By Ashley Berry
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is about 50 years behind us, and we have an African-American President for the first time ever, so does that mean the United States is past the days of bigotry and discrimination? The answer to that incredibly loaded question is NO. That is a very hard no, there are no ifs, ands, or buts about it: race is still as much of a problem now as it has ever been. This country simply adopted a very similar ideology to “Don’t ask, Don’t tell.” That particular ideology is used in more than one sector of the U.S. and it is just as damaging as the blatant discrimination and segregation pre-civil rights era.
Although it is considered socially unacceptable in most places to be openly discriminatory or prejudiced, it is still lurking around corners, just waiting for the perfect situation to rear its ugly head. Having an African-American President has only made the subject more taboo. Now it is considered even more inappropriate to talk about why race is such a big problem in our society, and if anyone should think that it is not a huge problem then that person is obviously delusional and ignorant. The “let’s sweep it under the rug” mentality has lended itself to why race is such an issue post-civil rights act. Although all the ideas surrounding racial superiority are ingrained in us as people and in our society it is 100% myth. There is no such thing as a “pure race” and it is scientifically proven that no one race is genetically superior to another. But regardless of all the hard scientific facts we are still battling against the many-headed demon that is race.
There are a slew of college classes that prepare you to deal with the real world. The most important skill that these classes teach is critical thinking, a skill that most people in this country have unfortunately not mastered. They usually center around different topics but the goal is help students refine their critical thinking and make clear and reasoned judgments about a variety of topics and issues. One such class at Arizona State University has made the news in a very negative manner. The class titled, “U.S. Race Theory and the Problem of Whiteness” is taught by Professor Lee Bebout. Lauren Clark, who is a white student but not a member of that particular class, had some issues about that class in particular and with classes about race in general. Fox News, which is known for its conservative viewpoints, used comments from Clark to do a segment on their show “Fox and Friends.” The ever-conservative and mindless Elisabeth Hasselbeck, who co-hosts the show, said the classes were, “unfair and wrong” while “Trouble With Schools” flashed across the screen. This may be a solitary opinion but she missed the mark on what is really wrong with schools. The more likely candidates would be teaching creationism in public schools, the shortage of qualified teachers and the increasing push back against higher education.
It is also worth noting that Hasselbeck did not contact Bebout to do an interview and she did not sit in on the class, so her knowledge is not based on fact and she has no real knowledge of what goes on in the classroom. That segment prompted emails and letters urging Bebout to commit suicide. Here is a sampling of some of the comments:
“I look forward to your suicide,” reads one.
“I’d enjoy seeing you swing from a light pole…Maybe just kill yourself and get it over with,” another says.
A youth group who calls themselves the National Youth Front covered Bebout’s neighborhood as well as the campus with flyers featuring Bebout’s picture and the words “Anti-White” on the bottom. Bebout himself is white. Still think race isn’t an issue?
There are other people who see the light, and realize that maybe this is something that should be discussed and it is something that should be taught in schools. Maybe that openness is what will lead us to understanding and more tolerance. It is not just colleges and universities that are trying to open the door with knowledge and understanding. Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, has started the “Race Together” campaign that encourages people to talk about the issue. In the video that he made for his employees explaining the new campaign, he talks about his thoughts on race and specifically on the fact that people say race is too inflammatory of an issue to discuss in a coffee house type setting.
“I reject that. I reject that completely,” he said in the video address. “It’s an emotional issue. But it is so vitally important to the country.”
Employees at Starbucks are certainly under no obligation to talk about race if they do not want to. It is simply an open door of sorts to get the discussion started. It is also notable that Schultz made efforts to follow through with the campaign, meeting with about 2,000 employees in cities like Oakland, St. Louis, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Seattle, where racial tensions are very prevalent and destructive. The in-person visits really demonstrate that this was an honest attempt at trying to do some good with a problem that just seems impossible to solve.
So, if the next time you get your latte or frappuccino and the cup has “race together” written on the side, do not be afraid to start up a conversation. Those small conversations may revolutionize how people deal with race issues, and it is an issue that our society should be very desperate to solve.