Love today… or maybe tomorrow

Chelsea Biba

It is Jan. 20, 2009. Imagine an auditorium with 150 elementary-aged children clapping and cheering as they witness a racial milestone in American history: the inauguration of our first African-American president.
This is exactly what one of your fellow students saw at Franklin Elementary. An image like this makes it easy to envision the end of racial discrimination and hatred in our country; unfortunately, it isn’t that simple. What about the thousands, maybe even millions of Americans who voted against Obama purely because he was a man of color? Is racism still a problem in our post-Obama-election society?
Many would argue the problem no longer exists. But after interviewing 66 Appleton students and 13 Lawrence students of multiple racial backgrounds, the general consensus is that racism is definitely still a problem.
We asked our participants to define racism without consulting a dictionary and most of the responses followed the same patterns; the terms “hatred,” “discrimination,” “different” and “skin color” were the most commonly used. Our participants apparently know what they’re talking about; Random House Dictionary defines racism as “hatred or intolerance of another race or races.”
But why all the hatred? Why the fear of someone different from yourself? Are we all really that different?
When most of us think of racism, we think of people of color being the oppressed group. However, based on our results, we learned that this is not always the case. Of all the white students interviewed, over 27 percent of them have been made fun of or left out because of their race. From the other end of the spectrum, one would think that everyone of color has been made fun of at one point or another, but that also proved false. Not even half of our nonwhite participants reported ever being made fun of because of their race. Even more surprisingly, the percentage of students who reported making fun of someone else because of their race was almost exactly the same between white students and students of color.
What’s the point, then? Racism is not predictable. It knows no gender or color. It just is.
So what exactly can be done to combat this continuing problem? Many agree it will not be easy and some even commented that they don’t think it’s possible. Several responses suggested some form of education or integration. One 12-year-old student suggested laws against racism and fines or jail time for those who are racist. A high school student simply stated, “Stop it!” while another said we just need to “love each other.” If only it could be that simple.
In the end, there is no real answer to the problem of racism. The best suggestion anyone can follow, not only to remove racism from our society, but to remove any kind of hatred or negative acts would be, according to a West High School student, to follow the golden rule: “Treat everyone the way that you want to be treated.” Makes sense doesn’t it? Just think about it.