It will never go away. Even if our country ever divides equally by each race, racism will still abound. The war that Americans fought in the 19th century was not a war to end racism; it was a war to keep America united. The civil rights laws that were passed in the 20th century, though a step in the right direction, were not laws to end racism. Laws cannot end racism; they can only stop the violent effects of racism. So how are we supposed to treat the issue of racism?
The best treatment for the issue of racism that I can think of is described in the movie Remember the Titans, when Coach Boone takes his football players to the Gettysburg battlefield. Based on a true story, Coach Boone was an African American man coaching one of the first high school football teams that had both white and black players in the early 1970’s. He took his team to a football camp for two weeks, but the players had done nothing but hate each other. So he finally makes them wake up at 4 a.m. and run the few miles to the Gettysburg battlefield, where he gives them an inspirational speech of how blacks and whites bled and died on that field over a hundred years earlier, fighting the same fight the football players were fighting. He tells them, “You take a lesson from the dead. If we don’t come together, right now, on this hallowed ground, we too will be destroyed – just like they were. I don’t care if you like each other or not. But you will respect each other.” This is a turning point in the film, as from then on, the boys learn from and respect each other, and they do end up liking one another.
Americans often sweep the issue of racism under the rug today; they assume that we successfully tackled that issue decades ago and, because of that, we no longer need to have conversations about it. People think that the world has moved on from racism, as is evident by the fact that we are now governed by an African American president, and now the LGBT community and debates demand our focus and block other issues from view. While that issue is important, the issue of racism also deserves to be discussed, as it is equally important.
Recently, I read an article from The Evening Sun, a newspaper in Pennsylvania, about a Ku Klux Klan rally in Gettysburg. Three members, dressed in white robes and hoods, stood outside the Gettysburg Borough building and promoted white supremacy. With their identities hidden because of their hoods, they told how they want America’s borders to be closed to immigrants and relayed plans for a future rally at the Gettysburg battlefield.
After reading the article, I was shocked. How can these men go to that battlefield and dishonor those people that died there, fighting the same fight that has already caused much bloodshed? People think racism does not exist because our country fought a war about it in the 1860’s, but they forget that African Americans, though free, did not have many rights until the Civil Rights Act of 1964, exactly one hundred years after the Civil War ended. If it took that long for non-whites to have their basic rights and be respected, then why is it a surprise that racism still exists today, only fifty years later? It shouldn’t be, but I think it is because the media runs around the issue and does not publicize it anymore. Local news writes about it, but that’s as far as the news gets.
People want to think that they tackled the racism issue long ago, that because America is so diverse, there’s barely a majority among the races anymore. Just because America practices diversity does not mean that racism does not exist. During World War II, Americans huddled up other Americans and put them in interment camps simply because they were of Japanese heritage. More recently, after 9/11, Americans threw verbal and physical attacks at people of Middle Eastern heritage, even though they felt just as stunned and kicked-in-the-gut as the rest of the country. What happened was a terrible tragedy and an act of terror, but that does not mean we should turn around and terrorize others. Forcing diversity on people, however, will not lead to a victory over racism either. Employers and college admission directors make sure that their businesses or schools meet the requirements for diversity – a certain percentage African American, a certain percentage Asian, etc. They sleep in peace, feeling that they have done their duty towards diversity and ending racism, but they haven’t. Racism doesn’t end when we meet all the numbers and become a country equally divided among the races. Racism ends when we learn to love one another. Merely looking at the numbers but ignoring the actual people does nothing and can even create more problems.
While we live in this sin-filled world, we will probably never defeat racism. But we should be aware of this issue and not try to deny that it doesn’t exist anymore. We should stop looking at the statistics and start looking at the people. We should learn about, care for, respect, and eventually love them. Only then will we ever successfully stop fighting this battle we’ve fought for over a hundred and fifty years.