Rev. King would be ashamed of America today
Saudi Gazette Sept. 1, 2013
BY RAY HANANIA
Fifty years ago, an African American preacher, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., helped mobilize a disconnected civil rights movement for Black Americans to respond to the country’s racist policies of segregation.
This past week, Americans have been commemorating King’s leadership and the struggle he championed to guarantee civil rights and freedom for every American regardless of the color of their skin, their religious beliefs or their ethnic origins.
Although King was assassinated by a white supremacist in 1968, only five years after delivering his famous “I Have a Dream” speech to hundreds of thousands of civil rights activists in Washington, DC on August 28, 1963, the power of his words and his strategy of confronting racist violence with nonviolence succeeded.
Yet, the truth is that America today in 2013 is not the America that King had envisioned. Racism still exists in America today against African Americans. But it is even worse now against other disliked minorities including Arabs and Muslims. And even though 45 years after his speech, America overcame racism enough to elect the country’s first African American president, Barack Obama, I think King would be disappointed in what America has done with his legacy. Racism is not gone in America. It is alive and well. Racism adapts to the environment. And many racists have become smarter about their immoral conduct and beliefs.
There are many levels in the way that racism is applied. The first and most severe is slavery. America fought a Civil War over slavery in the 1860s. Next is apartheid, which is the total exclusion and oppression of a race from a society, which was government policy in South Africa.
Next is segregation, which involved violent acts of racist hate including lynching and murder, but was a milder form of apartheid because in many areas of America, blacks were given more freedoms.
Today in America, everyone who is 18 years of age or older has the right to vote, if they are citizens. There are laws that target certain acts of race-related hatred that are directed mainly against blacks, Hispanics and Jews and impose severe penalties. However, these hate laws are limited and creatively exclude protection for Arabs and Muslims.
Yet, racism has adapted and taken on a kinder and gentler façade. Racists no longer wear white gowns and cover their faces as they burn crosses on the front yards of homes bought by African Americans. Instead, today’s racism is more sophisticated. King’s movement didn’t eliminate racism. It just forced it to adapt to a more hostile environment.
Racists today will smile to your face but act behind your back in discriminatory ways. They will tell you how good you are as an employee, but then deny you a promotion or wage increase simply because they don’t like you.
And that is what racism is really about today. It is a personal dislike – a hatred by one human being against another not just because of the victim’s race, but because of the victim’s religion or beliefs, also.
Many people argue with me when I apply racism to acts of discrimination against Arabs and Muslims. They argue that Israelis who discriminate against non-Jews are not racist because racism is about race, not religion. But that’s not true. Racism is identified by its historic roots as a hatred of someone’s race, but that same exact hatred will and does target people because of their religion and their ethnic origins.
Arabs are considered “white” in America, yet true Caucasians do not see Arabs as being white at all. The US government continues to exclude Arabs from protections against acts of racism. Arabs are among the minorities not recognized by the US Census. The census is important because it has become a source of discrimination. If you are recognized by the census as a minority group, you get special privileges and federal government funding. If you are excluded, as Arabs are, then you are denied the right to claim those financial government benefits.
Congressional district boundaries are drawn on the basis of the census to intentionally bring people of the same race together to strengthen their vote “weight.” The more blacks and Hispanics in a district, the more likely they will elected a black or Hispanic person to serve in the US Congress. By excluding Arabs from the census, Arab voters are scattered and their power to elect one of their own to public office is diluted. That’s the new form of racism that exists in America today, a racism built on strategic hatred. America’s government talks about the fight against racism, and then embraces policies that in effect cause racist results.
Racism also defines not only America’s practices against its minority citizens, but also its foreign policies. We treat countries differently based on the race of the civilians and people involved. If Syria were Israel, the United States would have acted the day the conflict began. But Syria is Arab and the two-year-long delay in acting to protect Syrian civilians is driven by political infighting among American politicians.
Some want to help the Syrian rebels, while others want to keep the country in limbo because that lack of security, like in Egypt, benefits Israel, the real American priority that supersedes principle, morality and race.
Had King been alive today, he would be leading the fight for a Palestinian State. And, I believe, he would have criticized Obama’s waffling on major issues like his slowness to act in Syria.
I wish it was all just a dream.
— Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist. He can be reached at http://www.TheMediaOasis.com or follow him on Twitter @RayHanania
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