Sunday, February 17, 2013

HOW PERVASIVE IS RACISM IN THE UNITED STATES?

The market where Forest Whitiker clams he was searched by an employee who wrongly identified him as a shoplifter. Photo by Gary Baumgarten


Jim Crow is long gone. No longer have we separate facilities for men, women and "colored" and highway rest stops. No longer are black passengers regulated to the back of the bus. No longer do signs adorn the walls of southern restaurants reading, "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone."

A mixed-race president leads this nation. By all appearances, racism is dead in America.

Or is it?

The question came to mind when ex-LA cop Christopher Dorner went on his killing spree. Explaining in a manifesto that he was out to bring attention to his firing - which he says was racially motivated. Dorner reported other cops for allegedly mistreating a prisoner. But he was the one who lost his job for allegedly ling about the incident. He argued racial bias against him.

Now the LAPD is looking into his firing. And on Saturday, some people picketed LAPD headquarters to support his contention that racism still affects the police department. (Those interviewed condemned Dorner for his murderous rampage.)

Also on Saturday, I covered for 1010 WINS the story of Oscar award-winning actor Forest Whitaker's complaint that he was mistakenly identified as a shoplifter in an upscale Manhattan market. And was subjected to a humiliating pat down by an employee in full view of other customers in the crowded store. (No stolen items were found.)

Now, Whitaker, speaking through his publicist, never raise the issue of race. But when I went to the store to try to interview employees (unsuccessfully) I had the chance to speak with customers. The white customers I talked to said they were always treated well there. But the black customers said they weren't treated as well as white customers.

This in racially diversed Manhattan.

So it got me to wondering. Is racism really dead in America? And, are our views on race skewed by the color of our skin?

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