In elementary school, many of us were taught that although the United States had once been a very difficult place to live in if you weren’t a part of the white majority, today it is a land of freedom and equality for all—that we are, in effect, living in a post-racial society. Sure, we learned of the oppression that groups such as Native Americans and black slaves faced, and we learned of the social and political inequalities that leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. helped end, but we rarely explored a topic that is
just as important: how historic structural inequalities against minority groups continue to manifest themselves in today’s society.
With the many reports in the past year of the senseless murder of black men by police officers, it should now be clear to all that a so-called post-racial society never existed in this country. One of the most recent of these black victims was Walter Scott, who was shot eight times in the back by a white police officer he was fleeing from in South Carolina. (We would like to remind the public that shooting an unarmed, fleeing civilian is illegal, as it appears certain media outlets are in desperate need of this reminder.) Additionally, the Justice Department’s report on law enforcement in Ferguson, Missouri, which found that the police and courts in the city subjected black people to illegal and unduly harsh treatment, is further proof of the discrimination black people face.
However, it should be noted that this racial bias in the American police force is just one of the many racial issues this country faces. There also exist great racial economic injustices that occurred much more recently than some might think. Take, for example, the 2008 economic crisis, where banks such as Wells Fargo had lending divisions that specifically targeted people in predominantly black churches with toxic subprime mortgage loans. As a result of these lending schemes, black communities lost a disproportionate amount of their wealth as compared to other communities. Half of the properties in Baltimore whose owners had been granted loans by Wells Fargo between 2005 and 2008, for instance, were vacant in 2009. Tellingly, 71 percent of those properties were in predominantly black neighborhoods. Furthermore, as the Rollins photos on the cover of this issue subtly demonstrate, this college has played a role in the history of American discrimination. There are no black people in the photos because for decades, they were not allowed to attend the college. In short, the topic of racial inequality in American society is just as important today to discuss as ever.
For this reason, while there are many informative and insightful articles in this issue of The Independent, if you have time to read only one of them, it should be “The Complicity of Silence” written by Rollins College Professor Emeritus Jack Lane. The article makes a poignant commentary about our society by delving into the past. It shows that even President Hamilton Holt, who was a founding member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and inspired the name of this magazine, was on occasion silent in challenging the racist attitudes of his times. Professor Lane contends that through Holt’s silence, he was complicit in the violence against black people that writer and Rollins professor Corra Harris’s words encouraged. May we all learn from this bit of Rollins history and have the courage to challenge racist attitudes wherever we encounter them, even if it is not socially convenient to do so.
Mary Catherine Pflug
Creative Director & Publisher