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Race card deals society losing hand

It is undeniable that racism still exists within society; however, this idea is often used to further political and special interest agendas. Last week, The Daily Targum ran an editorial noting that people were quick to pull the race card on Rep. Joe Wilson. The Republican South Carolina congressman drew criticism for his remark during President Barack Obama's speech in which he shouted, "You lie!" to the president. The editorial board suggested that race was not the issue in this case. Wilson's outburst could have truly been about health care and not the color of the president's skin. Despite the fact that the man idolized Strom Thurmond, I agree that his remarks were a frustrated response to Obama's policies. Unfortunately, this was not a rare circumstance where racism was used to defend or promote an agenda. Race is often utilized in situations that are mutually exclusive. It is thrown around so frequently that it undermines the very efforts made by the civil rights movement. This creates a system within society that is afraid to engage and confront the issues of race. As a result, people are left ignorant and uninformed about the various cultures that help make this country great.

Racism is used to advance a particular cause, even though it may have little connection to the issue at hand. Influential people, groups and media sources are quick to label protests or speeches as being racist. I agree that there are demonstrations and individuals that are blatantly discriminatory. However, various nonracial situations are given these connotations only when race is introduced as an argument. For instance, the "Rachel Maddow Show" ran a segment covering Obama's visit to a Phoenix town hall meeting. They displayed multiple protesters carrying guns in front of the building. In one scene, they showed a certain individual who was carrying a semi-automatic on his shoulder and a pistol on his hip. After, three commentators suggested that this particular incident had racial overtones. They downplayed the fact that protesters were advocating second amendment rights, and, instead, argued that it was due to a black man being in the White House. It was later discovered that the man carrying the semi-automatic was actually a black person. While MSNBC should have zero credibility, this kind of information reaches the masses. This influence is blindly accepted by society, as people believe it to be the truth. Despite perpetuating false notions, leading figures and the media still use every opportunity to exploit race.

The frequent use of the race card creates artificial discussions about this sensitive issue. People will go out of their way to create a national uproar over isolated incidents. Sometimes race is actually a factor, other times it is not. However, instead of allowing the two parties involved to settle their differences, these individuals will interfere with the process. As a result, everyone gets involved until national exposure erupts in their face. The arrest of Henry Louis Gates can be a prime example. The professor had a misunderstanding with a police officer, and it transformed into a heated debate about race relations in America. These discussions are not genuine attempts to engage race. They are merely manufactured debates to further promote one's own self-interest. This is not a Democrat-Republican issue, as race is exploited on both the left and the right. Ann Coulter makes just as much money denouncing the race card as Al Sharpton does encouraging it. These people are only perpetuating the racial divide in America. They do not foster true discussion. Subsequently, these tactics prevent real dialogue from actually occurring.

Because these factions gear toward public relations and exposure, society fears the repercussions of confronting race. Institutions such as public schools are less inclined to talk about the issue because it is easier to avoid the negative publicity. As an administrator or teacher, why chance another Gates-like incident? Students are then left without truly understanding race relations in America. In addition, the superficial discussions found in the media influence the way institutions deal with diversity. A school hangs up a few dragons on Chinese New Year and calls itself a harmonious melting pot. Or, University President Richard L. McCormick will read a few statistics on demographics and stamp the University as "committed to diversity." This is the extent of cultural training within every American citizen. People are content to merely know about race and not actually understand it. Hostility, animosity and self-segregation prevail because true engagement remains absent within society.

This article is not to undermine the actual racism that does exist. There are many racial injustices that usually go unnoticed, such as demographic and economic disparity. However, my intent is to show that the idea of race goes both ways. It is used to advance hidden motives, even if it means preserving the racial divide. The actions of these groups and individuals disrespect the enormous strides made over the years. More importantly, they discourage any attempt to bring unity to this country.

Brian Canares is a Rutgers College Senior majoring in History and Political Science. He is also in the GSE Social Studies program and seeks to make a career in urban education. He welcomes feedback at bcanares@eden.rutgers.edu.

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