Wednesday, October 23, 2019
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Racism lingers despite some positive signs

From the halls of Congress to the hallways of high schools near Chicago, signs of white supremacy and racism linger despite the appearance of greater acceptance of black and brown Americans.

Using the N-word, even casually, represents racism, writes Rhaya Truman, a student at Downers Grove South High School, in the student newspaper, The Blueprint. She said she heard a white student referring to black people as the N-word and confronted him about it directly. When she did that, he looked at her like she was crazy, she said, and denied being a racist.

“I have learned that saying racism has disappeared is far from the truth,” she writes. “There are no public lynchings, segregation of bathrooms and transportation systems and aggressive acts of racism like there were before the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.”

But racism and discrimination never really end, she writes. “Just over the weekend, a video surfaced of a white student from [the other high school in my district] writing the n-word with the hard r on a board in her cheer uniform. There has been outrage throughout the district because of this and for good reason. Once again, this is not a problem of the past.

“These people are not bad apples. They are racist. Say it; they are racist.”

That’s what the US House of Representatives said of fellow Rep Steve King, Republican of Iowa, when they stripped him of his committee assignments over comments that were considered racist, as reported in timeline fashion since 2002 by the New York Times. The House then voted to condemn white nationalism, another euphemism for racism, and Mr King even voted in favor of that resolution. Do the words, “I am not a racist,” sound familiar?

And evidence continues to come from researchers in education that the color of one’s skin is inconsequential in determining the likelihood of success as a citizen. Racism and discrimination continue to affect black students’ progress in school, though, based on performance on national and state tests by black students who grew up in military families, Education Week reports:

Black military-connected students, who move on average six to nine times before they graduate high school, consistently perform on the National Assessment of Educational Progress and on state exams not only better than black students from civilian families, who on average rarely transfer schools, but also almost as high as their white civilian- and military-connected peers. That gap has only continued to narrow in recent years. …

And, though it’s narrowing, there is still, after all, a performance gap between black and white military-connected students, which means discrimination and lack of access is still occurring.

Finally, in the federal courts, white nationalism took yet another blow, as Judge Jesse Furman blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to add a question to the 2020 census asking about citizenship status.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross claimed the citizenship question would help the Trump administration enforce voting rights. The court didn’t believe him and decided it was designed to intimidate Latinos into not responding to the census, which would result in an undercount of voters in immigrant-heavy regions, who tend to vote Democratic. Those regions would also then receive less federal funding, as that is also based on population.

(I once thought Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was the most unqualified member of the president’s cabinet; my opinion has changed, given Mr Ross’s remarks to the federal court.)

These efforts to tell black and brown people, by whatever means, that they are somehow “less than” white people, an idea first put into our Constitution by the Founding Fathers but removed by amendment, continue. I hope Ms Truman is wrong about there being no end to racism in America, but it doesn’t look like the people who lead this nation have made much progress.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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