The repercussions of overt and systemic racism are once again echoing throughout the U.S.
Recent headlines from Starbucks to golf courses reveal that discrimination based on race remains a contemporary reality.
While the images of marching white supremacists in Charlottesville still haunt the nation’s psyche, subtler acts of racism are often noted but left quickly behind without any serious reflection.
In the Starbucks incident, employees called the police when they saw two black men sit down at their cafÃ© in Philadelphia without placing an order. The police went as far as arresting the two men.
On the golf course in York County, Pennsylvania, the clubhouse called the police when white, male players complained the five black women were playing too slow.
In still another incident, police were called when two black men entered a New Jersey gym for a workout.
While some may say there had to be more to these stories than the police being called because the people were black, reports indicate that there was not much more than just that reality.
In fact, if the people in each scenario had been white, it is highly probable that police would have never been called because they would not have been noticed.
Stories such as these remind us that the color of one’s skin matters in the U.S.
When I was in high school and being recruited to play baseball at the next level, a recruiter told me that their college very seldom offered scholarships to Native American players because they tended to drop out and return home.
After Sept. 11, 2001, I had a pickup screech to a stop behind me at a Starbucks. With his window rolled down, he extended his middle finger and told me, “Get out of my country!”
Yes, our nation has a nasty way of reminding you: Skin color matters.
With this stark reality before us, we need to draw some heartbreaking conclusions.
First, we have failed in our attempt to judge a person by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin.
If Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today (and, oh, how I wish he were), he would still feel the need to make his “I Have a Dream” speech in hopes of saving the lives of young black men and combating the systemic racism rooted within our culture.
Second, the perils of racism are alive and well within the social construct of the United States.
From the incidents mentioned previously to the disproportionate statistics found within the U.S. judicial system that reveal blatant prejudices, the social construct of the U.S. still favors a white ruling class.
In other words, skin color still matters. And before someone says they are tired of hearing about racism so much, think about what’s it’s like living with it every day.
Third, subtle racism is more difficult to combat than overt racism.
Identifying and combating overt racism is one thing, but subtle racism often disguises itself with good intentions and attempts at inclusion.
When a sympathetic white ruling class criticizes the timing and tactics of freedom marchers, it’s a subtle reminder that the white voice matters more than the voices of people of color.
When token people of color are invited to events on the basis of inclusion and diversity but not given leadership or authority, then it’s a subtle reminder that skin color matters.
Even though we have come a long way from the days of Jim Crow, there is still a great distance to travel.
Therefore, let us recall King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” as a reminder that racism, no matter how subtle or overt, must be denounced and overcome quickly: “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was ‘well timed’ in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that ‘justice too long delayed is justice denied.'”
We must all stand up to all acts of racism. Why? The truth will not be easy to hear or accept, but we must all acknowledge we all are a little bit racist. None of us has been able to truly and fully live up to King’s dream, so we must repent of our imperfections and strive to be and do better.
The time is now, the moment is before us, and the opportunity awaits for a new generation to lead us to the mountaintop where people are loved for who they have been created to be by their Creator.