As one of the leaders for the Black Student Union here on campus, I was involved in the planning of the movie night that took place on Monday night. As I was standing in front of the audience thanking them for coming, a thought struck me on how far we had come. This type of gathering, where students from all races and nationalities came together, would have never taken place in Dr. King’s time. But would Dr. King truly be happy with where we are now?
It seems to me that from the time of the Civil Rights movement to now, little progress has been made when compared to all that was done during that time. Many people may disagree with me, saying that segregation is done with, the senseless lynching of black people is long gone, integration has happened in our schools and our places of work. We’ve reached the proverbial mountaintop that Dr. King talked about in his speech, right?
I can agree that the aforementioned things may not happen as they once did because people would not allow such outward expressions of hate to happen. It is because of that reaction, however, that the face of racism has changed into something that for those on the outside looking in can be hard to see.
Before proceeding, I want to make it clear that unlike many people may suggest, every time I get snubbed I do not automatically assume it is because of my skin color. I’ve noticed that when retelling an experience that I know has racial undertones, the majority of the time the first thing I am told is, “Well, I’m sure they didn’t mean it that way.” Personally speaking, there is not a more frustrating situation than that one.
How can you describe to a majority group member your past experiences in life that allow you to almost intuitively know whether someone is rude because that’s their personality or they’re rude because of the way you look? Until you’ve been followed around a store, ignored by customer service people, received service that is worse quality than those around you are receiving, or had someone clutch their purse a little tighter as you walk by, you could never understand how people could make a judgment on how they’re being treated.
My point in this is not to say that I have been oppressed and treated horribly my entire life. I come from a blessed multi-racial family where race was never seen as something abnormal. My point, instead, is to show that we are not living in the times of our parents where basic human equalities were being fought for.
In this day and age, we just may see people being left out, ignored or bullied because of who they fundamentally are. The type of racism we see now is no better than what was happening 60 years ago. We need to ask: how can we go about changing it together?