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Use the word 'racist' to understand history

I have been musing for days about Tony Dokoupil’s CBS This Morning segment where he went out on the streets of Stamford and talked to white people about racism. The most important takeaway for me was Dr. Ibram Kendi’s view that it’s important we begin to see the term “racist” as a useful descriptor of phenomena, rather than merely a pejorative to be hurled or dodged. Tossing that rock may be cathartic; escaping the whistling stone may be exhilarating; but ultimately rocks or labels are not effective tools against the challenges we face in defeating the crushing injustices, based on skin color and economic status, that permeate our American culture.

It’s easy to say “You (he, she, they) are racist" and dismiss the person.

It’s easy to say “I am not a racist” and dismiss the charge.

But then the rock falls to the ground and nothing real or lasting has been accomplished.

"Racist" is a term we can all use together to identify, examine, expose (and ultimately eliminate) those systems, policies, and practices that have been ingrained and institutionalized as discriminatory law and custom in America over her 400-year history. Tough task. The struggle of the 21st century, if America is to live up to its creed finally and retain (reclaim!) her status as a beacon of hope in the world.

The struggle is more difficult, in part, because not everyone believes that racism is systemic, believing instead that disparities (to the degree one admits their existence) occur for other reasons. We could all make lists of such reasons, many weak or bogus. Another challenge, and the two are related, is that so many Americans have been mis-educated or under-educated about the nation’s history.

I have seen change though, and I remain hopeful. Yet there is much left to do. Let us keep talking, learning, sharing, teaching, growing, and working together to eliminate inequity for good. 

Christine Hammond, a resident of Waterford, was a candidate for Board of Education in 2019.



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