Lauren Rabaino

As I watched the fight ensue on the latest episode of MTV’s successful reality drama “The Real World,” I could sense it coming. It being a racial remark, spouted from Kim, a tall blonde with a southern twang, to Brianna, a black housemate who was offended by Kim’s actions earlier in the evening. “Let’s not get ghetto,” Kim shouted at an angry Brianna, escalating their minor, drunken confrontation to a full-fledged cat fight. Kim later rescinded her statement, telling millions of TV viewers from the “confessional” camera that she wasn’t trying to make a racist statement, and that Brianna had, at times, called herself ghetto. Oh, OK. That makes it so much better.

I realize the program wasn’t the most intellectually stimulating use of an hour, but it was telling of racism still present today. After watching it, I couldn’t help but feel sick over Kim and Brianna’s squabble. They made up in front of the cameras the following morning, but I questioned whether Kim even realized what she had done. I’m sure she is a good person and she wouldn’t want to harm Brianna, but her ignorance – in front of an international audience – validated the presence of racism in America today.

I am currently enrolled in Sociology 316: American Ethnic Minorities. In only four weeks, I have found this course to be one of the most interesting, stimulating and painful classes that I have ever taken. Painful because I am slowly coming to the realization of what an impact race and ethnicity have within our nation. I think, like most of us, I had always had an understanding of the deep divides defined through race that run through our culture, history, politics, etc. But I have to admit I was somewhat ignorant to its extent.

Ignorance. It is hard to think of anyone possessing it, but there is a beauty to recognizing it within yourself. By admitting we have ignorance, we can actively eliminate it in the first step toward creating unity in a country that has been divided for far too long.

Racism, discrimination and the disrespect of multiculturalism are as alive and well as we left them during the Civil Rights Movement. The difference is that in its modern form, racism is hidden. Like whiteout put on paper scarred with mistakes, the most outward forms of racism have been covered up for a few short decades. Now the whiteout is slowly fading, and we can see that the underlying foundational issues of racism are still alive and kicking.

It is closer to home than many would think. Within my sociology class, many of my peers have experienced racism on campus. Much of it is covert, even unconscious, but others have witnessed or been the victim of overt, hateful discrimination, all as students at a nationally recognized, modern university.

This overt racism, which we have seen less of in recent decades, is obviously still thriving. In a local example, the New Times recently published an interesting piece on the white supremacist movement on the Central Coast. Their article identified local racist organizations that meet in the region.

Beyond San Luis Obispo County, last week the three officers involved in the 2006 Sean Bell shooting were acquitted. Bell, a black man, was shot and killed using 50 bullets. In truth, two of the officers were black, but the one responsible for 31 of the bullets was white. Many are convinced that Bell’s death was racially motivated, bringing to light today’s heavy institutional racism. It seems so reminiscent of the Amaduo Diallo case just nine years ago, or even the Rodney King case that caused tremendous riots in Los Angeles in 1992. Other less-publicized events occur within the prison system, law enforcement, politics, education system, immigration policies and media every day. They serve as evidence of the inequality, ill respect, indifference and ignorance of our nation.

Radical changes must be made in order for the America we are taught about in our history classes to actually exist. I’m not sure how these changes can be made, or how long they will take, but I do know that the first step is eliminating ignorance. We owe it to ourselves and our future citizens to correct the ills and navigate to a more understanding, supportive culture, removing ignorance and creating a nation that doesn’t just tolerate multiculturalism, but celebrates it.

Taylor Moore is a journalism senior and a Mustang Daily current events columnist.

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