There is a rising tide of openly racial incidents against black Americans. Recently, a noose was placed about the neck of James Meredith’s statute at the University of Mississippi. Rocker Ted Nugent called President Barack Obama a “subhuman mongrel” on video, racist nomenclature for biracial blacks; U.S. Senator John McCain, R-Arizona, described the president as “politically naïve,” questioning his intelligence and leadership.
Arizona State University’s Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity held a party on the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday in which some students wore bandanas, jerseys and jewelry and drank from hollowed-out watermelons. And the state of Georgia has approved tags bearing the Confederate flag.
Not one of these perpetrators demonstrated shame. This is the soul of America laid bare. Two kinds of apologists have emerged: blacks who claim there is no reason to overdramatize racial hatred and whites who claim we revel in victimhood. In truth, however, these incidents are evidence of overt racism against blacks with which many of our counterparts find little or no fault.
One need only refer to some Republican Party officials’ responses to the Nugent comment. They refused to condemn his actions and hailed his patriotism.
These incidents also demonstrate the poor job America has done of purging itself of racism. Racism is not a past but an ever-present experience for black people ingrained in the American psyche. As far back as 2001, Gary Orfield, using Census data, indicated that 80 percent of whites did not live in communities with people of color. We are not claiming victimhood when others choose not to be near us. Nor do we need data when every racially charged trial divides us along strict color lines.
Black Americans have never asked for anything but equal protection under the law, a status promised to us via the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act and numerous U. S. Supreme Court opinions.
There is little outrage because many whites are comfortable in their color privilege and sense of superiority and too many blacks are comfortable ignoring it or otherwise being silent.
Pulpits, mosques and temples should be ringing with sermons about racism as sin (“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” – John 4:20).
Many whites have been prejudiced for so long they don’t discern their actions or words as repugnant. They are completely oblivious to this reality and say blacks are hypersensitive. But we are no more hypersensitive than Jews who give no quarter on anti-Seminitic acts.
America has not matured racially and excuses for this immaturity are hollow. We are not teaching equality to our children. We are not embracing our religious belief that God requires justice and mercy. We are not holding ourselves to a moral imperative that demands personal accountability.
One need only refer to the three high school students in Portland, Oregon beating a fellow student and cutting a swastika into his forehead with a box cutter. Were they emulating the behavior and mores of those closest to them?
This is the alleged post-racial America that was seized upon by the media after President Obama’s election.
It is also demonstrative of why we cannot allow symbolism to mislead us into believing that racist attitudes have changed. They remain constant, pejorative and disparaging. People who hate do not love America or themselves. Neither are they patriots.
Dr. Jeffrey Dean Swain is the Director of the Centers for Academic Support Services at Florida Memorial University and teaches criminal, constitutional and public school law. He is also author of six books on race and culture, a minister, social commentator and vice-president of the International Association of Black Doctorates.