“Enough already,” I have heard others say about the issue of racism in the presidential campaigns. “There are other problems that are far more pressing: the economy, the war, immigration, healthcare, world hunger, global warming, you name it. Our next president, whether female, Afro-American or same-old-same old-male and white, will have an overloaded agenda as it is.” No lie there. But racism has been an issue through the ages and there is no way our next president can ignore it, since it permeates most of the other issues as well.
Racism has forever been a part of the human experience and will undoubtedly continue to be so. But that does not mean it should not be named, talked about and confronted both on national and local levels.
As an issue, racism is not unfamiliar to Evanston and these pages. Over a year ago, the editor of the RoundTable called for a dialogue on the problem, realizing that change, a catchword in current campaign rhetoric, happens more realistically at the local level. A personally honest letter from Candace Hill tried to jump-start such a dialogue in these pages, and this column offered some guidelines. But not much else came of the editor’s call.
Like it or not, however, the issue is alive and, well, in our faces every day – which is not all bad. If anything, Senator Obama’s campaign has raised the level of consciousness in all of us about the problem, uncomfortable though it may be. The level of dialogue is another matter.
To talk about racism requires awareness, sensitivity and honesty. Any dialogue about the issue lacking any one of these will be a waste of time. All three demand a commitment and a level of risk-taking without which nothing can happen. But there also needs to be a willingness, if not an urgency, to talk.
It is too convenient to think that racism in self (and to some extent it is in all of us) is about the color of an other’s skin, or ethnicity when actually it is about the size of one’s own mind. That is why the beginning of a willingness to talk about it is the acceptance of differences among us. It is also too convenient to think that racism is one-sided, that it is someone else’s problem when in fact it belongs to all of us.
“Can we talk?” is not a simple question. “Will we?” seems to be the real challenge.
I do not think I am off-base by repeating the RoundTable’s invitation of early last year to voice your opinions and concerns in its pages. Politically, the time will never be riper.