KANE: The race issue

 

 

Jonas Kane

It’s not a problem of our making but rather one that has been passed down. Though diminished, it continues to fester and squirm just below the surface of the skin. It’s that ugly word, the one we know from a young age to be monstrous, yet one we often cannot bring ourselves to confront: racism.

During the past year at Villanova, remnants of it peaked up in offensive scrawling on dormitory walls, dispelling any na’ve beliefs that the sentiment did not exist here.

Villanova features a number of groups tailored to the celebration of ethnic history, and while these groups do an admirable job of attempting both to celebrate culture and to combat ignorance on campus, many of the people they need to engage – i.e. the school’s overwhelming Caucasian majority – fail to respond. And as these groups exist in a separate bubble, they are merely viewed from the outside, not truly furthering any cultural awareness or understanding among those who need it most.

With this in mind, just over two weeks ago what was one of the most important race-related speeches in political history was given just a short ride away on the Schuylkill Express.

Following the backlash after media outlets ran excerpts of his former pastor’s sermons – which were in some instances racially hostile and potentially anti-American – Barack Obama, who has predicated his campaign on rising above race, for the first time was forced to directly confront the subject.

Regardless of your political persuasion, take a few minutes to read his speech. You may not agree with everything said in it, but rest assured it’s one of the few speeches you will hear which features a direct and honest assessment of race relations in our country.

In his speech, Obama reflects on the reality of resentment among blacks such as Rev. Wright, dating back to the nation’s beginning when our founders’ “original sin” of passing off judgment on slavery to future generations occurred. Only through time have we begun to work toward the constitution’s true ideal of equality.

By focusing on this idea, Obama rightly points out why Wright’s comments – despite coming from a justifiable anger – veered so woefully wrong. Just like the countering bitterness among other races, which Obama did not shy away from acknowledging, the sentiments reflect only a “static” anger; they label our country in an inherently incorrect way, as if it has not changed and cannot continue to do so.

Perhaps the problem, in this sense, is that change really has only just begun.

Sometimes we forget how young we really are. After all, it was only at the start of our parents’ lifetimes that Brown v. Board of Education was decided and the Civil Rights Act was passed. The bumps along the road to unity and the wrong turns sometimes taken only reflect the relative youth of the movement to right our history’s wrong.

It would have been easy, as some have suggested, for Obama to let the issue be safely put back in the cupboard, to let his pastor’s incendiary remarks fade into the news cycles of past, and to quickly alter the conversation to avert offending anyone on such a sensitive issue.

But as he pointed out: Where will that leave us the next time, when we still have the same issues unaddressed and the same tensions simmering in our ever-evolving melting pot?

Obama’s speech provides the impetus for a true dialogue to begin, and it’s up to us to do something about this issue.

First it must be dealt with on a large, governmental scale – i.e. addressing the failures in poverty, education and welfare that have contributed to the problem.

But we must also continue to deal with racism on a personal level.

We didn’t create the destructive resentment that has been passed down among all races, but ignoring it and allowing it to linger will solve nothing. It’s up to all of us to address it – not as separate entities, not as people standing outside the bubble, but instead, as an actively engaged people, recognizing that despite our differences, we all share similar aspirations and can only hope to attain them by working together.

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Jonas Kane is a sophomore English major from Harrisburg, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected]