Tuesday, March 18, 2008

What We Need to Understand about Racism

There's so much that people misunderstand when they talk about racism.
  1. Just mentioning a person's race is not racism. Referring to prejudice, discrimination, and oppression on the basis of race is not racism. In fact, how could you fight against racism if you couldn't name it, or identify the people who are affected by it?
  2. Some people are saying the fact that Barack Obama can run for President is proof that racism no longer exists in this country. They are mostly people like Ward Connerly, who have tried to deny the effects of racism (and the need for affirmative action to cure it) long before they ever heard of Barack Obama. One swallow does not make a spring. One serious Black presidential candidate doesn't prove or disprove anything about race and politics. And no number of African American politicians can make up for the poverty and ill health that affect a disproportionate percentage of the African American community.
  3. Connerly was quoted in the Boston Globe as saying Obama is proof of the end of institutional racism. Huh? "Institutional racism" doesn't mean "lots of white people hate black people and can't get over it." That's almost the opposite of what the term was invented to describe. "Institutional racism" means the kinds of burdens we put on people on a racial basis whether or not we personally think they're good or bad, equal or unequal. When a high percentage of African American families live in low-income school districts, and therefore go to underfunded schools, and therefore get a substandard education, and therefore have fewer opportunities to get a good job, and therefore end up living and raising their children in low-income neighborhoods--that's instituionalized and even structural racism. It doesn't take haters to make it go on. It takes a movement to make it stop.

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