2008 Presidential Election, Race and Racism
Professor Vernellia Randall
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Randy Blaser
1/24/08 Arlington Heights Post (IL)

Over the last few weeks, race has been injected into the campaign for president, but in the worst way possible.

On the surface, the argument over race between the leading candidates, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, focused on the question of who likes Martin Luther King Jr. more.

How silly and superficial.

Talking about race this way is just a shame because there are still very important racial issues facing this country. They've been avoided far too long and the case isn't closed.

Today, many African-Americans are integrating majority white communities. That's great.

Yet many African-Americans live in all black communities that are poor, offer few job opportunities to residents and are ridden with crime. The young people in these communities attend struggling schools. Families work hard to stay together. Seniors have fewer services available to them than seniors in more affluent suburbs. All are prey of the gangs.

Why do we tolerate this? What will Obama or Clinton do about it?

Many African-American children have integrated white schools and attend some of the best suburban public schools in the Chicago area. That's good.

Yet there are persistent achievement gaps between black and white students. Black students have lagged behind white students for years and some of our best educators in suburban schools dedicated to integration haven't been able to fix it.

I know, because I've worked in some of those communities and seen good teachers and caring parents struggle to give all kids a good education. There have been some success stories, but overall the achievement gap persists and persists.

How can we fix this, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama?

So many black children attend some of the worst schools in the Chicago area, doomed to fail in a failing education system. We look at the test results and call them failing schools. But who really failed? Aren't we the ones who have failed these children?

We see the problems, yet we just accept them. We've either run out of ideas or just give up.

We say we are fighting a war on terror, but what about the terror occurring in some of our city and suburban neighborhoods that are racked by poverty and run by gangs? How many little girls have to be gunned down in the streets before we decide to do something to stop it?

I don't know the answers to these tough questions, but I know the answer isn't who respects Dr. King more, Clinton or Obama. If we really respected King, would we stand for the racial inequality and injustice that exists in our midst?


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