Black History Month is coming to an end and I need to ask: What is racism? What is a racist?

As a child growing up during the Civil Rights Era, I think I have a pretty good idea of it. In fact, I experienced it firsthand. I lived during a time when black people couldn’t live and shop, and could barely pass through certain areas of Chicago and the surrounding suburbs.

I still have horrific memories of Cicero, enough to be amazed when black people proudly say they live there. I can remember riding my bike through Bridgeport and having bottles thrown at me for the color of my skin. I can remember being called a “nigger” simply because I took a shortcut through the all-white Town and Gardens apartment complex on the Near North Side to get to my church. I experienced firsthand not getting an apartment because they took one look at me and determined that I didn’t deserve to live there. I can still recall the hurt look on my brother’s face when he got a postcard inviting all those named Ricardo to eat at Riccardo’s restaurant and then he was denied entrance because he was black.

I can still remember the joy of watching Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour and getting excited that somebody black was going to perform.

Yet I am hearing the R-word being bandied about by the under-40 crowd, and I really want to know what their experiences are that has them using the words so readily? Let someone non-black say something that isn’t popular and that person is called a racist. Host a Black History Month dinner and, no matter the menu, there are those who will call what is served “racist.” The Academy Awards didn’t nominate someone black for their role in a movie and his wife makes a video calling the Academy racist.

Yet two black men dress up in whiteface with blonde hair for a two hour movie and that is called creative expression and not reverse racism. Or nominate a black actor for playing a character 180 degrees different from what he normally plays, and that is racist, too. A budget crisis is looming and a school that isn’t producing graduates but is raking in millions in tax dollars can’t be called on the carpet without the “racist/racism” tag applied. Black neighborhoods are having little kids shot down because of morons shooting wildly, but if any non-black person says something about our criminal element, why they are racist, too!

In my opinion, those who holler the R-word at everything only causes it to be used by others to benefit themselves. For example, the city of Chicago has settled a lawsuit that will benefit 47 immigrants who were denied the opportunity to become Chicago police officers — reason being that CPD had a rule that immigrants needed to live in this country for the past 10 years (now reduced to five). That rule was in place to facilitate background checks of said individuals. Yet the R-word will give them $3.1 million while the 57 black men who were tortured by former CPD officer Jon Burge and who spent years in jail will only get to split $5.5 million.

Many may not have paid attention, but the Chinese community has protested this past weekend over the guilty verdict that Chinese-American cop Peter Liang received. Liang shot an unarmed black man who was walking down the darkened stairway in a public housing complex in New York City. The Chinese community now claims it was a racist system that sent Liang into crime-ridden projects and that when white cops do the same thing, they aren’t charged and are allowed to get away with murder.

In Florida, an Indian-American plainclothes cop, Nouman Raja, who was not wearing a badge, dressed in a baseball cap, jeans, and a T-shirt, while driving an unmarked 15-passenger van with tinted windows shoots and kills a black man, Corey Jones, the church drummer, who was sitting on the side of the road waiting on a tow truck. Although Raja was fired from his job, we have yet to hear that he has been charged with murder.

Again, what is racism? What is racist?

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