I don’t typically talk about racism. Not because I don’t believe that racism exists, but because I refuse to be a victim of it.
I refuse to give other people -- white, black or otherwise -- that kind of power over my life. I realize that my lot in life is impacted much more by my own personal decisions than by some random person’s ignorance and hatred. I take responsibility for my ups and downs, where I am and where I’m going.
But I raise the topic of racism because there seems to be something in the air of late, and, instead of race relations getting better 50 years after the civil rights movement, their getting worse.
And we don’t have to look at the last 50 years. Look at the last 50 days.
•After years of displaying racial insensitivity, Sen. Steve King was condemned in January by Republicans and Democrats for questioning why there’s a problem with “white supremacy” and “white nationalist.”
•Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, admitted wearing blackface as a college student … before denying it … kinda. He faced calls for resignation, including from Virginia’s Democrat attorney general Mark Herring.
•Days later, Herring, himself, admitted to wearing blackface as a teenager.
• U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar made anti-semitic comments against Israel in referencing America’s “allegiance to foreign country.”
•A vote in Congress on Thursday on an anti-hate resolution itself became a source of controversy when Democrats waffled on naming Congresswoman Omar whose anti-semitic comments prompted the crafting of the resolution in the first place.
•A group of white Spain Park students last week were caught on camera using racial slurs toward blacks and Jews. The subsequent apologies from one of the students and her parents fell well short of making amends.
•A day of dialogue at the school to address the incident and garner understanding among the students ended with a white teacher being sent home for the day after he used a racial slur while talking to black students.
•And, on Feb. 20, the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit that tracks hate groups, reported a 30 percent increase in the number of U.S.-based hate groups in the last four years.
Yes, it’s been a rocky start to 2019.
Many blame President Trump for his ambiguous “good people on both sides” rhetoric, rather than condemning white nationalists without having to be prompted to do so. He’ll forever be remembered as the “birther” who tried to delegitimze the presidency of the first black president. And his “Make America Great Again” slogan leaves a lot of room for interpretation, especially for a segment of the population that finds it difficult to remember any distant history when America was “great” to them as a people.
"Rather than trying to tamp down hate, as presidents of both parties have done, President Trump elevates it — with both his rhetoric and his policies,” NPR quoted Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC's Intelligence Project, as saying in a statement. “In doing so, he's given people across America the go-ahead to act on their worst instincts.”
In fact, MAGA is such a lightning rod that video of kids wearing MAGA hats and facing off with a Native American in front of the Lincoln Memorial in D.C. was unfairly interpreted as a disrespectful confrontation.
A black TV actor, Jussie Smollett, is suspected of using hatred/fear of Trump to fake being attacked on Jan. 29 by white men wearing MAGA hats. Smollett has since been charged with disorderly conduct for allegedly hiring two black men to stage the attack.
It was another sad and shameful note in what might be the worst Black History Month ever.
But then I look south to Lee County where tornadoes tore through Beauregard and Smiths Station last week and took the lives of 23 men, women and children. Help has poured in from all over the state and beyond. As we watch the news coverage of the recovery, we don’t see Tide and Tigers; we don’t see Republican and Democrat; we don’t even see black and white.
We see the innate response to pain and destruction. We see human suffering and want to help our fellow man.
But how long will it last?
If only it didn’t take a natural disaster in the form of 170 mph winds, millions of dollars worth of damage and the loss of precious lives for us to truly see each other beyond the color of our skin and treat each other with a little human decency.
Anthony Cook is executive editor of Consolidated Publishing. firstname.lastname@example.org.