Racism still looms large

by Beacon Staff • March 29, 2006

When Paul Haggis' Crash won the Academy Award for Best Picture this year, there was a fair amount of angst on the part of right-wing critics and pundits who felt, among other things, that the film's depiction of racial tension was wildly over exaggerated.

What is this, the 1950s? they seemed to say.

Racism has been done to death. Move on, liberal Hollywood.

A new series on FX called Black. White. details what happens when a white family and a black family agree to swap roles, wearing makeup that quite convincingly makes them appear to be the others' race.

In the series debut, Bruno Marcotulli, who is a white male appearing in black makeup, spends a great deal of the episode explaining to anyone who will listen that racism doesn't exist anymore.

He feels that blacks who think they experience prejudice when, for example, they go out shopping, are really just looking for it and thus will interpret anything in a racial way.

Bruno is also the type of white person who is legitimately upset that blacks don't want him using the n-word, a surefire sign of a man who should never be taken seriously.

So what do these things tell us?

A depressing March 20 article in The New York Times, "Plight Deepens for Black Men, Studies Warn," should prove once and for all that race is not only still an issue, but one that demands our attention-not next year or next generation, but right now.

The basis of the article is a series of new studies by experts at Harvard, Columbia and Princeton who found that the situation of African-American males in the United States not only went unimproved by the general economic prosperity of the 1990s, but actually deteriorated during that time.

Joblessness and incarceration rates remain staggeringly high and according to the results, there is a direct correlation between the two.

This is the great elephant in the room of American society. Everyone knows it's there, but no one wants to talk about it.

The findings uncovered in these surveys-an over 50 percent high school dropout rate in inner cities, the 72 percent jobless rate of those dropouts and the fact that 6 in 10 black male dropouts will have been in prison by the time they reach 30, are disgraceful.

Call this liberal guilt if you like, but the shame is on us as a society. Some will insist that these numbers have more to do with economics than with white racial prejudice.

However, racism doesn't merely mean a white employer turning down black applicants based on the color of their skin.

It also comes in the form of a widespread silence on behalf of our lawmakers, who either don't know enough or care enough to take action. If a new study were released showing the jobless and imprisonment rates of whites creeping up, it would be the number one election issue in 2006.

Eliminating prejudice also means changing our nation's approach to education. There is something profoundly wrong when schools in rich neighborhoods spend millions building new sports facilities while kids in the poor neighborhood down the street are reading from science books that proudly proclaim one day man will walk on the moon.

Most of all, racism is something we see every time a middle class white male like Bruno insists that blacks just need to stop complaining, realize prejudice is over and let him say the n-word, for goodness sake.