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Lane: Race relations not just black and white

BY JOE LANE | DECEMBER 12, 2014 5:00 AM

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I can vividly remember watching coverage of the 2008 election in my eighth-grade classroom as the country prepared for one of the most historic elections in the history of the United States.

Regardless of which candidate won, we would have a first — a female vice president or a black president. Even as an eighth-grader, I knew this was huge.

When Barack Obama was elected president, the nation rejoiced; nearly 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, the United States had its first black president. So why does this civil-rights victory seem so hollow just six years later?

The verdict of the grand juries for the cases of Michael Brown and Eric Garner instigated a minor state of chaos across the country, as protesters filled the streets of dozens of major cities.

The past few months — especially the weeks following the verdicts — have been closer to a scene from the civil-rights movement than a decade marked by the election of the first black president.

The one positive thing that has come from the scenarios that have unfolded in these months, however, is that the race-relation issues that still exist today have been brought to light.

According to a CBS News poll published Wednesday, the percentage of Americans who believe there are positive race relations in this country is at its lowest level since 1997 — down 10 percent since spring of this year.

But even the events of these past months are not enough to bring the entire issue to light, let alone start solving the problem. The discouraging truth is that America’s racism problem is much bigger than the relationship between white and black individuals.

Take, for example, the eruption of horrifying crimes against Bosnians and Bosnian-Americans residing in St. Louis. According to ABC News, Zemir Begic, a man of Bosnian decent was beaten to death with a hammer this past week in the Little Bosnia neighborhood of St. Louis. Furthermore, according to Fox News, another alleged attack on a Bosnian-American woman in St. Louis involved three assailants flashing a gun at the woman, ordering her out of the car, and one of the assailants allegedly saying, in the process, “You’re Bosnian, I should just kill you now” before they beat her unconscious.

In the wake of these trials and the resulting aftermath, race relations between white and black Americans will no doubt be put to the test. However, the United States is obviously made up of other races, religions, and creeds as well and working to eliminate prejudice clearly involves much more than simply improving the relations between black and white individuals.

This past weekend marked the 83rd anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, an event that preceded one of the darkest periods in American history — the internment of Japanese Americans. This would seem like an ideal time for protesters, lawmakers, police officers, and/or the media to mention the history of race relations in the United States as it pertains to other races. Yet the bulk of the conversation remained on the relations between only two.

I neither want to minimize the importance of improving race relations between white and black Americans nor create race relations problems that do not exist. But I fear that as the country tries to recover from the events of this past summer, it may forget that the melting pot has many more than two components.


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