How could this happen here? Is it 2017 or the 1960’s? These questions have been asked numerous times since hundreds of white nationalists armed with torches and weapons clashed with counterdemonstrators in Charlottesville, VA. But while the nation expresses shock, bewilderment, and disbelief at the president’s defense of white nationalists and the events in Charlottesville, VA, the truth is racism had never disappeared.
Racism is when one uses its power to subordinate or impose its will on another set of people. Since the end of the Civil War, there have been numerous efforts to hurl defiance at racism. These efforts include, but are not limited to, the 14th Amendment which provided citizenship and equal protection to former slaves; the Voter’s Act of 1965 that prohibited racial discrimination when minorities vote; Brown vs. Board of Education which declared separate but equal in public schools unconstitutional; and the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
But while these laws, policies, and court decisions prohibited blatant and overt forms of domestic terrorism such as Jim Crow Laws, Poll Taxes, and public executions on trees, these efforts were unable to hand racism its deathblow. These efforts were unable to kill the belief that whites were superior to blacks and other minorities. So, racism just reinvented itself. It reinvented itself as school discipline policies where one race is punished at much higher rates than others. It reinvented itself as bank practices where one race is denied mortgages twice as much as other races that earn the exact same pay. It reinvented itself as police practices that associate crime with certain races despite the fact that people of all races commit crimes at the same rate. It reinvented itself as policies, laws, and structures that we now know as mass incarceration and the cradle to prison pipeline. And the list goes on and on.
We must address the blatant acts of racism in Charlottesville, VA. We must take a stand when overt racism rears its head in Rochester, NY (Like when racist flyers were distributed in Pittsford and Brighton, a swastika and the word “Trump” was spray-painted at SUNY Geneseo, and multiple pride flags were burned in Rochester). We must speak out when a racist president defends white nationalists and neo-Nazis. But we must also address racism that operates in boardrooms, council chambers, and executive suites. We must address racism that manifests itself in resolutions, regulations, bills, and laws. We must take a stand whenever and wherever racism imposes its will on someone else.
Yes, it is time to take a stand!