Statues commemorating the Confederacy remain in some towns in the US South, though its principles promoting slavery and oppression of blacks are in disrepute. Some towns have removed these statues in the face of heavy opposition. A former Mayor of New Orleans describes how his thinking evolved toward a decision to remove the statues in his city, and the issues it brought forth.
Mitch Landrieu, former Mayor, New Orleans, LA, and author, In the Shadows of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History
Even though America’s founding fathers established in the Constitution that all men are created equal, and slavery was abolished not long after, many still question if we truly do live in a society guided by true equality. While some people would argue that we do, studies have shown that may not entirely be true. Paul Kivel, activist and author of Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work For Racial Justice, states that there are persistent levels of racism that are deeply-rooted in American society from the education system to job markets and housing. Racial discrimination and marginalization still seem to play a large role in determining an individual’s ability to reap benefits and be successful in American society.
One reason that racism is still found in society today is that some people believe we live in a post-racial era. Kivel believes this idea stems from the fact that the United States had a two-term black president. Since Obama was elected as president, it has been hard for some people to understand that placing a person of color in a position of power was not the beginning of a post-racial society. Bruce Haynes, professor of sociology at the University of California-Davis and author of Down the Up Staircase: Three Generations of a Harlem Family, explains that this is a flawed belief because it is more of an exception in current culture rather than a much broader rule. Simply because one person of color was given an advantage that made them capable of maneuvering upwards in politics; it’s not an indication that all people of color have similar opportunities for success. Haynes explains that there are instances where white skin enables an individual to walk certain paths, while black skin often cannot. In order to achieve a post-racial culture, all people need to become less racially biased in all instances, not just in a few.
So, what should people be doing in order to be an ally to people of color? Kivel explains that it is usually people of color who are educating the public on movements, but that there has never been a majority of white individuals, in powerful positions working together. He states that silence in the white community is doing more harm than overt racism. Yet, it is difficult for people to identify an appropriate way to be more active. Kivel explains that one way to begin overcoming the issue of silent complacency is to not let other people’s comments that have racist undertones be overlooked. At the time that it happens, the person may not understand the problem with their comment, but by addressing the racist statement that individual may later reflect on the comment, or it could even encourage others who heard the interaction to think about the repercussions of their own comments in the future. Despite the strides that have been made to combat racism, it is more important than ever to continue to fight the racism and silence in the United States.
Paul Kivel, activist and author of Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work For Racial Justice
Bruce Haynes, professor of sociology at the University of California-Davis and author of Down the Up Staircase: Three Generations of a Harlem Family