If Youíre Not a Part of the Solution, Then Youíre a Part of the Problem

By Gregory Cosgrove

Nigger, Spic, Kike, Cracker. Words of hate that resonate throughout the ideals of racism. Society tends to look only at prejudice on the surface. It is easy to ignore the racism that hides below the surface and is part of American life. Iím talking about apathy. It is apathy that keeps the legacy of hate part of American life.

Iím not saying that the majority of white America has a KKK robe in their closet and likes to burn crosses. Iím not even saying that the majority of America is racist. Iím stating that the majority of Americans do absolutely nothing about racism.

In the 1960ís equal rights was on the tip of the American tongue. It was an inevitable change that was brought about by dedicated people. These people were not only African-American, but were representative of all kinds of ethnicities, religions, and even social background. In the end history repeated itself. Equal rights may have taken 10 steps forward, but it also took 9 steps back. Institutional racism served as a mechanism of repression. It is still doing the same today.

When the Civil War ended, restoration began, but it was treated as a joke in the south. It was not until a man named Thaddeus Stevens took power in congress and forced change upon the south. The newly enfranchised slaves began to enjoy life as full citizens, despite their unfortunate economic situation. Many blacks began to take public office and all black men were enfranchised. When reconstruction ended and the North pulled the military out of the South, things changed. The south used new mechanisms of repression to keep the freedmen poor and unable to vote. The North stood by idle and apathetic. Reconstruction failed because of that.

Apathy is destroying the efforts of men like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. It is destroying the lifetime dreams of Medgar Evers and Robert Kennedy who rose above violence and repression to say they werenít going to take it. American society is allowing institutional racism to infect the social conscience. Many of you may read this and say: "Iím not racist." Are you doing anything to change the way things are? For some the answer is yes and others donít know what to do. When you donít know what to do, do something. Donít be lazy and allow mistakes of the past become mistakes of the present and future. There may be more equality today then there was fifty years ago, but that is not an excuse do nothing about racism. There should never have been such oppression and ignorance.

The other day I was in Dunkiní Donuts at three in the morning. It had been a long night and my friend and I were hungry. As we were sitting there eating we saw a police cruiser circling the store. He must have circled three or four times and then he just sat there waiting. My friend, who is black, said something that at first made me laugh and then I felt bad. He said, "Donít worry, they are just here for me. They have never seen my kind before." Obviously, Maine is not the most diverse state. I canít imagine what that would feel like to be singled out by the color of your skin. This may not have been the case, but I could tell by the way he spoke that he had experienced this kind of prejudice before. Society allows this kind of racism, and so unless you are doing something about it you are one of the many responsible. When we got in the car to drive away, I couldnít help but feel a little guilty.

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