Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Are we post-racial yet?

How are we doing in when it comes to race relations? As a nation, we are struggling to overcome a history of slavery, civil rights abuses, and institutionalized racial discrimination. Our current President sits at the crossroads of history and infamy, when many who celebrated his election remember the struggles of the civil rights movement to end racial segregation in the South and elsewhere. However, it seems that in some cases, we may be too quick to see racism where it may not exist.

After Summerlin residents were shocked by the drive-by shooting of Christopher Privett near Palo Verde High School, the media attempted to highlight the racial undertones of the shooting. Privett was white; the suspects were both black. An article published in the Las Vegas Sun tried to paint Summerlin as a racist neighborhood by attributing racist-tinged anonymous Internet comments on a web site to residents of Summerlin. The newspaper had to print a lengthy correction as many of the "facts" cited to support the writer's idea that Summerlin is a bastion of racism were inaccurate. In the end, based on the facts from the Clark County DA's prosecution of the case, the shooting was an example of gang violence spilling into the suburbs. I admit that a lot of gang violence is racially motivated. Ezekiel Williams, 19, handed the gun to Gerald Davidson, 17, who shot at a crowd walking home from school because someone flashed gang signs at the pair. Privett was killed as a result.

On the national scene, when President Obama announced his support for Professor Louis Henry Gates, Jr. without hearing all the facts of his arrest, saying "the police acted stupidly" in arresting Gates for disorderly conduct. Then he was surprised at the response his comments received. Now, as more details of the incident unfold, it seems that Gates was more of the instigator, refusing to cooperate with the police officer on the scene, and claiming from the beginning that he was a target of racial bias. Meanwhile, colleagues of the arresting officer, including the black officer who assisted the arresting officer at Gates' house, fully support him and express their disappointment that President Obama would blindly support a charge of racism against the Cambridge police officer.

So, do we still have a problem with racism in America? Has it grown?

How can we move beyond race when the media and others are so quick to call someone racist, even when there is no evidence to support such a charge? How can we foster cooperation and bridge the gap, if one group is afraid to act for fear of being labeled a racist, like police officers?

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