We must do better in battling racism
American history is rife with bigotry: enslavement of Africans; displacement of Native Americans; marginalization of Jews, Italians and Irish; the Chinese Exclusion Act; World War II relocation camps for Japanese-Americans; real estate redlining; segregated armed forces, neighborhoods, water fountains and swimming pools; stereotyped portrayals of minorities in major entertainments like Sidney Toler as Charlie Chan, Mickey Rooney in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” Africans fearful of Tarzan, Latinos prone to violence; and products from the 1920s and 1930s with names like Darkie Toothpaste, Sambo Axel Grease, N----- Hair Tobacco, and Indian Joe Scalp Tonic.
But the great thing about America is that when we learn better, we do better – both legally, with things like the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, and socially, with growing numbers of minority faces in government and entertainment. Before we get too comfortable, however, it’s worth noting two recent indications of the forces of resistance.
Despite the support of the Lancaster School Board and students who voted to replace the racist team name “Redskins” with “Legends,” supporters of the previous name made the School Board meeting atmosphere so hostile the student who created Legends had to be escorted home, and one man shouted, “Heil Hitler!” to the Jewish School Board president. Add to that Carl Paladino’s recent rant about “damn Asians” at the University at Buffalo.
The Lancaster resisters and Paladino both need to realize that this is not a matter of free speech or political correctness. It is part of our continuing evolution into the world’s best hope for justice, equality and universal humanity. We’re all Americans in the 21st century. It’s time to do better.
Gary Earl Ross