Racism is a part of the legacy and history of the U.S. which continues today. For those persons who think that we are post racial, here are 5 reasons that show racism is prospering well in the U.S. The top three are from this week in the news with the Supreme Court’s decision on affirmative action ban in Michigan, comments by Cliven Bundy on blacks being better off in slavery to Clipper’s owner Donald Sterling’s desire to forbid African Americans at Los Angeles Clipper games.
- Southern whites can no longer attack blacks with dogs as they did during the Civil Rights era. But they can send a black man to jail for a felony conviction for harming dogs while a 16 year old white teenager, Ethan Couch, is allowed to avoid jail after his defense of “affluenza” for killing 4 people while drunk driving. His blood alcohol level was 3 times the legal limit. A psychologist testified earlier this year that Couch’s wealthy upbringing caused him to not be able to realize the consequences of his actions. The prosecutors in the case of Ethan Couch asked the court for a 20 year sentence—still a small amount of time for the drunk driving deaths of 4 people. In February, 2014, a Texas judge instead chose to send Couch to an expensive rehab facility paid for by his wealthy parents—hence the “affluenza” defense worked.
Meanwhile NFL player Michael Vick received over 2 years in jail plus a felony conviction for harming dogs. At the time, many people were more outraged about Vick’s transgressions than if he had committed a murder or 4 murders. Vick was not allowed to get away with using a defense to show that dog fighting was a part of his childhood background way of life. Syracuse University Professor Boyce Watkins wrote the book on this called “Rich White Kids Have Affluenza, Poor Black Kids Go to Jail.
- Trayvon Martin, a young black teen holding a bag of Skittles and an Iced Tea cannot walk back home in Florida without being gunned down by George Zimmerman, a vigilante, wanna be cop. And then a jury sets him free. Despite the jury and many in America thinking that Trayvon Martin’s case was not about racism, it was all about racism occurring on the streets and in the court room. No black teen could have ever gunned down an unarmed person and remained free.
- On April 22, the Supreme Court in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, ruled that Michigan may change its constitution to ban affirmative action in state colleges and universities. The Supreme Court held that the purpose of the decision had nothing to do with affirmative action. It thereby sidestepped any discussion on affirmative action. It rested the decision on the voters’ collective right to change laws affecting the ability of colleges to determine admissions of minorities. Justice Sotomayor disagreed saying in essence the opinion disregarded racism and its effect on minorities. In many of the 7 other states that have banned race based programs in admissions, college admissions of African Americans and Hispanics have significantly dropped.
- In the case of Cliven Bundy, fact is stranger than fiction. On April 23, Cliven Bundy, a Nevada rancher embraced by many conservatives, who has been embroiled in a fight with the Bureau of Land Management over cattle grazing rights on government property, was recorded commenting that African Americans, who he refers to as “Negro”, would be better off today as slaves. He goes on stating , “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton..” The whole interview can be heard here.
- On April 26, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, Donald Sterling, urged his girlfriend, in a recorded tape, to refrain from bringing any blacks to their games and he doesn’t want any blacks there, including Magic Johnson. The NBA has promised to look into the remarks and to verify the recording. And President Obama weighed in on the reported remarks while in Malaysia describing them as “incredibly offensive racist statements”. The remarks grew steam on social media with the hashtag #BoycottClippers.
Despite what some may few as isolated incidents, all of these accounts are part of the continuing legacy of slavery and racism in this country. It is also the failure of Americans in what Attorney General Eric Holder describes as our “cowardice” in failing to have real conversations on race to address the issues confronting us.