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21st century racism

January 16th, 2012

Mary Shaw

As I write this on the holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I reflect on King's vision of a world in which our children "will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

And it saddens me to see how - despite having our first African-American president living in the White House - racism still abounds.

Racism against African Americans is not as blatantly obvious as it was during the Jim Crow era. The GOP even had a black RNC chairman from 2009 to 2011, and a recent but brief campaign by an African-American presidential hopeful. But that's like denying racism by saying "some of my best friends are..."

The real truth was exposed for all to see on racist signs at tea party rallies in recent years.

And the real truth is exposed in GOP efforts to pass voter ID laws that would disproportionally disenfranchise thousands and thousands of minority voters - who tend to vote Democrat.

Consider also that brown is the new black. Old-fashioned racism against blacks has morphed into shameless bigotry against brown-skinned people. See the war on Latino immigrants. And see the anti-Muslim bigotry that seems to hold all Muslims in the world responsible for the actions of a handful of radical extremists on 9/11. If we were to similarly hold all white Christians responsible for the actions of domestic terrorists like Timothy McVeigh and Eric Rudolph, the bigots would call it anti-American.

The fact is that Manifest Destiny was an easy excuse to steal this nation from its original native inhabitants. And the white man's arrogance continues as he desperately tries to defend this stolen land from "the other". Even if "the other" is here because his ancestors were kidnapped from Africa and enslaved 300 years ago. And even if "the other" immigrated here legally to enjoy our religious liberty and other great freedoms.

Bigotry has its roots in insecurity, and in fear of the unknown. Might does not make right. But I continue to shudder at the possibilities of what can happen as these frightened white men - the 1% - continue to control our country's wealth and power.

Things will only get worse for the 99% unless Washington wakes up and supports us - We The People - not the corporate 1%. But - with all due respect to the Occupy movement and last year's efforts in Wisconsin - the alarm clocks are apparently being ignored as the powerful keep snoozing.

I hope I am mistaken.

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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views on politics, human rights, and social justice issues have appeared in numerous online forums and in newspapers and magazines worldwide. Note that the ideas expressed here are the author's own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Amnesty International or any other organization with which she may be associated. E-mail: mary@maryshawonline.com

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