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
Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station My name is Cocaine Lohan Gets Candid About Her Sex List The 2014 New York Auto Show Meet Johnny Manziel's New Girlfriend Chelsea Clinton Announces Pregnancy Funny: Celebrating Easter with Martha Stewart and Friends Man Accuses 'X-Men' Director Bryan Singer of Sexually Abusing Him As a Teenager Man hit with $525 federal fine after he doesn't pay for soda refill Lea Michele & Naya Rivera Feuding? Jabari Parker declares for the NBA draft Singing Nun Belts Out Cyndi Lauper New West, Texas Explosion Video Swim Daily, Throwback Thursday Don't Be A Tattletale: Bad Bullying Tips For Students The trillest thoughts on marijuana "RHOA" Star Charged With Battery Grizzly Bears Get Snowy Birthday Party Weatherman draws forecast when another technical glitch strikes WGN
Special Features
NRA Waterfront Plans