Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Racism Today

I watched a terrifying special about the Ku Klux Klan on the History Channel recently. Having grown up in Birmingham, Alabama, I'm very familiar with the history of this particular brand of virulent racism. Every child has to study civil rights in depth in elementary school, and my mother told me all about her experiences growing up during that era. Birmingham is actually a very integrated city now (much more than Charlotte) - perhaps due to the fact that the city has made a very concerted effort to not sweep its history under the rug. Race is openly discussed, which I think is a much healthier way to deal with the issue. I loved living in Atlanta because it was such a fabulously diverse environment; Charlotte is an entirely different situation, which is disheartening.

Anyway, my point is that I grew up with an understanding and very real fear of the Ku Klux Klan. My mother's high school was one of the first schools in Birmingham to be integrated, which incurred the wrath of the Klan. They marched on the school, and my mother's description of the event still sends chills up my spine.

The television special focused on the history of the Klan, but also discussed its current incarnations. Contrary to popular belief, the Klan has not faded away into obscurity, but has experienced a surge of popularity in the past few years. Unfortunately, Barack Obama's election has provided bigots and racists with ample motivation. It was terrifying to watch video of recent Klan rallies (complete with children and infants in hoods) rail against the President.

While we've made unbelievable progress in terms of race relations over the past 40ish years, it's not enough. And as long as there are young children being indoctrinated into this belief system, it's not going away any time soon.

I think all school children should be required to watch "Mississippi Burning". It's such a powerful movie - and even more so when you consider that those feelings still exist in our country today.

1 comment:

  1. As a 43 year old minority, I sometimes feel as though I'm living in an alternate reality. The things I observed and experienced as a child seem unreal to me now. I too was once afraid of those Ku Klux Klan-types, but now I feel sorry for anyone who is missing out on the great American multicultural party.