Pulitzer Prize Winner Clarence Page says, No, Racism Did Not Start with President Obama

President Barack Obama speaks at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's annual Legislative Conference Phoenix Awards Dinner, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016, in Washington, D.C. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP)
President Barack Obama speaks at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual Legislative Conference Phoenix Awards Dinner, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016, in Washington, D.C. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP)

Days before the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture near the Washington Monument, a couple of bizarre political developments illustrated why we Americans need it.

And I do mean all Americans. “Even if you think this isn’t your story,” as the museum’s director, Lonnie G. Bunch III, recently told The Washington Post, “it is.”

That’s a reasonable response to the cynical wags and trolls who pepper internet comment strings with sarcastic objections like, “I thought segregation was over” and “When are we going to have a museum for white people?”

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We’ve got ’em, pal. But having visited museums of various sorts across this great land of ours, I am happy to report that the contributions made by Americans of color to our national narrative are increasingly included. Diversity is in. Conscientious curators like Bunch, former head of the Chicago Historical Society (now called the Chicago History Museum), have made a difference.

Yet, too many of us Americans still harbor woefully incomplete views of life on the other side of our racial divide.

Take, for example, the comments that last week cost Kathy Miller her position as volunteer chairwoman of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in northeastern Ohio’s Mahoning County.

Problems emerged after video was posted online of an interview she did with Britain’s Guardian in which she was asked whether Trump’s candidacy has encouraged a “just-below-the-surface” racism to surface.

“I don’t think there was any racism until Obama got elected,” Miller replied. “We never had problems like this. You know, I’m in the real estate industry. There’s none.”

Say what? This takes the usual Republican Blame Obama First strategy to a new low. In real estate, for example, surely she has heard of “redlining,” the denial of conventional mortgages and insurance to homes in predominantly black ZIP codes.

Or she could Google the words “panic peddling” or “blockbusting” that stirred white flight and destabilized neighborhoods to turn racial anxieties into big profits.

Miller seemed to think opportunities and obstacles across racial lines are all equal now. “If you’re black and you haven’t been successful in the last 50 years, it’s your own fault,” she said. “You’ve had every opportunity, it was given to you.

“You’ve had the same schools everybody else went to,” she said. “You had benefits to go to college that white kids didn’t have. You had all the advantages and didn’t take advantage of it. It’s not our fault, certainly.”

Even so, we’ve got a long way to go before we can say blacks nationwide have “the same schools” or college opportunities as everybody else.

Does this put her into Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables,” which is where she said “half” of Trump’s supporters belong for their “racism, sexism,” etc.?

I certainly wouldn’t call her “irredeemable,” which I think was Clinton’s most unfortunate word in that controversial statement. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., among others, memorably preached that we all can be redeemed from our worst impulses if we have access to good information.

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Source: Chicago Tribune | Clarence Page

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