American Racism Today: An Introduction

We’re less than one week away from the 50th anniversary of the famous March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. He said in his speech, “I have a dream, that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'” Unfortunately, even after the election of a black President in Barack Obama, closer look at recent events shows that his dream is yet to be realized.

Speaking of the election, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz showed that Obama fared worse in states where people entered racist Google searches. African-Americans, who were discriminated against in Alabama during MLK’s time, still have no justice. That’s why blacks are 4 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession. Other racially charged injustices are well-documented. But as the demographics of the US change, racism and the groups targeted also change.

Arabs and Muslims know that firsthand. Going back to the historic 2008 election, on John McCain’s campaign trail, one woman said she didn’t trust Obama because he’s an Arab. McCain responded, “No, he’s not. He’s a decent family man.” Thereby implying that Arabs are not decent, respectable people. Mainstream commentators saw this as McCain trying to be respectful and tolerant, instead of denouncing it for its overtly racist implications.

Even with this kind of a demoralizing backdrop, an optimistic adage from MLK comes to mind: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” It’s up to us, not some messianic candidate like Obama, to make that happen. To do that, we must identify and eradicate institutions that perpetrate the racism that MLK dreamed would vanish. We must understand racism, as it manifests itself today.

Author: Edwin Jain

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