Letter: Dismantling racism in America
The recent story on former Deputy Police Chief Todd Osmundson’s “change of heart” is quite revealing. He admitted that before May 30 th he disliked Colin Kaepernick for taking a knee during the national anthem to protest the way black people were treated by the police. He thought “most Native Americans were drunks” and says his police training taught him to believe that “Black Lives Matter was organized crime.” After his undercover experience he now says long-term “deep-seated” biases that area police officers have toward people of color need to change.
- Former deputy chief accuses Fargo police of 'built-in bias' against people of color
Former deputy police chief clarifies statements made in profile story Former Fargo Deputy Police Chief Todd Osmundson held an impromptu news conference from his home Tuesday.
Many of you reading this might believe that racism in our country is a thing of the past. After the election of a black president many of us hoped that was true. Then the alt-right movement showed up preaching white superiority and the need to preserve it. When the post-racism era didn’t materialize we were forced to remember that Obama’s election occurred less than 50 years after Jim Crow, segregation and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Racial prejudice has a long history, is deeply embedded in America ’s past and progress to end it has been slow. We all know enough history to remember that black history in America begins with over two centuries of slavery where black people were considered less than human with no rights at all.
The Civil War and the 13 th Amendment of 1865 abolished slavery and two more amendments gave blacks citizenship and the right to vote. For a short time blacks were allowed to make some progress and passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1875 actually barred racial discrimination in public accommodations, but the Supreme Court declared this act unconstitutional in 1883. The Supreme Court ruling in 1896 in Plessy vs. Ferguson that separate facilities for whites and blacks were constitutional encouraged the passage of discriminatory laws that wiped out the gains made by blacks during Reconstruction. “If one race be inferior to the other socially,” the justices explained, “the Constitution of the United cannot put them on the same plane.” After the 1890s, nearly all southern blacks lost their right to vote through measures such as poll taxes , literacy tests, and the white primary. In the south racial segregation prevailed from the 1890s to the 1950s, reinforced by limits on employment opportunities, poor schools, official coercion and occasional lynchings.
Roosevelt ’s New Deal and the adoption of Keynesian economics after World War II lead to the creation of the world’s first economy with a large middle class. But there was a deliberate exclusion of people of color from the economic programs that helped white Americans reach middle class status, build wealth and pass it on to successive generations. People of color were generally excluded from the GI Bill, which helped veterans pay for college and buy homes after World War II. Segregation and redlining by banks made it impossible for most black families to secure home mortgages. When I was in college in the 1960s, the civil rights movement finally led to laws prohibiting segregation and discrimination based on race.
But changing laws doesn’t change attitudes. However, you can learn from science that we share 99.9% of our DNA with each other and differences in appearance are merely superficial. If you are a religious person you know that God loves all people equally. Hopefully this round of protests will lead to a further dismantling of racism in America .