Racism, it seems, has always been with us. Whether its overt or subtle, sanctioned or scorned, that idea of one race of people considering themselves superior over another has been a real issue practically since humans first roamed the earth.
But they are learned traits in humans – we do not start out that way. In what is supposed to be an advanced and sophisticated society, just how has the concept of racism and prejudice come about?
In 1958, the subject was considered a worldwide concern, based on the recent riots erupting in Britain. Those riots, bad as they were, forced America to look at its own situation, particularly in light of the recent actions over Central high School in Little Rock Arkansas. Looking at the subject of Racism and Prejudice you realize there’s not much difference between the atmosphere of 1958 and the atmosphere of 2017.
Between those years, a Civil Rights struggle took place and the focus was on the South; a veritable bastion of racism and prejudice. But the South wasn’t alone – they were only the more overt of other cities and towns. The subtle, insidious nature of racism throughout the rest of the country made the actions of the 60s baffling, particularly to Whites, who even now think that Racism and Prejudice ended when Martin Luther King stood at the Lincoln Memorial to deliver his “I Have A Dream” speech, and that it magically signaled the end of all hate and violence against Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Jews, Lesbians, Homosexuals – everyone considered by those racists as “the other”.
No, it all got shoved into a closet, tossed downstairs, put in a safe, dry place. Instead, racism of the subtle kind seeped out. The subtle kind; the all-knowing glance, the carefully coded message, the feigned ignorance and the fumbled apology. Those were all part of our culture until the recent events, this new emboldening, this signal which made all the old patterns and prejudices and hatred come out into the open – to give them legitimacy by way of thumbs-up – to tear everything down that took decades and hundreds of lives to overcome.
But in 1958 we were tackling the issue in our schools, and looking at the state of Prejudice and Racism world-wide. It had succeeded in creating a big divide in our country – over time, signs of progress appeared. In 2017 we’re back to square one – and it is all happening over again.
To get some perspective and history on the subject, here is that episode from the discussion program The Open Mind, where the issues of recent riots in Britain and recent violence in America were being mulled over and discussed by a panel featuring Roy Wilkins, President of the NAACP and scholars.