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Race in America

by AMBER KELLY Photographer

America is commonly referred to as a “melting pot” because of all the various cultures our country is home to. Every ethnicity is represented in our population, with people of all skin colors inhabiting the same regions. However, America was not always this way. In the past, our nation was responsible for slavery, discrimination against immigrants, and violence provoked by race. And what is our nation like now? Some say race is no longer an issue, while others disagree.

As a country, America has evolved tremendously over the many decades it has been in existence. Slavery used to reign supreme, and now we have an African-American president – Barack Obama.

During WWII, President Franklin D. Roosevelt contained Japanese-Americans in camps, and now they thrive in American business and society.

All ethnicities have the opportunity to prosper in America, whether you are African, Caucasian, Indian, Asian, Mexican, or any of the many others.

The subject of race in the past years has been widely politicized, with it being a dividing force between Democrats and Republicans. In general terms, Democrats believe civil rights to still be an issue, while Republicans do not.

There is no doubt that some people in America are racist, but that does not necessarily mean that America still has an issue with race. Every day on television, we see race thrown into issues that do not necessarily have anything to do with race. For example, time and time again when Republicans have criticized Obama, they have been called racists. However, their criticisms have nothing to do with his skin color, but rather his policies, and yet they are branded as being discriminatory.

If race is injected into everything, how will we know when racism is actually prevalent in an issue? The answer is that we will not be able to discern what is racist from what is not, and one of two things will happen: either racist hysteria will ensue or it will become a story of the boy who cried wolf, and no one will believe when race is actually a problem.

The race card is something that, as of late, has been pulled out of the deck much too often. This draw stagnates debate, as it instills fear in people who believe they will be labeled a racist if they speak out against something.

“Every time I turn around there’s someone else using the race card; it’s annoying. Some of these people have real grievances, but many of them do not and are just abusing the race card,” says senior Kimberly Cangelosi.

Recently, a Supreme Court decision has furthered the race issue. In Michigan, an affirmative action ban was put in place when 58 percent of voters decided that race should not be considered in college admissions. The Supreme Court, in a six-to-two decision, upheld Michigan’s affirmative action ban, resulting in outrage from those who are pro-affirmative action.

Civil rights lawyer Shanta Driver went on to say that “this is a racist decision that takes us back to an era of state’s rights,” as reported by Fox News. Others believe this decision is a victory against racism.

Affirmative action was established in the 1960s to ensure that minorities had equal opportunity in the workplace and it has evolved to encompass higher education as well. Many criticize affirmative action for giving priority to people due to their skin color, which they find to be unfair. However, others believe it puts minorities on an equal playing field.

“Maybe affirmative action was necessary years ago, but I don’t think it is now, especially in college admissions. I just went through the whole college application process, and it’s frustrating to think that someone else would have a higher chance of getting into a school because I’m white and they’re not,” says senior Vincent Grassi.

The University of Michigan has a points system it uses during admissions, and minorities who apply automatically receive a certain amount of points based on their skin color. However, if an applicant is Caucasian, no such points are rewarded. So, is it fair for a college applicant’s chances of getting into a school to be higher than someone else because of their skin color? Is that not a form of racism?

Racism is defined as the discrimination against a certain race; it is not defined as discrimination solely against minorities. Many believe that just because someone is white, an ethnicity that makes up a majority in America, he or she cannot be discriminated against. However, this is untrue, as anyone can be a victim of racism, even members of the same race. The preconceived notion many have that Caucasians are racist is a racist sentiment in and of itself.

Everyone remembers or has at least heard about the O.J. Simpson case that occurred in the 1990s. Despite his acquittal and the shoddy police work performed in the case, everyone knew Simpson was guilty of killing Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman. However, despite everyone knowing he was guilty, race riots broke out in his defense, and large portions of the African-American community cheered when he was found not guilty.

Two people were dead and Simpson’s culpability was palpable, and yet they cheered because a black man was able to get away with a crime. That was not a victory, but rather a depressing moment for America to record in the history  books.

And in a more recent case, race was similarly the issue. In State of Florida v. George Zimmerman, race was the focal point of the trial. No one knows what happened the night Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin. Did Martin attack him or did Zimmerman purposely shoot him? America will never know the answer to these questions, but that did not stop people from making assumptions that Zimmerman was a racist “white hispanic” who shot Martin because he was a black kid walking around in a nice neighborhood.

It is impossible for America to separate race from issues, and that is the real issue today. Race is put into everything and the term “racist” is passed around like food at a dinner table; it has become a common aspect of American society.

That is not to say that racism does not still exist in America – it does, as can be seen through the recent scandal concerning Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. In a recording made public by Sterling’s girlfriend Vanessa Stiviano, Sterling was caught making various racist remarks against minorities, specifically African-Americans.

Many have criticized Sterling for his offensive words, and the NBA is taking action. Without question, Sterling is racist, and his words should be denounced, but this does not mean that the majority of Americans are similarly racist.

“What Donald Sterling said was obviously horrible, and it’s ironic how the people he is complaining about are the same kind of people playing for him and coaching for him,” says senior Ryan Sosnak.

Race is still an issue in America, though not in the conventional way many people think it is. We have come into an era of race exploitation; everyone is a racist and every issue has racist undertones. How does America bring an end to this era? We have to stop looking for racial controversy in everything we see and hear, and then maybe America will enter a period of social calm.

Do you think racism is still prevalent in America?

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