Friday, February 16, 2007

Up in the Middle of the Night, Thinking About Race in America

Summary: As our culture heals from racism toward African Americans, racism toward our nation's largest minority has never been worse.

I fell asleep early last night while getting Meyer to bed and woke up around 2:30 a.m. I'm finding that the only remotely worthwhile television at this hour is MSNBC's primetime line-up, which the network is rerunning for the third or fourth time.

Anyway, Hardball last night decided to spend a few minutes on the tired and ridiculous debate over whether Barack Obama is actually black. This led to a brief discussion of whether our nation is ready for a black president—a discussion that contrasted the increasing number of high-ranking African Americans in the cabinet and the military with the still paltry number of blacks (five) to have won statewide election (as a governor or U.S. senator).

Like most discussions of this sort, this five-minute segment on Hardball draws attention to how far we've come with regard to race in America, how we continue making progress, and how far we still have to go. As a country we recently watched black head coaches on the sidelines at the Super Bowl (even though black coaches went head-to-head in the NBA finals over 30 years ago); though it was just a football game, the Super Bowl was another example of our society zapping a ghost of its past with the positron ion stream of progress.

Racism toward African Americans is sadly still a reality in the United States, but the progress we have made and continue to make is undeniable. But I have trouble celebrating how far we've come with regard to black-white relations when I witness growing hatred toward the country's largest minority, Hispanics.

The Klu Klux Klan is experiencing a resurgance, largely because of negative attitudes towards Latino immigrants (many of whom, granted, have entered the country illegally). A recent AP report says, "Last May in Alabama, an anti-immigration rally included slogans such as, 'Let's get rid of the Mexicans!' according to the document, titled 'Ku Klux Klan Rebounds.' " The article also notes a rise in hate crimes targeting Latinos and quotes Lisa Navarrete, a vice president at the National Council of La Raza (a Latino civil rights and advocacy group), who says, "I've been doing [Hispanic advocacy work] for a long, long time and the atmosphere has never been as poisonous as it has been in the last few years." As a society, we seem reluctant to embrace the accomplishments of Hispanics—we'd rather inquire about their residential status and grasp of the English language.

An aside: When I was a child, Sesame Street introduced me to its Hispanic cast members (as I recall, Maria is Puerto Rican, making her a U.S. citizen) and taught me some basic Spanish. Now, when I watch the show with my kids, I can't help but wonder, Are other parents getting made about this?


Blogger Paul said...

Seems to be a story repeated again and again all over the world. The native born poor get a bad deal - because of how the prosperous treat them. Then, when poor people immigrate who are identifiably "other," the native born misplace their anger onto them. Seems to me that's a big part of what's going on for Hispanics.

11:42 AM  
Blogger ~c. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why would anyone be shocked that secular culture does not reflect Christian values? In a pluralistic marketplace much which Christians believe and for which they advocate appears idealistic, unrealistic and throughly impractical. We should not be surprised. Apart from Christ such ideas are only idealistic, unrealistic and profoundly impractical.
To treat our response to "others" as a matter of race is to minimize the problem. It is not primarily a racial issue any more than it is a social, economic or cultural issue. It is a issue of personal individual relationship to God in Christ.
We may all bemoan the "ism's" that fracture our society, but that will change nothing. The only real meaningful enduring change will come as we engage with the claims of Christ the individuals who together comprise that fractured society.

6:39 AM  

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