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Gerry Myers Headshot

The Black Man in the White House: Racism Is Alive and Well in America

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BARACK OBAMA
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI via Getty Images

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 ended segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. While this law was created to protect voter's rights and eliminate segregation in schools, restaurants and workplaces, the reality is that 50 years later Americans are still battling with these issues.

While many say racism is over and point to the fact that America has its first black president, Barack Obama's election actually ignited racial tension in the country, rather than ending it. As a result white supremacists, hate crimes and Internet sites like Stormfront have grown exponentially.

These extremist organizations are fueled by an increased fear of nonwhites' power in government and the rising number of immigrants that are taking over "their" America. Racists choose to disregard the laws of this country in favor of their own warped ideology.

In the last couple of weeks, Cliven Bundy, Donald Sterling and Paul Ryan made racial comments that went viral, and dominated numerous hours of media coverage. Many Republicans stood up for Bundy prior to his racial comments, even though he was convicted of owing the federal government $1 million and refused to pay it. The NBA took unprecedented action against Sterling. And Paul Ryan defended his statements by saying, "I'm not a racist. I was inarticulate."

Sport franchises, corporation executives and politicians are riddled with racists of varying degrees. Most just have the common sense to avoid public pronouncements of their views, but that doesn't mean racism doesn't exist.

Playing into the racial frenzy that is sweeping our country are Republican governors like Scott Walker, Rick Perry and Rick Scott. All are hoping to suppress minorities' voting rights in their states in order to pass legislation that most Americans, especially minorities, don't support. After all, if only whites could vote, things would be very different.

With this mindset, many Republican Congressional representatives want to roll back the clock to the good ol' days of the '50s and '60s. The Supreme Court is aiding in this mounting discrimination with their recent decision to gut portions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This action to quash the Act, which was passed in response to Jim Crow laws is offensive to anyone's sense of fairness and justice for all.

Like the poll taxes and literacy tests of a bygone era, state-issued IDs and voter-roll purges, coupled with reduced voting hours are all intended to keep minorities from exercising their constitutional right to vote.

In addition to voting rights, our courts and penal system discriminate against minorities. Young African-American men are arrested four times as often as white men for carrying the same amount of marijuana, which is still illegal in most states. These arrests for minor crimes lead many black teenagers to follow unlawful pursuits rather than paths they may have taken without the scar of the arrest on their record.

Also in question is the fairness of our judicial process. Two recent judgments handed down by predominantly white juries emphasize this unfairness.

These Florida verdicts vindicated white men who killed African-American teenagers. George Zimmerman's "not guilty" verdict for the murder of Trayvon Martin was considered by many to have a racially influenced outcome. In another case that had racial overtones, a jury was deadlocked on whether Michael Dunn, a white man, was guilty of murder for shooting to death a black teenager over loud music. I wonder if the races of the victim and accused had been switched, if the judgments would have been different. Actually, I really don't wonder; unfortunately, I know the answer.

Education is seen as one way to lower the number of incarcerated black men and help minorities become productive, tax-paying members of society. Yet, the Supreme Court stepped in and put up a road block, making it harder to accomplish this goal.

In an April 2014 decision, the Supreme Court upheld a Michigan constitutional amendment that bans affirmative action as part of the admission process in the state's public universities. Seven other states currently have the same sanctions. States that forbid affirmative action in higher education, like Florida and California, have seen a significant drop in the enrollment of black and Hispanic students in many of their top colleges and universities.

Americans need to take notice of what is happening and not support the rebels that include many Republican elected officials. The diversity, which made our country great, needs to be seen in the leadership of America, as well as its average citizen. Racism is a communal problem and needs everyone working together to make life better, not for just a few, but for all.

The question of how to achieve less racism and more acceptances is complex and has no clear black and white answer.