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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Want your voice to be heard? Submit a letter to the editor, send us an op-ed pitch or check out our open positions for the chance to be published by the Daily Utah Chronicle.

Segregation Continues to Plague America

By Jasyn Jones

Reading the news on a daily basis has been a habit of mine for roughly a decade. Once done for the sake of mere curiosity, it is now a requirement of my career as pundit and gadfly. Sometimes the news is humorous, sometimes serious and sometimes it is shocking.

The headline-“Georgia Teens Opt for Segregated Proms”-startled me. The first thought that sprang to mind: “Don’t these kids know we don’t do that anymore?”

I thought segregation was a thing of the past, discredited and discarded, yet here it was rearing its ugly head. Clearly, bigotry is alive and well in some parts of America, and this phenomenon is not only unfortunate, but is also un-American.

The issue of “race” (as it is euphemistically labeled) has long been a simmering source of conflict and resentment. In theory, it includes nearly every ethnic group in America. In practice, it usually refers to the state of white/black relations.

The experience of blacks in America is unique. Unlike all other ethnic groups, they were brought to this continent in chains. Unlike all other ethnic groups, many blacks know that, generations in the past, their great-grandmothers were owned and raped by their great-grandfathers, men with Southern accents who wielded a whip.

Even after the end of slavery, Jim Crow laws enforced an artificial inferiority on blacks. “Coloreds Only” signs marked out a series of second-best options in schools, neighborhoods, restaurants, bathrooms and even drinking fountains. At every turn, blacks were told: “You’re no good. You’re not wanted. You’re second best.”

Racists infused society with bigotry, by promulgating a dogma of racial inferiority. A black man was confronted on every hand by a long list of people committed to convincing him that he simply couldn’t succeed because he wasn’t as good as a white man. Scientists, teachers, judges and politicians all branded “coloreds” as something less than whites.

The most damning attacks came from those blacks who themselves believed the lies-“Ain’t no black man evah gonna ‘mount to nuthin’.”

Rejecting this corrosive ideology meant being labeled “uppity.” Being uppity could cost a black man a raise, a promotion or a job. Attempting to assert the right to vote could get a black man berated, beaten or lynched.

The mob would show up at night, a crowd of whites in white hoods. Among their number would be the owner of the cafe where blacks ate lunch, the local sheriff (and his deputies), the mayor, town councilmen and the justice of the peace.

Every person who had sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution-every person one could turn to for help-was a member of the mob. At best, those who did not belong to the Klan would not oppose the Klan.

It took decades to overturn Jim Crow. It took lawsuits (including the famous Brown v. Board of Education), marches and laws. This fight was bipartisan. The Voting Rights Act of 1963 was a common work of a Democratic president and a Republican Congress, passed over the loud denunciations of Democrats.

In addition to making the necessary legal changes, changes in ideologies and attitudes also needed to be made. Social changes of this nature require continual vigilance and pursuit.

Yet here we are, 40 years later, facing a group of high schoolers so ignorant of the history of slavery and Jim Crow that they segregate their high school prom by race. Outside their party they could have hung up a sign: “Whites Only. Coloreds Not Welcome.”

Racism is an ugly thing. It is based on a most ephemeral human quality, creating unity based solely on skin color. It is unacceptable, especially in this day and this age. Yet racism is increasingly encouraged.

The Black Senior Celebration at the University of Pennsylvania is a segregated graduation ceremony. Such ceremonies are not rare. According to an article by Michael Fletcher, published in the Washington Post, schools such as Vanderbilt University, Washington University in St. Louis, The University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley have all hosted segregated graduation ceremonies this year.

That this segregation happens at all is appalling-hanging up a “Coloreds Only” sign at a college graduation is (or ought be) beyond the pale. This time, African American students and professors have segregated themselves-Jim Crow reincarnated by those who should know better.

This segregation is the natural outgrowth of the post-modern identity politics taught in colleges today. Students are taught that the most important factor in their lives is their skin color, gender or sexual habits. Such politics are nothing more than a retread of the same old racist lies.

Racism is a pernicious force. A quick glance at the past decade reveals a series of racially-motivated wars. In Rwanda, Chechnya, Israel, Bosnia and Sri Lanka, people are killing each other based on centuries- and millennia-old grievances.

We are not simply 280 million people who happen to live in the same place. We are all citizens of this great nation and we all share a common destiny.

Where go we one, go we all. Racism and bigotry undermine our national unity, prejudice our institutions, and threaten our liberties. Racism, whether espoused by Georgia teens or college professors, is wrong. It is long past time that we moved past it.

Jasyn welcomes feedback at

[email protected]. Send letters to the editor to [email protected].

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