Americans! Get Your Head Out of the Sand! Rodney King. James Byrd Jr. Amadou Diallo. What do they have in common? These names serve notice that the much-reported death of racism is greatly exaggerated. For those who do not know Rodney King was the victim of a vicious beating by the Los Angeles Police video-taped by an amateur photographer. James Byrd Jr. died after white supremacist dragged him with a chain behind their pickup truck in Jasper, TX. Finally, New York City Police, who fired at him 41 times hitting him 19, shot Amadou Diallo to death. Diallo was unarmed. The list of hates crimes and racial discrimination in this country fills millions of pages in libraries through out the country. It is not a guess, it is fact: racial discrimination is in the foundation of this country and has been since its inception. There are many, black and white, who do not believe it. To update those with sand in their ears and eyes the previous is only an abbreviated list of some of the most recent cases of discrimination and hate crimes. I listed only the most spectacular discrimination and hate crimes directed at blacks to leave room for writing. Still, it seems that only when a "Rodney King" incident happens does America see anything at all. Only when border patrol officers beat Mexican laborers does America open its eyes. Only when a man is dragged to death in Jasper, Texas does America see anything of the darker America. It is a selective "moral" blindness that is as purposeful as it is malicious, because to acknowledge that minorities are systematically and regularly mistreated in the United States of America would mean acknowledging a basic moral weakness and lack of character in America. With the "browning" of America, it seems there would be an interest in learning more about the people who are about to be in the majority. Instead, America has stuck its head in the sand while the subtle racism of conservative Republicans, blacks in denial and the blustering religious right pretend at being concerned. These groups have done almost anything and everything in their power to ignore the crisis of color that is happening in this country. With all the problems in the world today there are none that are any more pressing than the problems we have in this country regarding racial issues. It is very apparent to me and others that Americans, particularly the new ultra-conservative ilk, have stuck their collectives heads deeper into the sand much like the old South, and have refused to see the problem in their own back yards in hopes that it will go away. It is real and will not go away. Yet, the debate over the constancy of racial disadvantage continues when its appearance is clear. And, the need to rectify it is not only clear but also morally imperative. It is clear that people of darker skin pigmentation suffer disproportionately from the effects of prejudice and American racism. The attitudes of Americans in this country toward racial injustice are hardly amazing considering the mass amnesia of the South following the Civil War when it basically was in a state of denial regarding racial injustice and its role in that injustice. This social and moral amnesia has returned. A poll at a recent Republican convention in San Diego revealed that 60 percent of the delegates believed that equal opportunity was now a fact and that there was no longer a need for civil rights laws barring racial discrimination in employment, education and housing. An interesting side bar is that among that group a significant portion of black Republican delegates agreed with that attitude. Sticking heads in the sand was disastrous for the South after the Civil War. In its state of denial, the Civil Rights movement came as a shock and a surprise it was ill prepared to handle. When the South did face the problem, they succeeded in helping make the point by demonstrating their venomous racism, hatred and violent character for the television cameras of the world by attacking non-violent black protest marchers. Prejudice based on skin color has remained persistent and virulent in the United States. The effects of centuries of slavery and racist tyranny has created permanent problems for people of color. And, even with the relative success of the civil rights movement these problems still exist. It is past time for Americans to check their "Christian" barometers to measure what is truly going on in this country, although I thoroughly believe that most will find it inconvenient to do so, because they know it will reflect their own moral weakness and nonchalance. This is a self-described Christian country and under the guidelines of Christianity, it is the right thing to do. However, being the right thing to do does not mean it will be the easy thing to do and judging from past behavior the only way it will be done is by force or coercion, seeing that "good will" has not made it happen. Heads stuck in the sand do not move easily. Evidence is difficult to see with our eyes shut. Still, for those who need incidents other than the three mentioned previously. Here are some random samples of racial injustice: Printing giant R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co. was recently sued for racial discrimination. The suit alleged that a black worker was forced to sit through showings of a movie depicting lynchings in the Old South. An Alabama rental management company agreed to pay a record $1.8 million to settle a Justice Department suit alleging racial discrimination in the rental of housing. A fifteen-month study on race initiated by President Clinton found continuing discrimination in the housing market and marked disparities in the number of minorities arrested for crimes compared with white Americans. Board members indicated that the United States still has a long way to go to eliminate racial discrimination, income inequality and stereotypes. Discrimination at the highest levels was charged in a suit by a black U.S. Marshall. In addition to lack of promotions, recruitment and stiffer disciplinary penalties than whites the suit alleged that white U.S. marshals joked about killing Black leaders, including the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and New York activist Rev. Al Sharpton. Recently, black agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms won a multi-million dollar racial discrimination lawsuit against the ATF. Similar suits have been settled with black FBI and Secret Service agents. At this point, the gist of the situation should be clear. Discrimination and racism are hard at work in the United States. Other groups under investigation or involved in similar law suits include Freddie Mac, the U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs which recently settled a racial discrimination case brought by former employee James Curry, Boeing Co. and, of course, Texaco. Still Americans seem surprised when this happens. Most blacks deal with on a daily basis and just as most blacks deal with it, it is also apparent that either America can't see, because of having its collect head stuck in the sand, or doesn't care. None of this is news to blacks. Since blacks started to move into main stream society there has been a clear and persistent, if subtle, bias against people of color as they moved into a world that said in all of its documentation that "all are welcome" but conveniently hid the fine print that said "blacks need not apply." Clearly these attitudes, not so quietly endorsed by the Reagan Administration and furthered by the Bush Administration reflect a change in the rules and a renewed bias that helps explain why blacks are consistently passed over for promotion or advancement, despite excellent work records. Bias, racial prejudice and outright racism exists even though it is less obvious than it was 40 years ago, it continues to deter deserving people of color from advancement. Some how for every black who gains a job it is viewed by white America as a white loosing a job. What is correct and more to the point is that white America has access to jobs without facing the battery of obstacles and demeanment faced by people of color. There are no jobs that belong to anyone except the qualified. If there is one negative that Affirmative Action impressed upon white America or that politicians, largely Republican conservatives, chose to make an issue was that less than qualified blacks were being put into jobs that were taking jobs away from white people. However, in the black community it has long been understood that to get half as much as any white person one had to be twice as good and even though this is a stereotype from the black community, studies have shown that it is not far off the mark. Generally, blacks in corporate America receive less pay than their white peers, yet have more qualifications, and better work records. It is not new. However, things have changed with the partial success of the success of the civil rights movement even though the Reagan and Bush administrations did everything possible they could to dilute the force of legislation enacted during that time and were highly successful, enough blacks broke into the main stream to make a difference, but that is also a problem. Before the civil rights movement, the black community was largely monolithic. We all suffered the same plight of inferior education, housing, facilities and opportunities. To ensure clarity, it is necessary to point out that the civil Rights movement was not about integration, per se, even though to make things equal integration would be a necessary part of the whole. The movement was about blacks having and equal opportunity for attending the universities which their taxes helped support, going to the best schools they could attend, living where they could afford to live and, generally, doing what they wanted to do in this country and that includes going into a restaurant and sitting down next to a white women and eating lunch without be bothered or harassed. It was never about integrating with white society. White society has long flattered themselves believing that moving into white society would be a great comeuppance for blacks when the opposite perception was more honest. Most blacks just wanted to have a chance to do what every other American took for granted and that was to be totally free. Unfortunately, there are blacks who also have their heads in the sand. They have made it and do not seem to see what is so clear to everyone else. We cannot afford this approach to living. Life demands that we look it in the eye and deal with it as it is, not as we wish it would be. If it takes a little dusting of sand from our eyes and ears to make sure that we turn no deaf ear to the needs of all of our people then dust we should. Whenever there is mistreatment of people for whatever reason, sticking our heads in the sand will never solve the problem. In fact, it exacerbates the problem. So, it is far past time for all of us to take our heads out of the sand and stop letting life kick us in the butt when all we have to do is look and listen.