Racism by Reverend Al Sharpton

Racism is still America's greatest problem. In many ways America's foreign policies - born out of racism - have generated a lot of the hostility we have faced. The result of that hostility is certainly deplorable, like what happened on September 11. But one of America's - particularly white America's - problems outside the United States and within is that she doesn't see anyone outside of herself. What they call a new world order is their misconception of who is actually in the world. Most of the world isn't even recognized by America - to America it's only Caucuasian, European, when in reality the majority of the world is made up of people who are brown, black, and yellow.

America doesn't even see those within her who aren't white. And it is to her detriment. To ignore an entire segment of the population is like ignoring your legs. You won't get very far without your legs.

People have been lulled into a false sense that everything is okay in America. Racism in America is not about "Whites Only" signs and sitting in the back of the bus. It's more subtle and equally insidious today. It's found in its images; it's found in the language.

If you're shrewd and effective as a businessman and you're black and your name is Don King, then you're a crook and a con man. If you're a white man and you're Donald Trump, then you're brilliant and astute. Those are the racial linguistics of America.

If you're a young black man who built a solid base with no money, against all odds, and you're Al Sharpton, then you're overly ambitious and a charlatan. If you're a young white man, you're a rising bright star. It's insane. The senator from North Carolina is talking about running for president in 2004. He never held public office before his Senate seat. He became a millionaire by representing victims in North Carolina. He's a credible candidate to run for president.

I've represented victims all my life (and have not become rich doing it), but still my motives to run for public office are questioned. We still have to deal with the subtlety of racism and how it's projected in America.

You have whites who have babies out of wedlock who never have to deal with the racial bias in the job market or the housing market. You have white folks on welfare (in fact, the majority of the people on welfare are white), and they don't have to deal with the stigma.

Redlining is a fact. That blacks are discrimnated against when applying for loans is a fact. There is discrimination, for the most part, still in the job market. An average black family of four still makes less than an average white family. In 1999 the median income for whites was $44, 366, while blacks earned just $27, 910.

Racism is the cause, according to statistics, for why health conditions in our community are a lot lower than the health conditions in white communities. Racism in the criminal justice system is the reason why blacks are disproportionately represented in our prisons.

When the issue of racism comes up in this country, white folks will tell blacks to get over it. Slavery is over. But it's not just slavery that whites must own up to. It was a hundred years of apartheid after slavery. My mother couldn't vote until she was well into her forties. We're not talking about my great-great grandmother. I'm talking about my mother not being able to vote until she was grown in Alabama.

I'm the first generation in my family who could vote. I was born in 1954 and the Voting Rights Bill wasn't passed until 1969. What are they talking about, there are no more slaves? There are people in their forties who lived under segregation. And how did that limit them from social mobility? How did that handcuff them from opportunities?

Slavery isn't the only thing America had to repair. One hundred years of black people being treated less than a person is part of that whole paradigm, is something America must repair.

And until America deals with her race problem, she can never truly be the United States.

Note: The above is an excerpt from Reverend Al Sharpton's new book, "Al On America", available in the BlackElectorate Book Store at http://www.blackelectorate.com/book/book.asp?BookID=6

Rev. Sharpton will be joining us tonight at BlackElectorate.com - Monday, December 30, 2002 at 7:30PM EST - for a live chat session. Create your free BEC Chat Room account today so that you may participate in the discussion:


Reverend Al Sharpton

Monday, December 30, 2002