NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

August 14, 2013

Takes more than laws to erase racism

To the editor:

I appreciate Alfred Moskowitz’s response to my Martin-Zimmerman commentary. While there is some truth to what he says — that legislation has an effect on behavior — he overestimates the extent to which today’s Americans are more “tolerant and accepting of racial differences than my [Moskowitz’s] generation.” Historically speaking, racism has been redirected and sublimated more than eradicated.

Our national myth of the Invading Other substitutes in a new ethnic group every few decades: the Irish, then the Italians, then the blacks, then the Muslims and Mexicans and Hispanics. Once it becomes illegal or socially disadvantageous to be openly prejudiced towards one group, we choose another. Sometimes, we use non-racial issues to express our racism. For instance, prejudice and stereotyping of the welfare class is at least partially a veiled xenophobia.

Sublimated racism is my generation’s zeitgeist. We profess acceptance and tolerance, but often only superficially. Living in a culture where open racism is taboo is more complex than it seems on the surface. I have experienced, for example, feeling more righteous when helping out a black stranger than a white one. One might say that this “behavioral affirmative action” is a necessary step toward diversity, but I see it as a means of dodging the issue of racism. It helps us avoid both legal and moral persecution.

I am tense when an Arabic man walks on the plane; frustrated when the Latina desk clerk speaks broken English; cautious when my friends and I are the only white kids on the T. None of this is illegal. Legislation can’t stop me. Yet there is something wrong here. Every time we allow fear and racism to manifest itself internally, the chances increase that an armed vigilante will follow a black teenager down the street.

Text Only | Photo Reprints

NDN Video
Famous Internet Cats Help Big Cause With Viral Video Raw: Obama Gets Hug From Special Olympian Snoop Dogg Narrating Animal Footage Is Perfect Tigers Acquire David Price - @TheBuzzeronFOX Russell Brand Slams Sean Hannity Over Gaza Conflict Segment Chapter Two: Composing for a film in retirement Woman's Dive Goes Terribly Wrong Brian Williams Reports on Daughter Allison Williams' 'Peter Pan' Casting News Did Jimmy Fallon Look Up Heidi Klum's Dress? What Drama? Miranda Kerr Poses Topless Plane crashes in San Diego Costco parking lot Justin Bieber Takes To Instagram To Diss Orlando Bloom You Won't Believe the Celeb Cameos in "Sharknado 2" Pitch Invading Morons Cause Chaos - @TheBuzzeronFOX Orlando Bloom 'Takes a Swing' at Justin Bieber In Ibiza Sadie Doesn't Want Her Brother to Grow Up "Maxim" Hotness! See Jessica Alba's Sizzling Spread Two women barely avoid being hit by train Broken Water Main Floods UCLA Orlando Bloom and Justin Bieber Reportedly Came To Blows In Ibiza
Special Features
NRA Waterfront Plans