Beyond the Words: Institutional Racism in America
It’s not the NBA playoffs that made the news this past week; Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers was recorded arguing with his girlfriend over photos of her with Earvin “Magic” Johnson and other African American athletes. The recording captured Sterling making racist comments ranging from African Americans’ roles in society to the treatment of Ethiopian Jews in Israel. Understandably, the nation is appalled that an owner of a national basketball team could hold such anachronistic views. However, why is it that comments on race spark such national outrage, but everyday institutionalized racism is ignored?
This week, the US Supreme Court ruled that considering the racial and socio-economic background of a student need not be considered in regards to college admissions. Essentially, this puts already disadvantaged youth at a greater disadvantage. The Supreme Court has officially unleveled the playing field. Additionally, at the local level, various states have enacted increasingly stringent voter ID laws in order to prevent lower income and minority communities from voting. “According to research by University of Massachusetts, Boston … states that have enacted tougher voter ID laws in the past few years are also the same states where both minority and lower-income voter turnout had increased in recent years.”
In regards to Sterling, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, in an article for TIME, stated: “What bothers me about this whole Donald Sterling affair isn’t just his racism. I’m bothered that everyone acts as if it’s a huge surprise.” As further investigation on Sterling took place, it was found that he had faced lawsuits for housing and employment discrimination prior to his comments. For some reason, the outcry is over Sterling’s words, not his continuous racist actions.
Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson and his Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which protects minorities against discrimination in housing, employment and education. Today, we wonder whether the 113th Congress would even allow the Act to come up for a vote. Everything from fair wages to incarceration rates highlights the dismal state of race relations. Seeing as how the US will become a minority-majority country by 2043, we must deal with these issues before they become unmanageable.
Race relations will necessarily be an ongoing process for our country. We must ensure that the milestones that we have achieved not be lost. The milestones that we can achieve may seem unimaginable today; years ago, it would have seemed heaven-sent to have a black president, but that didn’t stop our nation from getting there. This past month’s events should highlight the need for our country to combat racist actions and not just racist words.