Steps to combat racism in American society should be welcomed, not scoffed at

June 24, 2020 | G. Michael Dobbs

There may be some people who scoff at the declaration of racism as a public health crisis – just look at social media – but it is.

It permeates all elements of American culture.

I shared a meme on my Facebook page encouraging people to be customers at black-owned businesses in Springfield. Immediately, I received a response that all local businesses should get this kind of attention.

The person who posted clearly didn’t get it and despite arguments posed by others, he dug his heels into his position.

Do we really have to explain to people why supporting minority-owned businesses in the city is a good thing? Apparently so and apparently some people just won’t accept it.

The events of this year should underscore the incredible divide in this nation based on race. The incidences of police violence involving people of color; the continuing economic disparities; and the on-going debate about culture are three areas in which racism is evident.

Springfield, Chicopee and Holyoke declared racism a public health emergency. This is something that needs to be said.  It’s a first step for other policies and actions.

What fascinates – and horrifies me – is the pushback, especially in the realm of popular culture.

NASCAR declared the Confederate flag will no longer be allowed on race cars. One prominent driver quit.

That driver and others who display that flag do not want to accept it stands for the preservation of slavery, because the Confederacy was formed to maintain its economic system, which depended on the free labor of slaves. The argument is made that it represents “heritage” – a heritage of murderous oppression.

I’m also heartened by the decision by the Marines Corps to ban images of the Confederate flag. It’s about time.

My guess is most of the people who display that flag have no real connection to anyone who fought for the South. They have no “heritage.”

I’ve seen people bemoan the announcement that Quaker Oats will completely change its Aunt Jemima brand. My question is, how come this brand has been allowed to exist this long? I don’t care if the company “modernized” the logo years ago. It’s still offensive.

The logo is an image of  black woman was based on a racist stereotype – pure and simple.

People have wailed about this decision on social media as if a name change is going to change their beloved product.

MARS, the company that makes Uncle Ben’s rice products, is also changing that brand’s image, once again based on a stereotype.

MARS released the following statement, “As a global brand, we know we have a responsibility to take a stand in helping to put an end to racial bias and injustices. As we listen to the voices of consumers, especially in the Black community, and to the voices of our Associates worldwide, we recognize that now is the right time to evolve the Uncle Ben’s brand, including its visual brand identity, which we will do.  We don’t yet know what the exact changes or timing will be, but we are evaluating all possibilities. Racism has no place in society. We stand in solidarity with the Black community, our associates and our partners in the fight for social justice. We know to make the systemic change needed, it’s going to take a collective effort from all of us – individuals, communities and organizations of all sizes around the world.”

Conagra Brands, which makes Mrs. Butterworth syrup, is also changing that product’s image.

The announcement the Pentagon would like to rename military bases named after Confederate military figures is also a step in the right direction. In my mind bases should be named after people who made a positive difference in the defense of this nation. No Confederate army officer did that.

Critics have been talking about how these moves and others “erase” history. They do not. These examples I’ve cited here show that history has been ignored and altered by their use. The move now is to restore history.

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Janet Sikes

Janet Sikes

wrote on 6/26/2020 at 10:31:27 AM

Thank you, tthank you, thank you for being a voice of reason in a culture blind to the suffering of our black family.  We need more voices like ylours to speak up and out to help our nation realize that often repeated phrase so ubiquitoous during the pandemic, "we're all in this together!"