A group of white Mississippi teens caught on video beating a black man before killing him by running over him with a pickup truck. This sounds more like a headline from the 1960s when racial incidents such as these were commonplace, rather than from today‘s newspapers.
It’s ironic that this recent racial incident fairly coincides with the movie release of “The Help.” The movie, based on book by Kathryn Stockett, chronicles the plight of black maids, “the help,” who weathered racial abuse and discrimination in 1960s Jackson, Mississippi. The fact that Deryl Demond, John Rice, and five of their white friends killed James Anderson, a 49-year-old black autoworker on June 26th in Jackson, Mississippi of this year, might seem as if we’ve made little racial progress in 40 years.
We’ve elected our first black president and blacks have more equal rights and opportunities than they did 40 years ago. However, racism overt and covert still exists. It doesn’t just exist in some backwater small towns, but in our major metro cities as well. The Jackson, Mississippi incident isn’t the only evidence that we’re far from a post racial society. The youth that we pinned a better racial future on has been affected too.
The US Department of Justice recently investigated an incident at a Utah high school where during a school spirit rally, a student reportedly put on a white KKK hood. In another high school in California, students were suspended earlier this year for writing racist graffiti and making a white supremacy gesture during a senior class picture session.
In some arenas, racism has become a memory. Crude racial jokes and cartoons about our first black president, such as the one in which he’s made to look like a witch doctor and his wife a gorilla, populate the internet and email message boxes of anyone who clicks receive.
Dr. Joyce Morley is a widely recognized consultant, speaker, author, and founder of Morley & Associates, a nationally known consulting, training and psychotherapy services based in Decatur, Georgia. As a consultant for businesses, organizations, and educational institutions, she has appeared on CNN, Ebony magazine, as well as other news shows and publications.
Morley says racism has been alive, but has remained pretty much dormant over the years. The election of Barack Obama as president may have awakened those once sleeping feelings. “I think over the years, people of the larger persuasion believed that as time went on they had nothing to fear and so when people are not fearful they are more accepting,” Morley says. “But once Obama became president it was almost as if there was a [message to] go get all the black folks, [and] get them out of the way card.”
Morley says many, but not all whites such as members of the Tea Party would go as far as to see the country fail rather than see a black man succeed as president. She adds that there are people who exploit the fears of the disenfranchised and poor with hate filled rhetoric. “People looking for salvation and hope are easy to lead astray,” Morley says.
One possible solution to the problem of racism is to become culturally competent, people should not believe in the racial hype and propaganda, rather admit to your feelings, and get to know people who are different from yourself. “It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re racist, but if you’re racist are you willing to say you are, and to say you want to do something about it?” Morley asks.
A utopian post racial society that once seemed within our grasp is still out of reach.