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Does racism in the United States still need to be addressed?

By Anita Patel, Vice President, Racial Justice and Public Policy
September 18, 2013
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Are you wondering whether racism in the United States still needs to be addressed? Often, our Racial Justice staff are told racism is a stale, old issue when we engage in conversations with individuals and organizations. Many contend that we have bigger issues to tackle today. While we definitely need to view inclusion in broad terms as no person can be reduced to a single factor of identity, let’s be honest with one another. Race continues to play a formative role in our relationships both personal and professional. Need a reminder of this? Over the weekend, a man suffered a terrible car accident, survived and made it to a nearby home to ask for help. As he knocked repeatedly on the door, the homeowners called the police. When the police arrived, they shot 12 bullets, hitting the man 10 times and killing him. While investigations continue, race has already been raised as a question… the victim was black and the officer was white. Would the officer have fired shots if the victim was not a large, black man?

Also this weekend, the first Indian-American Miss America was named. An accomplished and intelligent woman, she was instantly reduced to stereotypes relating to terrorism and convenience stores on social media upon her crowning. Many decried the fact that the winner was not “more American.” This woman grew up in New York State, has dreams of becoming a doctor and is connected to both her identity as an American and her Indian culture. The new Miss America represents so many in our country, including those with European ancestry whose parents and grandparents immigrated here so they, too, could have a better life for their families. Her story compels us to examine who we think of as “American.”

These stories and so many personal experiences like these are riding along with each of us as we go to work, run errands and go about daily life. They affect each of us in different ways–some feeling the pain of each bullet, each reference to “terrorist” as if it were aimed at us. If you think the messages from these two stories are unique, unfortunately, you need to think again. Stereotypes and racism run deep and we need to acknowledge them, understand them and eliminate them. One concrete way you can do this is by joining the YWCA of Minneapolis at our, It’s Time to Talk: Forums on Race program. Here, you will have a chance to have an honest conversation about race in our community and take action to change the systems within which we operate.

We have the power to create positive change… what will be your next step forward?