Why race still matters

Anthony Berry

One of the most profound moments in the book comes when he gives his daughter, Scout, some simple advice on how to deal with people who are different from her. He says, “If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb in his skin and walk around in it.”  I think this advice is needed in our current debates concerning race in the public sphere.

In the past year alone, there have been numerous incidents both on this campus and nationally that have reignited America’s conversations about race. As a young African-American male from the Deep South, some of these incidents have deeply troubled me. In the year 2014, when the United States has twice elected an African-American president, race remains the topic of many very heated discussions. It’s an unsettling issue, regardless of the amount of melanin your skin happens to possess.

Even though it is tough, race and its role in our daily lives and society is a conversation that we as a country need to have. From its very beginning, one of the greatest gifts of this nation has been its mult-iethnic and multicultural population. People of every skin color from every corner of the globe call the United States home. This great gift has been tested by things like the horror of slavery, the expulsion of Native Americans from their lands, the imprisonment of Japanese-Americans during World War II and the discrimination of Eastern European immigrants during the 19th century.

Yet succeeding generations fought to right the wrongs that their predecessors created. Now it is our turn. While race relations have undoubtedly improved over the latter half of the last century, there is still much progress to be made. 

We need to talk about Ferguson. We need to talk about segregated Greek systems.  We need to talk about immigration. But communication has to be a dialogue, not a monologue. Otherwise, our efforts to cultivate a more ethnically harmonious nation will instead result in increased discord and hostility. We should not want to be a “colorblind” or “post-racial” society.

Anthony Berry is a sophomore majoring in finance.