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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Let's Talk About Race, America

Asian students from South Philadelphia HS are boycotting their school by refusing to attend class. The protest is in response to racial violence that has been escalating for over a year.

It made me really happy that this actually got some press coverage. I heard it on my local NPR station, WHYY, in a report titled Asian students boycott Phila. school by Susan Phillips. This is once again proof that racism still exists, and has dangerous consequences. It’s also an important reminder that the race issue in American is not strictly about Blacks and Whites. America is multi-racial, and most Americans are proud of that diversity. However, that means that racism in America is also a multi-racial issue.

After Obama was elected president, I heard talk about how his win was proof that we lived in a post-racial society. What a load of crap. When I was kid around other kids, who were all too young to be socially conditioned towards political correctness, I experienced racism daily. What kids do, say, and think reflects the influences of the adults around them, who may not censor themselves around children as they would in general society. The way children treat race is a window through the social veneer of politeness to the dirty underbelly of how we really think about race. Admittedly things have certainly gotten better in the last 20 years, but I would still say I experience racism, prejudice, and their lesser cousin, racial ignorance, on a fairly regular basis - at least several times a year.

People need to learn the difference between race, culture, and nationality. People need to talk about these things, and they need to learn how to do it with respect. The goal shouldn't be to get rid of race. My race is part of who I am, and I like it. The goal should be for intelligent, respectful dialogue throughout the public sphere. But, that can never happen as long as we continue to ignore race. I also believe it will never be effective until we can include all races.

These students took action, because they feared for their safety in their own schools. They are not being provided the simple civil right to safety and education. While it probably wasn’t their intention, their actions make them civil rights activists of the 21st century. I applaud their courage and actions. It’s easy to talk about taking action, but it’s much harder to actually do in the face of great adversity.

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