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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2963

Heightened awareness about racism in America

By Philip Fernando

The racially motivated killings inside a historic Black church in South Carolina had reignited the debate on racism in in America. Mass reaction reached unprecedented levels signaling a shift towards ending the dreaded malaise that had affected America for centuries.

President Barack Obama used a podcast interview to argue that racism is in “the DNA” of Americans.

In the course of his discussion with the well-known comedian Marc Maron, Obama declared, “The legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution of our lives, you know, that casts a long shadow, and that’s still part of our DNA that’s passed on.” The DNA metaphor helped arouse mixed reactions but generally it was in keeping with the sentiments expressed by a majority in South Carolina, now on a path to remove the racist Confederalist Flag on state Capitol grounds.

Reconciliation path

The president was on target as the media escalated the movement to bring greater awareness about racism. The tendency to filter every issue through the prism of race had caused an impasse in getting to the crux of race relations. New York Times devoted considerable space to deal with many aspects of hidden race relations.

The”whiteness versus the blackness” mindset had reached dizzy heights during this year with police killings in Ferguson and Baltimore heightening social unrest- seeing on national TV almost every night.

Could the nation free itself from the deep-rooted phobia regarding the very idea of reconciliation? The growing sense that it was not the basic biological divide that mattered but the recognition of the common goals that had motivated a majority of citizens. The frequency with which shootings, bombings, lynchings and segregation had reached saturation point. South Carolina became the turning point. Finally, we may have said goodbye to racism of the Old South that permitted the interests of the slave owners to defend through the lie of racial inferiority of the slaves, their own cruel and shameless exploitation of the socio-economic system upon which the southern plantation aristocracy was based. American civil war brought a physical end to all that but the old practices never got fully flushed. We are witnessing a mass movement to end those atrocious practices for good.

Upward mobility

We are witnessing greater accessibility of the less-privileged to positions of power. The Board rooms are now open to the minorities in greater numbers. Even symbols of oppression that crept through commerce are beginning to disappear. Giant Department store Walmart management announced this week that any items for sale with objectionable racist symbols would not be tolerated in their shops. The frequency with which African-Americans beame CEOs, mayors, congressmen, judges, police officers and—with the election of Obama—the president of the United States has reached unprecedented heights. The fight to end inequality would be one of the main issues of the 2016 election campaign as both Republican and Democratic party aspirants to the presidency are now openly talking about it.

The statements of Obama and recent editorials and columns in many mainstream newspapers like the the New York Times augur well for a robust debate that is likely to take place during the next 15 months leading to the election in 2016. Using race as an ideological prop, a divide-and-conquer tool by some bankrupt politicians is clearly less appealing now. Xenophobia got exposed badly after the South Carolina's racially motivated killings. It was clearly seen as a character trait that is to be abhorred.

Civil Rights after LBJ

For a major part of American history and during its ups and downs of economic growth, political elites used "race" to keep the country divided. “Race” had given millionaires power as well as millions in wealth by keeping the wager-earners at close to poverty levels. President LBJ, understood the politics of "race" and launched his "war on poverty" plan. The Civil Rights Act was born. That ended servitude dependency on the Federal Government of millions of workers. Discrimination continued in greater degrees in the private sector though. We are now seeing the barometer rising against American racism as part of the generalized class oppression. Not surprisingly Americans are more sensitive to decidedly racial forms of oppression. Millions who saw the face of 21 year old Dylan Storm Roof who shot nine people inside the S. Carolina church knew that racism has to end. Citing “mentally illness" as an excuse for such killings just did not have any logic. Is it not drug crazed and mentally disturbed who were racist but the ruthless politicians using them for their own ends.

Events have moved a lightening speed to forge a movement to fight racism in all its forms. South Carolina may have redeemed itself from being ballyhooed as the symbol of racism. The Governor has to be given credit for initiating the move to remove the Confederacy flag from the State Capitol grounds. The identity politics-based organizations don't have a coherent program or a future. Their dialogue on race' could no longer divide the nation. Race relations had reached its zenith. The gains of post-North Carolina must not be allowed to be dissipated.

- Asian Tribune -

Heightened awareness about racism in America
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