Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Alive and Well

It has been almost 30 days since the 44th President of the United States took the oath of office. It is a day that I like most every other American especially those of color will remember for a life time. While we, the American people have decided to vote a man of African heritage into the highest most powerful office on this planet we as a country still battle with the issue of racism in varying degrees. Racism is a noun and defined on as “a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others”.

As I watched the news reporters interview various African-American citizens they all seemed to have the same response of exuberance and comments of “now we have arrived”. While I too am overjoyed and very proud of the fact that we now have an African-American President I do not believe we are close to overcoming. Racism is woven into the fiber of this country and we will only do ourselves severe harm by thinking that all of that has changed at this point and time. This is the same country that tortured my ancestors making them “strange fruit” hanging from 100 year old magnolia trees. As a country we do not have to look back to far to see that racism is not on life support but whose heart is beating with the vigor of a marathon runner. On June 7, 1998, James Byrd of Jasper, Texas accepted a ride from three white men one of which he knew. They took a chain wrapped it around his ankles stripped him naked and pulled him behind their fast moving pickup truck until he was decapitated. Police found 75 pieces of his body over the road. Okay maybe you are thinking that was over 10 years ago. In January 2009, a bakery in the Greenwich neighborhood in New York City was selling “Drunken Negro” cookies. The bake shop owner even had the audacity to say that he was doing this in honor of the 44th President of this country. In his response during an interview with a report he felt there was nothing wrong with this item being sold in his store.

Harrison, Arkansas is a town where some whites have decided to retire particularly because there are no blacks. Harrison is just an example of white a few cities in this country where the Klan flourishes because the racist attitudes have allowed then to exist comfortably. The Blacks that once lived there were run out of town.

We must not allow ourselves get so overwhelmed with the pride we feel in regard to the election that we forget about the history of this country and the hundreds of people of color that are behind bars because of the color of their skin. Racial profiling all over this country did not cease at 11:59 p.m. on January 19th. While progress has been made we must continue to fight until every brick to that proverbial wall of racism has been torn down. It is incumbent upon each of us to make this country a better place by having open and honest dialogue about race and recognizing our own racial bigotry. The conversation will bring about education and awareness for all of us. If nothing else we have the power to make a difference and we must seize that power to make it a reality.