Dreams of day when race doesn’t matter
There is no question that, 50 years after the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.‘s seminal “I Have a Dream” speech, institutionalized racial discrimination has become largely a memory.
Black Americans and other minorities now hold important jobs in the private sector and government, including the presidency of the United States. Authorized segregation in housing, schools and the workplace is long gone. And the U.S. Supreme Court wants Congress to re-examine voting rules passed decades ago because, the court held, the discrimination that prompted those rules doesn’t exist today.
But it is just as obvious, half a century later, that issues of race and individual responses to them remain like an open sore in our culture, painful and difficult to heal.
Whether it is the shooting of Trayvon Martin by a Latino man, a tasteless attempt at humor by a white rodeo clown wearing a Barack Obama mask, or the killings of an Australian baseball player in Oklahoma and an elderly Spokane veteran — separate incidents involving black suspects — the issue of race seems more raw today than any time in years.
Equally certain is the fact that there are still racists among us. One need only talk to blacks, Hispanics, Asians or American Indians to hear recent stories about how they have been mistreated because of their skin color or ethnic background — stories of jobs rejected, housing denied, unwarranted police attention given or debasing comments offered.
However, the bigotry isn’t limited to one side.
One of the alleged killers of Australian Christopher Lane tweeted that he hated white people. One black employee of the Department of Homeland Security runs a website on which he promotes a race war with whites. He also targets homosexuals and “Uncle Tom” black traitors, including President Obama.
Meantime, there is clear statistical evidence that blacks commit crimes against other blacks at far higher rates than whites or other minorities commit against people who share their ethnic backgrounds. But when people raise this issue, even black commentators, they are shouted down by others for misrepresenting numbers or trying to distract from the “real” issues.
There are opposing political claims: that Republicans are trying to suppress minority votes with voter ID laws, but Democrats are pushing policies that could make it too easy for some people to vote, whether they are eligible or not.
Serious discussions about our views on race and race-related policies are needed, but that is nearly impossible amid the hysterical shouting and the claims of “racist!” or “race baiter!“for any who hold opposing views.
We believe the status of minorities has improved substantially in 50 years, but the nation still has a long way to go to attain King’s goal of a place where everyone — black, white, brown or yellow — is judged solely on the content of their character, not the color of their skin.