Race Remains as America’s Biggest Hurdle to Overcome

Civil rights leaders, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, celebrate the opening of the International Civil Rights Center & Museum last year./PRNewswire

By Dennis J. Freeman

It’s 2011 and we’re still dealing with the complexity of race relations in this country. Well, it’s really not that complex. A more simple way to put it is that as long as white America continues to bury its head about the sins of their fathers, the United States will never be a perfect union.

Today, we have a white reporter going on trial to find out if he was racially discriminated against because of his use of the n-word at his job. New South publishing recently announced that it was re-doing Mark Twain’s classic Huckleberry Finn by phasing out the entire 219 times the n-word was used in the original version of the book.

The new look face of Congress now wants to decimate parts of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which was adopted to allow freed slaves to become citizens of the country.  And we still have sectors of America that refuse to acknowledge the fact that we have a black President.

I keep asking myself when will the differences in our skin color as people eventually end? The answer I keep coming to is probably not in the near future. While this country has made strides in race relations, we’re at a point where we are still in nomad’s land when it comes to dealing with this issue. There are a lot of people who won’t discuss or bring up race because of a variety of reasons.

I am not one of those individuals. As an African American male with four sons, police brutality remains a threat to the existence of young black men. I get tired of people saying when they hear about a police-involved shooting or an officer-involved confrontation with a black male, it’s always that individual’s fault or they were doing something they were not supposed to do.

Sean Bell did not have the right to die the way he did. Neither did Oscar Grant.

I have been pulled over many times simply because DWB (driving while black).  For African Americans, every time you get pulled over by a police officer there is a certain uneasiness that runs through your spine, wondering if you’ll be able to see your loved ones again or will you be part of the evening news. One incident in particular left me scarred for life and how I see folks behind the badge.

I was stopped by two Los Angeles law enforcement officers on my way to work. This incident happened in November 1993. I was at a stoplight and heard a whistle. Before I knew it I was pulled over. I was berated and screamed at to get out of the car. One officer slammed me against the wall, his gun cocked directly against my head while his partner rifled through my car.

I was scared for my life. Finally, the officer with the gun at my head said they saw me whistle at this white woman crossing the street. The officer then called me the n-word and said if he or his partner ever saw me around in the area and even look in the direction of a white woman, they would come back and finish the job they started.

 I was left feeling violated and terrorized by the same people who took an oath to protect me as an American citizen. I hope and pray my kids never feel what I experienced that night.

Police brutality is just one of the myriad of problems that white America continues to ignore and sweep under the rug. Police brutality is one issue. Education is another arena African Americans must continue to do battle in. It’s pretty bad when only 25 percent of black boys in New York’s 274, 659 student body graduate.

 And the beat goes on. Black and Indian farmers can still attest to racial discrimination brought against them, despite the government’s recent settlement claims to both ethnic groups. The black press continues to get stiff-armed when it comes to getting access to cover major events such as the Grammy’s Academy Awards and the Super Bowl.

And while mainstream media continues to warn us on the misstep of Michael Vick and his dogfighting day, going as far as calling what the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback did was “an unforgivable act” like ESPN’s radio personality Mike Golic recently said, the issue of slavery, Jim Crow bigotry and the lynching of black men, women and children, is usually whitewashed and forgotten about.

We must never forget. And we must make sure that America never forgets its wrongdoings either. The ancestors of the civil rights struggle and the workers for equality would not expect anything less.

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