As much as we would like to ignore it- Racism still exists in America. It is certainly not as big a problem as it once was for sure, but it still lurks in the uneducated and closed minds of some Americans.
However, it is important that we do not condemn those who are racist. We must embrace them and understand where they are coming from. In many instances, it is their upbringing and culture which has bred this misunderstanding in them.
While canvassing a few weeks ago, Adam and I came across one such instance. We approached the house on our list with some hesitance. The house itself seemed to be on it's last leg and the yard was littered with furniture and old bed mattresses. Looking through the tattered screen door we could see a sparsely furnished living room centered around a blaring tv set.
Our target, if you will, approached the door. He was in his late 50s with short gray hair and a pot belly. He looked tired and worn in his work clothes. Our hearts went out to him. We figured he lived alone and worked hard just to make ends meet.
"Hello, are you Mr. SoandSo?"
"Yes." His breath smelled faintly of beer.
"Hi, I'm Ashli with Barack Obama's Campaign for Change. We are just going around and talking with our neighbors, trying to get a feel for how everyone will be voting. Have you made up your mind for the November election?"
"Well, no." He replied somewhat embarrassed. "I don't much care for McCain... but I don't feel I can vote for Obama because he's black."
Just as frank as that. We weren't altogether surprised to hear it but it still caught us off guard.
I recovered quickly "Well, are there any issues that are bothering you that we might talk with you about?"
"Well... I would like to see workers' wages catch up with inflation. I haven't had a raise in I don't know how long..." He then opened up. Before too long the three of us were ranting about the injustices we'd seen in the past 8 years and how McCain would just be more of the same.
Mr. SoandSo seemed almost excited when he said, "Well, I reckon I'll probably be voting for Obama." We made sure he was registered and then thanked him for his time, left him some campaign lit and wished him a good night.
The best part of knocking on doors is that you meet your neighbors. You even get to speak with some of them about their worries and concerns and you find they aren't too far off from your own. A sense of community and empathy for others is something that is missing from our cities and which needs desperately to be revived.
So, to answer the title of this blog- yes. Yes racism is still an issue. Fortunately, however, it is manageable. We just need to open up to those who have racist tendencies instead of turning our backs on them.
This blog is written in response to an excellent pro-Obama speech given by AFL-CIO's Richard Trumka about racism in America.