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Racism: the drunk we try to ignore

Updated: December 9, 2012 7:29PM

From a reader: “I read your articles. . . . If u keep writing about racism, it will never go away. I view many of ur writings as u being a racist. We just don’t talk tho bout black racists!!”

Shhhh. . . . Close your eyes. Click your heels three times. Say, “Abracadabra!”

Poof, disappear! But guess what?

Racism. It’s still here.

And here’s a note to all concerned: It ain’t going away unless — or until — we deal with it.

Racism, moreover the matter called race, is the drunken father lying passed out in the middle of the living room. Yet everyone walks by him, steps over, ignores.

It is the pink elephant in the room, dressed in a miniskirt.

“The problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color-line.” W.E.B. DuBois wrote 109 years ago in “The Souls of Black Folk.”

A century later, the re-election of the first black president is a reflection of how far we’ve come. Yet, it is clear that the color line still runs deep.

The issue of race. It nags and offends, begs to be dealt with. And yet, we — blacks and whites and others — dance all around it.

Too afraid that to say plainly, yet respectfully, what’s on our mind is to risk being labeled racists. Too afraid to wrestle with matters of our own hearts, with matters of misperception and stereotypical attitudes formulated about people of “the other” race, even though there’s only one race that really matters: the human race.

Too sensitive to openly discuss race matters. And yet, the race issue eventually erupts followed by knee-jerk media analyses that in the end lead us no closer to healing — or bridging — the racial divide: The ’68 riots, Rodney King, Amadou Diallo, Trayvon Martin.

They say:

“Racism is dead and gone.”

“Can we just stop talking about it, give it a rest, already?”

“Things are better now, integration full grown.”

They say:

“Some of my best friends are black.”

“Some of my best friends are white.”

I say: So what.

Do we really live together? Swim together? Shop at the same food stores? Bump into members of other races at the local country club, the library, or PTA meetings?

Would the appearance of one black family as a new resident make you or your neighbors nervous, or consider heading for greener more exclusive hills?

Do you use the “N” word under your breath or in boardrooms and dining rooms where no “Ns” are present? Do you disparage whites or members of others with racial prejudice in the same manner? Do we spew racial hate speech and venom about each other in secret or sacred circles?

Is not Sunday at noon still the most segregated hour in America?

And what law, other than moral law, can legislate secret matters of the heart from which love or hate flow? How can we ever hope to break down barriers, come to accept the equality of all men, if we can’t even come to the table of dialogue or look in the mirror.

And how does raising my pen to this issue, or referring to myself as African American, or taking pride as a black man in voting for a black man for president make me a “racist”? A “separatist”? A hater?

“You have a strong and powerful voice that is heard by many,” another reader wrote to me recently. “Use it to unify our country and our people, everyone will be better served.” My response: I’m doing the very best I can.

And what, sir, are you doing, other than clicking your heels and burying your head in the sand?

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