Some say the Ku Klux Klan is a relic of the past but the Klan still holds rallies in nearby Franklin County and still tries to march in parades in Carroll County. The photos at the left are not from old issues of Life Magazine but a new photo essay on the Life.Com web site.
Some say racism is no longer a problem in this nation but recent studies show racism is actually on the rise since the election of America’s first African-American President. Earlier this year, ABC News filmed an experiment to see if racism still runs in our society. What they found was shocking:
It was 6:30 a.m. on a Friday in downtown Linden, N.J., when two Hispanic day laborers were struggling with their English as they tried to order a coffee and a sandwich at a deli.
But rather than getting served, they got a string of insults hurled at them from the clerk behind the counter. Their broken-English request for food was met with a barrage of racist remarks, including, "Get back in your pickup truck with the rest of your family."
This scene wasn’t real. It was all part of a "What Would You Do?" experiment designed to find out what action, if any, bystanders would take after watching the men’s exchange with the clerk.
Seth Perlman, the manager of All Aboard Bagel and Deli, agreed to ABC News’ using his business to test people’s reactions to bigotry. The racist cashier standing next to him was an actor hired by ABC News, as were his victims.
Here in this working-class neighborhood 15 miles west of New York City, people have a reputation for tolerance. But, sometimes, the reactions were far less open-minded than one would expect.
In the face of blatant discrimination, many people seemed immobilized, some too stunned to react. After being turned away by the cashier, one of the day laborers asked a nearby customer for help. She suggested that he try another store down the street. Many other customers had a similar reaction, quietly walking away after being solicited to help.
Although some customers seemed indifferent, others were quite willing to let everyone know exactly how they felt.
Upon hearing the cashier’s racist attacks on the day laborers, customer Darick Maxis, a black man, seemed to take the side of the clerk.
"If you want me to make you leave, I’ll make you leave," he told the Hispanics. "So leave. That’s all I gotta say. Leave!"
When ABC News’ John Quinones approached the scene and let him know the exchange was a television experiment, Maxis continued his rant.
"You know what I think?" he asked. "I think they’re taking our jobs because we ain’t got no jobs."
Racism is not limited to whites against blacks. It is white against latin and black against latin. The fear and hatred that some feel against blacks is also aimed at other ethnic groups.
But they may be hope. Writes columnist David Squires at the Hampton Roads Daily Press:
They are tired.
They are fed up.
They are not going to take it anymore!
The black man’s new ally is actually a very old friend: white people.
All the celebration and euphoria about a black family in the White House has nearly overlooked the keys to the historic November victory and the only realistic path toward equality.
In the most recent election, 47 percent of white voters cast their ballots for Barack Obama. Still not a majority, you say? Well, it was 17 points higher than the number of whites who voted for the previous Democrat chap who was up for president.
More and more, white people are growing sick and tired of this country being taken away from everyday working folks, and more and more, they are rearing their heads and raising their voices.
One of the strongest voices, and one of the most widely circulated on the Internet, comes from Andrew M. Manis, an associate professor of history at Macon State College in Georgia.
Writing in December for one of my former employers, the Macon Telegraph, Manis bellowed:
"For much of the last 40 years, ever since America ‘fixed’ its race problem in the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, we white people have been impatient with African Americans who continued to blame race for their difficulties. Often we have heard whites ask, ‘When are African Americans finally going to get over it?’ Now I want to ask: ‘When are we White Americans going to get over our ridiculous obsession with skin color?’"
Manis goes on to decry the hundreds of threats and race crimes spurred by the election of a black president and said these occurrences "should frighten and infuriate every one of us."
Then he went on to ask: "How long before we white people realize we can’t make our nation, much less the whole world, look like us? How long until we white people can — once and for all — get over this hell-conceived preoccupation with skin color? How long until we white people get over the demonic conviction that white skin makes us superior?"