Returning to the country from my conference in Austria, I was greeted with a wonderful surprise: Obama elected as president. We, as Americans, have reached a new milestone in our political history, the race barrier has been crossed. But what does this mean for racism in America? What seems to be the trend in the treatment of social problems in America is a Band-Aid effect. Something like the Civil Rights Movement or the Women's Liberation happen and then most Americans think that these problems are solved. For example, if you asked most Americans whether or not women received the same pay as men and they would say yes; however, this is still not true. I am afraid the same will happen with racism (well, it's happened already), the election of Obama will, for many people, signal the "end of racism" in America. Nothing could be further from the truth. First off, Obama is not an "African-American", he is multi-racial, but his multiplicitous identity is too nebulous for the American public; thus, he is shoved into a much more simplified category than he actually belongs to. So, the problem will become - at least I fear the problem will become - that people will view Obama as the final "proof" that racism is over, though this couldn't be further from the truth. And here are two reasons for this:
First off, let's look at an over-the-top example. I was browsing Mother Jones and came across this article. The last of a dying breed of KKK Koutures. The article is horrifying, but this picture is the most horrifying of all:
Honestly, I don't think I have to say anything else.
Second, Missouri has passed a law saying that English is the only language that could be spoken in governmental settings. What some people may not realize is that Missouri has a rather large Hispanic populations in certain areas. I grew up in Carthage, MO, which has a Butterball Factory, Dynamo, Leggett & Platt, and numerous other factories. Needless to say, there is a large number of Hispanic workers, many illegal. However, many who are legal only speak Spanish, or do not speak English well enough to understand it in a legal way. This is the modern Jim Crowe, these people are being disenfranchised, because if knoweldge is power, and to gain knowledge you need to understand the language, then you are denied power. How can a person vote if they can't read the ballot? How can a person help themselves if they can't understand anything around them? This is a deleberate racist move by White Missourians to oppress the people they view as overtaking the White majority. And this is not some wild speculation, I grew up around these people, they have told me this in person. In Carthage, soon there will be more native Spanish speakers in the grade schools than English speakers; how can the parents of these students make the right choices for their children if they can't participate in the process of education? The majority of students will be marginalized because only the native English speakers can vote for school board members, or participate in meetings.
Even with a non-White person elected as president, racism is still alive and well.
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