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Sunday
February 23rd, 2020
L&T Opinions Page

earl watt mugL&T Publisher Earl Watt

 

Monday, several Liberal residents came together to march in recognition of Martin Luther King, Jr., a civil rights activist who used peaceful means to confront racism during the 1960s.

Racism is a blight on our history, and we’ve yet to completely overcome the discriminatory behavior.

It would be blind to believe that we do not still have work to do, and it would also be blind to believe great strides have not been made.

Too often, we are given a polarizing choice — either we are still racists to the core, or racism has been eradicated.

Neither are true.

We do need to look at something that I believe the extremists don’t want us to admit — we are coming together more than ever in our history.

First of all, we used to practice slavery. While this is a low bar to overcome and in no way ended racism, but our nation did away with this racial practice.

And then those former slaves were granted citizenship, and then the right to vote.

Former African male slaves were granted the right to vote with the 15th Amendment in 1870 before white women were granted the right to vote by the 19th Amendment in 1920, 50 years later.

The worst thing that happens is when a racist is given a badge and a gun and chooses to use the position to make life difficult on people of color.

What’s just as bad is believing everyone with a badge and a gun is a racist.

We have to recognize that 13 percent of the population that is African American already has an uphill battle since the majority of society is caucasian.

Hispanics have grown to become the largest minority in America with 17.8 percent of the population.

Caucasians still comprise 61.6 percent of the population, and that numerical advantage is undeniable.

Some refer to the advantage as “White privilege.”

Our natural response to this is either 100 percent agreement or 100 percent rejection.

The answer, like most, is somewhere in the middle.

My family, for example, has been part of America since 1776 when John Martin Kitch came to the colonies and joined the Pennsylvania militia to oppose the British.

My family has had nine generations to experience the freedom of America.

Still, I was the first to attend college after all of those generations.

Black families in America have only experienced freedom for four to five generations, and several laws kept racism and discrimination legal for three of those.

It is only fair to conclude that someone who has a legacy of nine generations of freedom would have an advantage over someone who had two to three generations of the same freedom, and even still has to face racism much ore than I would.

Yet, when we look at each other, we see people who practice faith, who want to provide a better living for our family, and who want their children to have a better shot than we had.

We have a responsibility to each other to make sure that the race for the American Dream is a fair one, that everyone has a chance, and that while history prevents us form all starting form the same place, access to education and job opportunities helps close the gap.

When we take a step back, I believe we see that we have more in common than we have differences. And the more we focus on that, the less we buy in to the arguments that say we are divided.

We are on the same team, and we will only be as good as we are able to depend on each other.

Are we there yet? No, but we are on our way.

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