In prisons and voting booths, on abandoned ghetto streets and in the halls of power, racial discrimination is destructive, pervasive, and very, very real. Equality has not been achieved, discrimination has not ended, and the civil rights movement is not over.
Photo: Library of Congress.
Racism, at least the kind that matters, is less about whether individual people are "racist" or not and more about whether institutions and economic systems have achieved so much racist inertia over the years that lifespans are shortened and spirits broken.
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President George W. Bush has appointed more people of color to high office in the executive branch than any president in history. So why is he trying to elevate a conservative white Mississippi judge with a history of discriminatory rulings to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals?
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For the better part of four centuries, most African Americans lived under a system of chattel slavery. When this changed, laws and policies intended to ensure the oppression of blacks and the dominance of whites remained in place. To this day, the United States operates under the vestiges of an exploitative racial caste system.
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Few realities sum up the state of racial discrimination in the United States better than the arbitrary disenfrancisement of 500,000 black voters who live in the city designated our seat of government. The lack of DC voting representation in Congress is so difficult to defend that opponents seldom even bother to defend it anymore, relying instead on a disturbing mix of Washington bureaucracy and public apathy.
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By and large, Americans--especially white Americans--seem terrified to acknowledge the issue of racism. Admitting that it's still a problem sounds combative. Claiming that it isn't sounds naive. Confronted with this problem, one L.A. Times editorial took a novel approach by making both claims simultaneously.
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The resignation of NAACP President Bruce Gordon presents an opportunity for the organization to return to its roots as a firm advocate for civil rights reform. At a time when American politicians appear to regard black civil rights as a non-issue, a "divisive" president is exactly what the NAACP needs.
Photo: Library of Congress.
Read in the light of American history, that famous line from the Declaration of Independence--"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal..."--lies somewhere between visionary prophecy and brutal sarcasm. Until well into the 20th century, the U.S. Supreme Court, along with the other two branches of government, fought tooth and nail against the principle of racial equality. These ten rulings stand as indisputable proof.
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Mainstream politicians have stumbled over each other trying to reclaim the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., but in their commitment to appeal to centrist voters both parties have largely discarded the issues that were most important to the man himself.