Letter: Winning an ongoing battle
In June 21’s column, Glenn Beaton asserted that racism is no longer — that last week’s South Carolina shooting is an anachronism (“Black like me,” Commentary, The Aspen Times). On June 22, letter writer Miles Knudson wrote that Beaton missed a few things and that things are getting worse (“Racism very much alive,” Letters to the Editor, The Aspen Times). Both had a point, and both reached unwarranted conclusions.
Overt race discrimination is illegal. We have a black president. Black legislators and mayors are not uncommon. There have been and are black governors, Cabinet secretaries and Supreme Court justices. Black NFL quarterbacks have become unremarkable. The Rachel Dolezal fiasco demonstrated that in some instances blackness may even be perceived to confer advantages worth exploiting. These past two centuries of hard-won changes from slavery to present conditions are not chopped liver.
On the other hand, Knudson cited valid examples indicating that racism remains ever-present and that by and large, race still stacks the odds against, not in favor of, black people. He opined that things are getting worse rather than better. I disagree, but ironically our progress has widened the gap between an increasingly liberal society and a diminishing but still significant number of overt racists. As the latter see their world relentlessly taken from them (as it ought to be), they seem to become more desperate and more prone to act in extreme ways. The two-time election of a black president seems to have energized anti-black anger to levels not seen since the school-integration crisis. Last week’s South Carolina tragedy is the latest expression of the desperation some of these people are experiencing.
There are no quick ways of addressing the problem. I’m proud and happy the good guys are winning and that the ultimate outcome no longer seems in doubt, but the struggle is far from over. All we can do, I think, is keep fighting for justice and live with inevitable tragic setbacks. We certainly should not, as Beaton seemed to suggest, declare “Mission accomplished” and move on.