Don’t Declare Racism Dead: That Tough Cookie Will Survive

Racism - Black Man at Black Only Water Cooler

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This article is a REPRINT. It was published in 2008 when Barack Obama first won the presidency of the United States.

“The White House and Capitol were built on the back of slave labor. Slaves were not paid for that hard labor they performed. The money instead went to their slave owners – $5 per month.”

By Juanita Bratcher 

Let’s face it, racism will always have a chilling, schism and debilitating effect on American society, no matter how many Americans would like to move ahead and leave it behind, handcuffed in the annals of time. And anyone who thinks differently or otherwise – that racism will end simply because America elected its first African-American president – is in for a rude awakening. You can’t change the hearts and minds of people overnight. Sometimes never.

The election of Barack Obama is indeed a historic moment, a historic time in American history; and a step forward in the right direction. But in just a few days, his election has  set-off a backlash in the U.S.

According to an article in the Christian Science Monitor, “After Obama’s Win, White Backlash Festers in U.S.”, it noted that the Southern Poverty Law Center stated that more than 200 hate-related incidents have occurred since the election of America’s first black president.

On the flip side of the coin, however, there is enthusiasm and elation abound that America saw fit to elect its first African-American president in 2008 and, by an enthusiastically wide margin over his Republican opponent.

Yet, the article in the Christian Science Monitor is shrewd reality: that there are those who are determined to put a damper on this celebratory, historic occasion.

Obviously, under an Obama presidency change in some form or fashion will come to America. Change is always inevitable when there’s a changing of the guard – it happens all the time when a new, incoming presidential administration takes over the White House. And there’s that fear, on the part of some, that change, even when unaware of what change will come about, tend to feel ill at ease…they are uncomfortable because they want things to remain the same. But there are others who tend to think outside the box and welcome change.

So there are both positives and negatives being bombarded over the Internet and through media reports in the aftermath of the presidential election.

Winning the presidency by no means came on a silver platter for President-Elect Barack Obama. It’s an adventure (running for President) that takes a toll on any candidate that has his/her eyes set on the Presidency, win or lose.

But it’s the negative incidents that are appalling. Victory came to Obama only after an extensive travel schedule, traveling to states across the country taking his message of change, sacrificing enormous time away from his loving family, an overwhelming and tiredsome life on the campaign trail, making numerous speeches, and working hard in his quest to become America’s 44th President.  And lastly, by making a convincing case to the American people that he had what it takes to be President and Commander-in-chief, and worthy of the post to lead America for the next four years, maybe the next eight.

This commentary, by no means, is meant to take away from the gleanings and profound proudness of President-Elect Barack Obama’s historical victory; but to be looked upon as a dose of reality in regards to what has been happening in our country over the years, dating back to the days of slavery.

Obama is a bright, brilliant, intelligent man, and in the eyes of the majority of Americans who cast a vote for him, the best man suited for the job. He garnered a commanding mandate from the American people – wrapping up 365 electoral votes, a long way from the 270 needed.

Many Americans are ecstatic over his win; even people in other parts of the world. But there is also the after effect; cyberspace was bombarded with racist, disparaging and negative remarks over Obama’s win.

Racism is one “tough cookie” to get rid of. And it won’t vanish or go into oblivion anytime soon. Change can be a hard pill to swallow. Afterall, racism and its counterpart, discrimination, have a long history in this country, and they’re strong enough to survive the slings and arrows of our times, despite a hue and cry by some who hope that they’ll just go away. But rather than hope for that almost impossible dream, it would be a wee bit wiser for Americans to hope that sanity prevails and we can all get along as Americans.

One only has to go into cyberspace, read newspapers or turn on television sets to be subjected to a quire of racist and stupid remarks – below the pale actions by some who can’t stomach the idea of an African-American president in the White House.

Reportedly, there have been hundreds of hatred incidents occurring in places around the country – death threats made against the president-elect, effigies turning up in various places, cross burnings, racial slurs and insults, some voicing hope that Obama is assassinated, and negative remarks by some that “our country” is being taken away. How absurd!

Barack Obama is an American. All Americans are Americans. I resent those words (our country) said in such a negative tone. This country belongs to all Americans. Who behooves anyone to question the patriotism and love of country by others?

The White House and Capitol were built on the back of slave labor. Slaves were not paid for that hard labor they performed. The money instead went to their slave owners – $5 per month.

Quotes from the annals of history:

“If this society fails, I fear that we will learn very shortly that racism is a sickness unto death.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Showdown for Violence”, 1968.

“Racism is a contempt for life, an arrogant assertion that one race is the center of value and object of devotion, before which other races must kneel in admission” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Where Do We Go From Here?”, Look Magazine, 1958.

“Racism is so universal in this country, so widespread and deep-seated, that it is invisible because it is so normal.” – U.S. Congressman Shirley Chisholm, “Unbought and Unbossed”, 1970.

“…What can we do about racism? We can talk about it, not in an acrimonious way, but in a clinical way. And maybe by talking about it, we can reach a few of those borderline white people who have never consciously thought about racism or prejudice to think about it and maybe want to do something about it.” – Chicago Mayor Harold Washington, 1986.

“Racism can’t be overcome. It will be there for the rest of your life. There will always be people who don’t like you because you’re Black, Hispanic, Jewish. You have to figure out how to deal with it. Racism is not an excuse to not do the best you can.” – Tennis Superstar Arthur Ashe, in Sports Illustrated, July 1991.

Obama’s election came about through a multi-ethnic pool of voters – Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, Jews, Asians and others. They deviated from the norm and voted outside the box to bring change to a country that was at the crossroads of history and needed change. It’s time for all Americans to heed that message of change, realizing that sometimes it can be a challenging endeavor to simmer raw emotions.

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