Racism still alive

Though the recent election of Barack Obama as our next president marks a significant milestone for the advancement of underrepresented groups in politics, the resonance of racism still persists in the United States and is quickly and covertly gaining ground among younger generations. ItâÄôs ironic that for many, the election of Obama symbolized the end âÄî or, at least, the curbing âÄî of racism in the United States, when in reality, that historic moment also gave way to a deluge of racially-polarized hate-mongering toward our first black President, and toward many other groups who have been deemed un-American, terrorists or threats to our national identity. Though racial issues were relatively downplayed during this yearâÄôs political campaigning, thereâÄôs no doubt that racism, from large-scale white supremacy moments to novice local groups, have gained significant momentum in the last few months, especially with young voters in the United States. Take the case of Daniel Cowart and Paul Schlesselman, two neo-Nazi skinheads who were arrested last month, accused of plotting to murder more than 88 African Americans and behead 14. Ultimately, their planned killing spree would end with the assassination of Barack Obama. Such a threat is obviously frightening, but whatâÄôs more unnerving than their violent and bizarre plot (they allegedly planned to wear white tuxedos and top hats during the massacres) is their ages. Cowart and Schlesselman are only 20 and 18 years old. Though the election of Obama served as a rallying cry for multigenerational white supremacists around the United States, the use of the Internet has significantly aided prominent leaders, such as David Duke, in connecting potential members âÄîCowart and Schlesselman âÄî with others in the movement. Though assassination plots and massive killing sprees may seem far off from our âÄúMinnesota niceâÄù mantra, racism and full-blown hate crimes are more than common in our state. In Minnesota, there are at least seven operating hate groups in Minnesota, including Neo-Nazis, Radical Traditionalists, White Nationalists and Christian Identity groups, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. In the last year, there were a dozen reported racially motivated crimes in Minnesota, including arson, vandalism, threat and intimidation. From noose hanging to swastika graffiti and derogatory slurs, Minnesota is by no means immune from hate. Racism even made local headlines last week when a University of Minnesota student claimed she overheard âÄúthree Somali malesâÄù plotting to bomb two buildings on campus. Areas were evacuated and classes were disrupted for more than one hour. She later admitted she had lied, choosing to make false and racist claims in order to get out of attending class. Though the connection between false threats, assaults and assassination may seem far-fetched, the basis in each of the incidents lies in racism. What has changed from our grandparentsâÄô and parentsâÄô generation is that racism âÄîsuperficially, at least âÄî no longer manifests itself in public shaming, segregation and Jim Crow laws. Instead, it has morphed into less direct âÄî but no less serious âÄî manifestations. Whether itâÄôs a false bomb threat, graffiti on a bathroom stall or racist photos on the web, itâÄôs all the same. Our generation is redefining racism through the ambiguity, secrecy and instantaneous nature of our world. It may be easier to deem racism as another generationâÄôs problem, but considering the recent events on our campus, in our city and inside our state, itâÄôs obvious that it still holds firm in U.S. society. But it doesnâÄôt have to be this way. Our generation of young voters has the incredible ability to change our world âÄî if, of course, we choose to. But we choose to accept racism âÄî however secretive, diluted or anonymous âÄî we undervalue our generationâÄôs potential to continue to create a better society and we continue to mimic the injustices of our past. Kathryn Nelson welcomes comments at [email protected]