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The more things change: The fight for dignity, humanity continues

SUSAN K. SMITH | 8/28/2017, 8:02 a.m.
Many thought we were done with raw racism, the kind of racism that erupted in violence on the streets during ...
Susan K Smith

Crazy Faith Ministries

Many thought we were done with raw racism, the kind of racism that erupted in violence on the streets during the ‘60s. Poll after poll showed that many Whites believed there was no more racism. When Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, many joyously declared that the United States was post-racial.

Many, not all, but too many people were still dealing with racism, in spite of the heroic actions of President Lyndon Johnson, passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Many Whites believed that the laws – as odious as they were to them – marked the beginning of the end of even the need to talk about racism.

It was over. The law said so.

But the law could not and did not touch the hearts of Americans who had grown up with racism as a constant companion. The law could not erase the inbred feelings and beliefs that African Americans were inferior to Whites and the resentment many felt because they believed Black people were being given too much.

The law could not budge even pastors from their racist beliefs, and so they did not talk about racism in their sermons, or teach about racism as a part of their Bible studies. Pastors, charged with bringing a message of love and morality to their members, avoided the subject. The idea of African Americans being “equal” to Whites had always been distasteful and, they believed, just wrong. The law could not change their feelings about that. Black people were a sore to be tolerated, not human beings to be treated with dignity and respect.

The law could not change those feelings.

Some Whites struggled with what they were feeling and how to get past it, but other Whites just dug their heels into their anger, an anger made worse because they felt like they couldn’t even talk about it. They believed that America had been created to be a White man’s country, and these laws were messing with the natural order of things. They were resentful that Blacks were in “their” country, resentful that some Black people were able to go to school and get jobs, resentful that “the law” prohibited segregation and discrimination in housing, education and employment.

They avoided “the law” that made them go against their spiritual inclinations as much as they could; they held their noses in other cases and dealt with integration when it absolutely could not be avoided. But they hated what they were being made to do.

That resentment bubbled up from time to time. No matter what “the law” said, they knew what Black people were: lazy, shiftless, whining crybabies who wanted something for nothing. This, in spite of the fact that these Black people had worked the fields in the South and the drudge jobs in the factories in the North to help build America’s economy. They were “allowed” to serve in the military – but were often prohibited from fighting. Their “place” was to serve White people, and the effort was made in all segments of life, including the military, to keep things as they were supposed to be. Whites hated the interference of the federal government, which had the audacity to require that their children’s schools had to be integrated, so they broke the law and many school districts shut their schools down rather than integrate.