August 5, 2021

RACISM AND THE LAW

Some repulsive remarks by the Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, have again placed the ugly specter of racism in this country in the forefront.    This topic, at times misused and even abused, requires a rational discussion.    To understand the term, we have to start by recognizing that race prejudice is just one of many feelings of non acceptance of other people.    These ideas are ingrained in human nature and include also, physical and mental defects, gender, and sex orientation, place of origin, political ideology, and socio-economic status, among others.    Culture, education and/or religious beliefs shape, accept, repulse or control this behavior.    When any of these prejudices is acted upon, it becomes a form of discrimination.   

Because of our first amendment of the Constitution, verbal expressions of prejudice are allowed as long as they do not incite actions that might cause physical harm.    Discrimination is illegal, but even if equality was part of our Bill of Rights that amended our Constitution, laws had to be enacted, as late as the 1960’s to combat racial and gender discrimination.    The reason our right to speak is so broad that even shields unpopular and disgusting remarks, is that our Forefathers in their extreme interest of protecting minority rights were afraid that any exclusion, even if reasonable, could bring subjectivity to free speech and used to oppress people.   

Accepting that laws are not by themselves able to deter racism, only changing the culture through our families, religious and educative institutions can, with time, make a difference.    Racism exists in this country, regardless of the laws, as it existed in my place of birth Cuba even if it was not overt and always illegal.    Total eradication is impossible, human nature as it is, but continued improvement is likely.    Unfortunately, with the election of a President with black blood and features, some of his backers blame racism for the objections to his policies.    Also interesting to note, the NAACP, an organization built on the sacrifices made by the civil rights advocates which paid with blood and life in their fight for equality, ignored Mr. Sterling’s racist behaviors and honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009, and were planning to repeat it this year, due to the simple fact that he donated monies to the organization.   

The use of racism to deter opposition as if prejudice of other types were not part of our political beliefs and is exclusively used against a “black” President is in itself racist.    I ask everyone to heed to Obama’s conciliatory words that ended his observations on this disgusting affair; “I will make just one larger comment about this. The United States continues to wrestle with the legacy of race, slavery and segregation. That’s still there — the vestiges of discrimination. We’ve made enormous strides, but you’re going to continue to see this percolate up every so often. And I think that we just have to be clear and steady in denouncing it, teaching our children differently, but also remaining hopeful that part of why some statements like this stand out so much is because there has been this shift in how we view ourselves.”

 

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