Guest Spot: Racism was never invisible, just ignored

A world devoid of racism would be utopian. Unfortunately, its presence is alive and well.

Racism is prevalent throughout this country and Riverhead is not exempt. The recent publicized rant filled with appalling and repugnant racist’s remarks made this evident (“Shocked and disgusted,” Oct. 19).

What was mind-boggling was the fact that so many people outside the African-American community in Riverhead were either shocked or did not believe that racism was an issue in Riverhead. If you are not the recipient or the victim of racism, I guess it would be understandable for you not to believe in something that you have not experienced.

It awards you the privilege of not having to know the truth that lies within being affected by racism; you can be oblivious to the realities of people of color and suffer no consequences. However, people of color have to be aware of the realities of white America because those realities are what influence the views and perceptions of our status — whether in housing, employment, justice, health and all of the staples that are vital in our daily lives.

What is sad is to be in denial. It may not be etched in stone but it’s not like it is not understood. This privilege that one inherits only on the basis of the color of their skin is a form of understanding in itself. Although tacit in nature, it is still a presence of acceptance and understanding that one possess whether they want to acknowledge it or not.

So what can be done? Resolution starts with acknowledgment. It has to be acknowledged that racism does exist. It’s not invisible and much too paramount to ignore. It must be acknowledged that it is a collective issue and that it will take a community collectively on both sides to journey toward a peaceful outcome. Disagreement on the perception of racism will always exist; however, to at least address it is a harmonious start.

There has to be the willingness to open dialogue, to let down your guard and volunteer to at least listen. The African-American community is not seeking sympathies, just a common ground where our concerns can be heard free of the unmerited stereotypes that we are a people always complaining, and playing the race card. As you look over the historical sufferings and systematic hurdles employed upon us, technically we should be complaining every day, yet it is not in us to complain. It’s reflected in our spirit, as in the words of our gospel song: “I’ve had some good days, I’ve had some hills to climb, I’ve had some weary days and some sleepless nights, but when I look around and I think things over, all of my good days outweigh my bad days … I won’t complain.”

All we could do was to hold fast to prayer and the belief that things would get better. So do not perceive our plight to bring the issue of racism to the forefront as an unfounded complaint.

A host of residents in Riverhead after the racist rant issue stated that there were no telltale signs of racism in the present or the past. The African-American community begs to differ. Denying racism is a form of racism in itself and to refuse to confront the conversation on race is detrimental to all sides. To deflect by offering alibis and excuses like alcohol abuse and mental instabilities as the cause for the racist rant is unacceptable. Especially when the act was not the first of its kind.

When you deflect, when you offer up excuses, you become an enabler and a sympathizer. You show sympathy toward the initiator and ignore the victims, in this case the African-American community. Asking the African-American community to sympathize and just “… turn the other cheek” has become such a practice that it’s expected and in the words of my father at the Anti-Bias Committee Meeting: “We are running out of cheeks.”

Mr. Hobson is a former Riverhead resident and a graduate of Riverhead High School.