Face to Face: The Changing State of Racism across America

By James Waller | Go to book overview

6
The Changing Face
of Racism in America

At its coarsest and most unsophisticated, racism uses violence to
enforce explicit laws to subjugate and control. . . . The evil of such
blatant racism is obvious. Racism also assumes sophisticated forms
that depend less on brute force than on psychological methods that
dissipate resistance. In such forms, racism may in fact create the
illusion that it does not exist and therefore be far more difficult to
detect and eliminate. Yet its power to oppress is no less than that of
open and blatant racism. Iron fist or velvet glove, the results are the
same.

-- JOSEPH BARNDT, Bronx pastor 1

During the 1996 study tour, we had the opportunity to spend some time with an African-American father and his 22-year-old son in Atlanta, Georgia. Throughout our conversation, we often returned to their personal experiences with racism in America. The father, an outspoken 65- year-old retired auto mechanic, spoke of the violent and divided South of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. His experiences as a victim of racism reflected the unbelievable reality of living as a black in the American South during those decades: cross burnings, assaults, and racial epithets; eating at the back door of cafes; sitting in the back of buses; drinking at separate water fountains; and being educated with second- hand books and materials cast off from the local white schools. His cousin lived in the same small Mississippi town where Emmett Till was murdered in 1955 for "wolf whistling" at a white woman. For this father, being black in America was, literally, a daily life-and-death struggle.

His son was a recent engineering graduate of Georgia Tech University. His experiences as a victim of racism were markedly different. The

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