By Kieran Martin
Segregation may have been outlawed, but silent discrimination still occurs. One day I wish to be able to say, “racism does not exist in the millennial generation.” That statement, however, would be wholly dishonest.
As we celebrate Black History Month, we acknowledge the remarkable feats and accomplishments of African Americans throughout history. Before Black History Month came about, there was Negro History Week – the jump from seven days to a full month is an intrinsic achievement.
In a recent layout and editing class, we were discussing Black Lives Matter, and many were unsure of what the movement actually represents. We looked at their website (blacklivesmatter.com) and their self-proclaimed affirmation includes, “#BlackLivesMatter is a call to action and a response to the virulent anti-Black racism that permeates our society.”
That statement did not sit well with a few of my classmates, as if it was almost controversial to say that racism still pervades the United States today. It is ignorant to assume that racial prejudice is fictitious in the “forward thinking generation.” But those same people who believe that it is nonexistent have never been followed around a store while being watched like a hawk, nor have they ever feared for their lives while getting pulled over by a police officer.
The death of Trayvon Martin is the epitome of racial profiling. The young 17-year-old African American was fatally shot by a neighborhood watch coordinator, who believed the high schooler was “acting suspiciously” solely because of his ethnicity. Martin was pursued and murdered — only to be found armed with a bag of skittles. His non-black killer evaded a prison sentence and got away with the crime. What kind of justice is that?
This begs the question, why are there racial disparities in sentencing? An example is Brock Turner, a Stanford University swimmer who raped a woman behind a dumpster. He was indicted on five charges, including: rape of an unconscious person, assault with intent to rape, and sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object. The felony charges made him eligible for up to 14 years in jail. The judge sentenced him to a pitiful six months, which was then cut down to three. He is now a free man.
On the other hand, 16-year-old All-Star black football player, Brian Banks was accused of rape, and he was tried as an adult and served five years in prison and another five years on parole for being a sex offender, before his accuser admitted her allegations were false.
A study conducted by the University of British Columbia looked into over 50,000 federal criminal cases and found that black males who commit the same crime as their white counterparts will receive a 60 percent longer jail term.
In August 2016, The Longview News-Journal printed a controversial front page, above-the-fold article entitled, “The Klan Turns 150” accompanied by a large image of a burning cross. This story raised many eyebrows and sparked outrage beyond the local area. This was a sad reminder that the hate group continues to actively function in the United States. Surprisingly, the newspaper outed all of the practicing KKK groups in and around East Texas, including Longview, Dekalb, and one right here in Mount Pleasant, Texas.
If nothing else convinces us that racism is alive and well in America, that should make our minds up. For those of us who are inherently accepting of races and cultures other than our own, we are met by white supremacists with the naive phrase, “Quit being so offended by everything, and get over it.”
Then we are collectively branded “sensitive snowflakes” for standing up against something that is so implicitly wrong. So you can say that we need to let it go, but even today, some have living relatives that experienced segregation and are being treated second class — and they are still here to tell their story.
Racism is not hereditary; neither is it contagious. It is learned. Some people discriminate against a skin color different than their own because that is what their parents taught them, and they feel no need to question it.
Others do not understand what it is like to be a minority and they do not necessarily care to know. And some may not want to admit that they have abused their privileges in society as a white man. We may not have separate water fountains or attend racially isolated schools in 2017, but we are far from being perfectly equal.