A recent newspaper article told the story of a young student enrolled in a school near Menomonie who placed two racist symbols — a hanging noose and KKK symbol — on the desk of an African-American student in his class. It is shocking to me that this young white boy committed such a disrespectful act. It caused me to remember the line from the famous 1950s movie "South Pacific" when "Bloody Mary" sings, "You have to be carefully taught to hate."
Who or what "carefully taught" this young boy to hate black people? Why did he use racist symbols from the Jim Crow days of the 1940s and 50s to commit this attack against one of the few black students in his school? Haven't we ended racism in the country? After all, we just elected a black man to a second term as president of the United States. Unfortunately, recent research proves this is not the case. Racism in our country is actually getting worse.
Charles Blow, op-ed columnist for the New York Times, wrote recently: "... negative attitudes about blacks are increasing. According to an October survey by the Associated Press: ‘In all 51 percent of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes, compared with 48 percent in a similar 2008-9 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.’”
Blow included more startling evidence of increasing racism in America: "As the best selling author Michelle Alexander pointed out in her sensational 2010 ‘The New Jim Crow’, various factors, including the methodical mass incarceration of black men, has led to the disintegration of the black family, the disenfranchisement of millions of people, and a new and very real era of American oppression.”
Blow goes on to quote Alexander: “Today there are more African-American adults under correctional control-in prison or jail, on probation or parole-than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.”
We Americans celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.Day every year to honor this courageous man who led the civil rights movement in the 1960s and lost his life to a racist gunman while he was speaking out for nonviolence and justice for all.
It is more important now than ever before that we honor Dr. King not just on one day, but every day and remember his struggle to fulfill his dream. We have not reached the top of the mountain, and we must accelerate our efforts to ensure that all people are treated equal and “judged by their character rather than the color of their skin.”