Saturday, October 27, 2012

Race in the Race – Center Stage

I was talking with a friend a few days ago, who made the most insane comment I think I’ve heard since the wanna-be president opens his month on any given day. The friend, who is a republican, said, “It’s good to see that America’s prejudices have change and race is no longer a problem. Please forgive me if I sound like Herman Cain but my response was “you have be brain washed by the Good Ol’ Boys”.

I tried to explain to my friend, who may not be considered such much longer, that I lived through part of the Jim Crow era and find striking similarities to those days. She could not understand that what we see today is en-essence James Crow, Esq. a more grown and sophisticated version of bigotry because racial attitudes have not improved. If one looks carefully they might conclude that the issue of race has become diabolically worse!

The Associated Press (AP) reported this week that in the four years since America elected its first black president a slight majority of Americans now express prejudice toward blacks whether they recognize those feelings or not. The poll found that 51 percent of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes, compared with 48 percent in a similar 2008 survey. When measured by an implicit racial attitudes test, the number of Americans with anti-black sentiments jumped to 56 percent, up from 49 percent during the last presidential election. In both tests, the share of Americans expressing pro-black attitudes fell.

Another poll taken in 2011, found that 52 percent of non-Hispanic whites expressed anti-Hispanic attitudes. That figure rose to 57 percent in the implicit test. The survey on Hispanics had no past data for comparison. The AP surveys were conducted with researchers from Stanford University, the University of Michigan and NORC at the University of Chicago.

African Americans have noticed that the president has treaded cautiously on the subject of race as its community sees no change in incidents involving police brutality or cite bumper stickers, cartoons and protest posters that mock the president as a lion or a monkey, or lynch him in effigy. Republicans have called the president - "the Food Stamp President", they rant about "taking our country back", they continue to question where the President was born, they refer to him as "Barry Soetero" all as part of a concerted effort to make the President "one of them" not "one of us". When people of color see this – we see it as being directed to all of us and the entire community.

I tend to agree with Fredrick Harris, director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University who says, “Part of it is a growing polarization within American society. The last Democrat in the White House said we had to have a national discussion about race. There’s been total silence around issues of race with this president. But, as you see, whether there is silence, or an elevation of the discussion of race, you still have polarization. It will take more generations, I suspect, before we eliminate these deep feelings.”

We have seen this movie before – it’s called “History” with a sub-title called “Manifest Destiny”. If you have not seen - it there are graphic representations of slavery, lynching’s, poll taxes, and separate but equal throughout the entire story. It is a sad disgraceful reflection of what might be things to come.
Not surprising, however, in the AP poll that racial prejudice is not limited to one group of partisans. Although Republicans were more likely than Democrats to express racial prejudice in the questions measuring explicit racism (79 percent among Republicans compared with 32 percent among Democrats), the implicit test found little difference between the two parties. That test showed a majority of both Democrats and Republicans held anti-black feelings (55 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans), as did about half of political independents (49 percent).

Overall results from each survey have a margin of sampling error of approximately plus or minus 4 percentage points. The most recent poll, measuring anti-black views, was conducted Aug. 30 to Sept. 11.
Many will say they remain cautiously optimistic that the future of America bends toward the side of increased racial tolerance. I say although “we’ve come a long way, but clearly we have a long way to go.” And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

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