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Milt Hankins: It's time to face the reality of racism

Aug. 29, 2013 @ 11:29 PM

Many of us -- of the progressive persuasion -- hoped the election of an African-American president would sound the death knell for racial bigotry.

After President Obama said, "There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America -- there's the United States of America," we thought the time had come. "One nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all." Author Toni Morrison once remarked "In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate."

We dreamed Dr. Martin Luther King's dream, failing to realize just how deeply entrenched are the remnants of Jim Crow-ism and anger arising out of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and '70s. We were mistaken. The time has NOT come!

In his study of the 2010 health reform bill in "The Healing of America," author T.R. Reid points out that when it comes to health care in America, "disparities have a racial element. Blacks and Hispanics are less likely than whites to get treatment for serious disease and more likely to die from the illness."

In the disparity of health care, wages, employment, education and our justice system, people of color are still demonstrably the losers.

Racism breeds hatred and distrust. It is flourishing, and it is proliferating exponentially from one generation to the next.

Sadly, but clearly to me, our beautiful Appalachia is a hotbed of racial discrimination. It is evident that two states (West Virginia and Kentucky) which have traditionally supported Democratic candidates by repeatedly sending Democratic senators and representatives to Washington (both states have Democratic governors) overwhelmingly voted against Barack Obama -- twice.

It is not because President Obama is "against" coal. It is because President Obama is an African-American. How do I know this? Because President Obama is not against coal. He is for "clean" coal, conserving our fossil fuels and federal regulations which protect the safety of miners. He opposes, as many local people do, the stripping away of our mountaintops, while giving half-hearted lip service to reclamation efforts.

For nearly five years now, any time anyone suggests that a nascent racism is the motivating force behind anti-Obama movements, imbecilic ploys or pseudo-scandals, they are accused of "playing the race card." The fact is that one cannot play a race card unless there is a race card in the deck.

Strong anti-Obama, right-wing conservatives refuse to give the president a break on anything. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., declared that his only goal was to see that President Obama was not elected to a second term. It wasn't merely political rhetoric; it was a racially motivated statement.

Even when facts and figures are indisputably presented, the Obama administration, according to racists, fails in every respect.

Racism is still with us, but we can dream of a better time -- a future when the achievements of individuals will not be measured by the color of their skin and a hope that we will no longer even notice or mention race in the same breath with success.

Milt Hankins of Ashland, Ky., is a retired minister, theologian and freelance writer.

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