Earlier this spring, Stephen Colbert hosted SNCC founder and Chairman Emeritus of the NAACP, Julian Bond, on his show. (See video below) Colbert asked Bond to speak on the show in reaction to Justice Scalia’s comments on the voting rights act saying that it was not a necessity but a racial entitlement. While Colbert’s opinion in this video is clearly satiric, I think that the video raises an important point when discussing racism and race relations under the current presidential administration. Colbert, clearly playing the devil’s advocate in this video, makes the comment “It was so long ago sir, can we even remember who was denying voting rights to whom?”
I believe that Colbert made this hyperbolic statement obviously primarily as a joke and to appeal to the audience, but also to underline and call attention to the attitude towards racism in society today. Many believe that we are past the point of racism after the civil rights movement. There is no point for further legislation protecting minorities because we are in a modern age of race-relations. While it is ludicrous to question legislation such as the voting rights act and other pieces of civil rights era legislation, an interesting point concerning Affirmative Action was brought to my attention in a recent conversation. I participated in a program called Common Ground that was intended to be an open discussion on race relations. There was a young black woman in my group who said that she was against the practice of affirmative action because she felt it undermined the true achievements of those who would be hired or accepted on the basis of Affirmative Action. She said that she wanted to be accepted at a job or a school because she has earned it, not because the law says that institutions should be accepting to other races and demographics. There was an older black woman, who lived through the Civil Rights Movement in Memphis, also in my group who said that she thinks affirmative action is necessary.
This topic made me think back to the first day of our class when we discussed why we should study the Civil Rights Movement and one important conclusion we came to was that it was a movement that didn’t just end in 1968, but something that is still very prevalent in our politics and lives today. How do you all think that our society today internalizes racism? Do you think people see it as a non-issue, as Colbert sarcastically insinuates?