The amorphous hope that the election of Barack Obama had moved us into a post-racial society has totally dissipated by the events in Charlottesville this past August. There are many reasons for the rise of white supremacy in its various forms, but the truth is that racism has always been a constant in American society. Progress to reduce racism has been undeniable and there are segments of the population where there is no overt racism and they stand firmly against it. Yet we all ignore or misread the subtle racism in everyday life.
Low wages, bad housing, incarceration, substandard education–these are all forms of racism when they disproportionately affect one segment of the population and society acknowledges those issues but does not correct them.
Unfortunately, when corrections have been made, such as school integration, affirmative action and voting rights, there is a backlash that, coupled with demographic projections that “whites” will be a minority in this century, has compounded the racists’ anxiety and anger.
There is no gene that makes us one race or another and none that makes a person a racist. We all share the same basic genetic makeup, the same DNA, and are descended from common ancestors who migrated from Africa. Racism is a social construct and we learn it from the cues and attitudes around us. So if it is leaned, can it be unlearned? Yes. And there is a lot of information, support and concrete action available to us all.
NCJW has been in the forefront of social justice since its founding in the late 1800s. Go to the website ncjw.org and click on the Act button. Look for the segment “Educate Yourself about White Supremacy in America,” and click the Take Action button This will take you to a series of outside websites with information and actions you can take as individuals and as a group.
Our West Morris Section has a long history of working to eliminate bias and hate in our community. This was exemplified by the “What Prejudice Means to Me” Contest that we ran in local schools for 18 years. While reviving the Contest may not be what is needed now, the Section can use the NCJW website and other resources to explore ways to act locally. Being small in number has never deterred us in the past and if you think that you need size to have an impact, you have never been in a room with a couple of mosquitoes!
—Lesley Frost, Advocacy Chair