Past is past, but we can change future

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 15, 2015

It’s a word we’ve heard all our lives and it’s one that has continued to garner media attention more and more over the last few years.

Racism. You know, the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

It’s a word synonymous with the South, but it exists everywhere. It’s a black eye that never seems to go away.

It’s a constant one step forward; two steps back kind of evolution.

Earlier this year, we were celebrating the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. Thousands of Americans gathered at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma to honor the sacrifices and bravery of foot soldiers whose blood was shed there for the right to vote.

Leaders recognized how far America has come, but that there are challenges that lie ahead.

A little more than a month after the celebration, bloodshed was all over the media – again.

This time in Baltimore, after a 25-year-old black resident sustained injuries following an arrest. Freddie Gray died a week after being arrested. Riots escalated in front of a police station. His death was ruled a homicide in May and charges were filed against the six officers involved in the incident.

In June, a lone white gunman shot and killed nine black churchgoers at the Emanuel AME church in Charleston, S.C.

At the state’s Capitol, the American flag was flown at half-staff, while the flag of the Confederacy was at full-staff. That sparked controversy in the Deep South, including Alabama, when Gov. Robert Bentley ordered all flags of the Confederacy on the Capitol grounds taken down.

Many argued that the flag stands for Southern heritage; others maintained the flag was used a symbol of hate during desegregation and now.

This week, a New York Times opinion piece asked the question, “Why are our parks so white?” Apparently only 20 percent of the National Park Service’s employees are minorities.

Racism is a touchy subject. Everyone has an opinion on it, but it seems the majority doesn’t want to put in the hard work necessary to overcome it.

This applies to people on all sides of the fence, and that could be considered a slap in the face to those who have lost their lives for equality.

Taking down a flag or hiring more minorities at national parks won’t stop racism, though, I believe both are steps toward progress. It’s important to acknowledge that symbols mean something. It’s also important to remember that diversity is what America is all about.

Racism is in the hearts of people and it’s something that’s taught. No one is born a racist.

We’ve all heard adults use the excuse, “Well, that’s how my daddy and granddaddy taught me,” or “That’s how I grew up.”

While that may be true, that’s a cowardly approach to justifying your actions.

While racism possibly will not ever go away completely, we each have a duty to teach our children they are not superior to another person because of the color of their skin; that true friends come in all shapes, sizes and skin colors; that it is truly about character.

None of us can go back and change the past, but we do have control over our own actions today and in the future, and what we pass along to our descendants.