What is Racism?
What is racism?
The term has been used so loosely and flippantly that in today’s society it’s hard to differentiate between real racism and the more modern definition that would horrify the civil rights activists of the 1960s. In the name of objectivity, I won’t use labels to describe those who use the term “racism” so loosely, but I will say that a certain ideology lends itself more than another to crying “racism” at anything they perceive as an opposing force. Not only does this discredit cases of true racism, but it also is a direct insult to those who fought with everything they had to gain equal rights for all races.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., perhaps the most widely-recognized civil rights activist of the twentieth century, shared his heart when he uttered these words: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” The 1960s were a time of severe civil unrest and dispute; various social groups were seeking equal rights and found some of them with the passage in 1964 of the Civil Rights Act that outlawed discrimination based on race, sex, ethnicity, or nationality. All of these groups, but particularly African-Americans, were subjected to harsh segregation and unfair treatment by people of other races who felt that blacks were inferior to them and only worthy to serve others. People like Dr. King exhibited a strength and determination that thousands of others mimicked, and in the process, they inspired the revolution that ultimately led to equal legal rights. These activists recognized what was truly important and fought for those rights, many times giving their very lives to achieve them.
Fast forward 50 years. Today we have people who describe “racism” in three words: voter ID laws. Can you imagine what an activist from the ’60s, still fighting for the right to vote, would say to someone who opposed verifying citizenship before voting? Call me crazy, but I daresay MLK wouldn’t have a problem proving his identity to ensure his vote counted and wasn’t canceled out by an illegal vote, especially so soon after winning that right.
One political party continues to fight any attempts to require ID before voting. They claim voter suppression attempts are behind these efforts and scold their opponents for “limiting” people’s access to exercising their right as citizens. However, the last few words in that sentence void their arguments: their right as citizens. Voting is not a constitutional right; nowhere in the U.S. Constitution is voting listed as a fundamental right (the 15th, 19th and 26th Amendments prohibit prevention of voting based on race, gender and age, but do not give the right to vote). Voting in United States elections is a privilege given only to citizens of the United States– not completely outrageous, as any rational person will admit. I don’t go into Mexico as an American citizen and expect to be allowed to participate in their national elections, nor should any citizen of any other country expect such treatment in the U.S. It’s not suppression to want to protect the integrity of our election system by ensuring that only legitimate voters cast a ballot on election day.
I’m not old enough to vote yet, but I want to know that when I finally do cast my first vote, it will have a full impact on the election results and not be canceled out by the vote of someone who shouldn’t have ever voted in the first place.
Somehow, those desires qualify as “racist.” Don’t ask how because I’ve yet to figure it out myself.
The real racism in this situation lies farther under the surface than most are willing to look. Assuming that minorities are some separate group that must be treated differently than everyone else is not only insulting, but is racism at its fullest. The segregation in the South for much of the 20th century was based on the idea of “separate but equal”– blacks could be treated like a separate entity altogether as long as they weren’t denied any rights given to whites. Today we have our own form of modern segregation in the form of opposition to voter ID laws: by assuming that blacks need special restrictions and regulations in order to vote, we assume that they are incapable of living under the same standards as whites. We are giving them “equal” treatment under the law but are claiming that they are unable to function under common standards and must be appeased and be treated like a poor group that needs assistance to function. “We’ve got your back!” say the opponents of voter ID, when in actuality they are preventing the integrity of our elections and assuming that minorities do as well. This is the epitome of racism yet somehow is veiled as “helping.”
Minority voting has increased in states with voter ID laws, and that in the 2012 election more blacks than whites turned out to vote in these states. But no, nothing to see here. These laws totally suppress those minority votes.
It’s racist to assume blacks can’t prove their identity. It’s racist to assume they need to be coddled and treated like a baby who can’t care for itself. It’s racist to offer different standards to people based on their race. When occurrences like this are still happening, it’s frightening that some still want to prevent the verification that could protect our elections.
You want to see a picture of true racism? Fast-forward to the 2:37 minute mark in this video and listen to the woman’s response to the interviewer’s question:
“I just voted for him because he’s black.” Do you see anything wrong with that statement? Casting a vote solely based on race and failing to examine a person’s judgment and character is not only irresponsible, but it is racist. Putting race above character once again makes race the primary issue and takes the attention away from a candidate’s character and actions. When will we be able to look past the surface and see a person for who he or she really is, instead of defining or judging them based on the outward appearance?
Real cases of racism are being largely ignored or forgotten in exchange for this phony image we now have of what qualifies as racist. Keeping in mind the abuses suffered by civil rights activists in the 1960s who fought for the equal rights we now often take for granted, ask yourself what real racism, not just the constant cries of it in so many situations, looks like. You might be surprised to realize that election integrity isn’t racism as much as is casting a vote based on color rather than character. Don’t further dismiss the racism that does still exist by continuing to buy into the mainstream image of racism you’re given. Refuse to believe that every action by a certain group is racist. Look at the facts before assuming.
We’ve lost sight of the true definition of racism and failing to remember it threatens to take us back to situations that thrust it in our faces. Reverse this trend before it collapses every achievement reached by activists throughout the centuries.
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