Old-School Bigotry? We Need to Fight 21st-Century Racism

Your Take: The blatant prejudices of Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling are easy to handle. Addressing the racism that truly hurts African Americans requires a new approach.

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The battle against their kind of racism has already been fought and won. That’s why Sean Hannity and Rand Paul abandoned Bundy the instant he began to opine about “the Negro,” why sponsors like State Farm and CarMax and Kia raced to distance themselves from the Clippers and why NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s decision to ban Sterling for life has been so roundly applauded. 

By contrast, the battle against 21st-century racism has not really begun. How should black Americans push back against a financial-services industry so powerful that it has incurred hardly any penalty for bringing the entire economy to its knees? How can we influence drug manufacturers who earn massive profits by pricing lifesaving medications far above the ability of ordinary people to pay for them? How can we wield political power in an era when the Supreme Court is more committed to protecting the power of dollars than the power of voters?

Nothing more starkly illustrates how difficult it will be to fight the battle against 21st-century racism than the fact that the Los Angeles branch of the NAACP was on the precipice of giving Donald Sterling a second lifetime achievement award when the recording of his comments was made public. 

The NAACP was a courageous warrior in the battles against 19th- and 20th-century racism. But like the other mainline civil rights organizations, it is woefully unprepared for today’s fight. The fight against 21st-century racism will require different tactics, and different organizational structures, than the battles of earlier centuries.

Harold J. Logan, publisher of Third Set Perspectives, is a businessman, writer and social entrepreneur based in Atlanta and Miami.

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