, it is not limited to a specific period of time. Alarmingly, it is as alive and strong today as it was at any time in the past. There are individuals who are part of organized racist groups who have run for political office in the U.S. within the last twenty years who prided themselves on protecting the interests of a white nationalist America. Members of the Klan are still active throughout the U.S., and they continue to warn of the dangers of desegregation and white genocide. Groups such as these often invoke Christian scripture to support their arguments. William Pierce, a now deceased leader of a neo-Nazi group, deemed it appropriate to create a video game called “Ethnic Cleansing” and carried his messages of white nationalism through music in order to make white youth feel more comfortable. These examples and countless others show me that the fight against racism is nowhere near over.
Now more than ever before, racism is manifesting itself in ways that are at times difficult to recognize. Groups promoting racism and bigotry take an extreme stance on other issues such as the rights of homosexuals and environmental issues in order to influence a wider audience. Due to this appearance of race in different formats, it is important to be even more vigilant, cautious and aware. It is time we create an accepting, supporting, and peaceful society. Although this may not be something we can focus on all the time, it is important for everyone to do their part. Even if that means just forwarding relevant articles or posting them to your Facebook page, it shows those around us that there is no room to tolerate racism.