Without commenting on the George Zimmerman verdict, I want to address the recent letter asserting that most of America is color blind and insinuating that racism isn’t really prevalent in much of the country. Until you’ve personally witnessed a permanent “whites only” sign by a water fountain, swimming pool, or bathroom; the burning of a cross by the Ku Klux Klan; or the blatant intent of the Confederate flag displayed in the back of a pickup or as part of a state flag, you may not be aware of the level of racism ingrained in parts of the U.S.
Only that flag is currently seen, as it’s legal to do so, but be assured that racism is alive and well. It has merely progressed and become more quietly hidden. Yes, things have changed, but they have not changed enough. It is so easy to be suspicious of people who are “not us,” that we really don’t know, or have a clue, about their lives. Just recently on a university campus in North Carolina, it was reported that a black track star who was simply training was accosted from a pickup with the driver and riders hurling racial slurs at him.
I have never forgotten my aunt, who kept a separate bathroom for the maid, explaining that she wasn’t prejudiced. After all, she said, “they are our beloved servants.” She declared that although she wasn’t prejudiced, her children were because “they had to go to school with them.” When you live in an area where the population is overwhelmingly white, and you haven’t been exposed to Southern culture and its racial history, perhaps it is hard to relate when President Obama speaks of racial prejudice and profiling. It’s still there. You just need to learn to look for it. As Forest Whitaker said in a recent Parade magazine interview: “If you can’t accept that these things are going on, you’re living an illusion.”