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Volume 72, Issue 101, Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Opinion

Society must let go of pain of past 

Reid Midgett
Opinion Columnist

The forces of prejudice and hatred are still running strong in this country, despite the efforts of those working for racial equality. 

Some still strive to hold on to the prejudiced roots of their past, using racism to bolster their own success.

Racial equality is entering a new era with the 2008 presidential race. Unlike past elections when minority candidates had no real chance to obtain victory, Barack Obama is in a close race with Sen. Hillary Clinton for the No. 1 spot as the Democratic candidate. 

Obama even has the backing of those in the opposing party. Condoleezza Rice has even shown her support for him. "I do think we've come a long way in overcoming stereotypes, role stereotypes about African-Americans. ... And it will not be long, I think, before it's no longer a barrier to being president of the United States," she recently said in regard to Obama's run for president.

The fight for civil rights and equality has always been plagued by the need to put a spotlight on the difference in skin color as a means to uncover the discriminatory culture of our society. Instead of focusing on the idea of racial equality, the fact that people have different shades of skin is constantly made obvious. 

Instead of stepping into the future and ignoring all differences that a people may contain, our society constantly delves into the past and submerges itself in prejudice, thinking the acknowledgment of hatred will deliver us to a new and equal society.

The Rev. Al Sharpton learned Sunday that his ancestors were slaves owned by the ancestors of Strom Thurmond, who died in 2003. 

Genealogists from www.Ancestry.com took it upon themselves to research Sharpton's family history, finding Julia Thurmond, a direct relative of Strom, owned his great-grandfather Coleman Sharpton.

And of course, this 200-year-old news is ripe for new controversy. 

Sharpton was appalled at such information and said, "I couldn't describe tahe emotions that I've had over the last two or three days thinking about this," as if he were shocked to find that a white man owned a black man as a slave in the pre-Civil War era. 

Yes, slavery was a horrible thing in the history of this country, but it was prevalent in all Southern states. Most wealthy white men owned slaves. Thurmond hails from a wealthy family from the South. 

It was unethical and inhumane to enslave thousands of people, but one cannot ignore the fact that it happened.

It seems that Sharpton is going to use this for his benefit. 

His ancestors' enslavement will give him more of a right to fight for the "equality of his people." 

But using one's family history of enslavement and pain as a political means is not much better than the act of enslavement itself.

It has become popular to use one's personal tragedies to propel one's own career and ideals. Sharpton lashed out at Thurmond and said he "was always the symbol of what we detested." 

Despite what his actions were in his life, Thurmond should be respected in death and not slandered against when he can do nothing to fight back. 

Politicians and those in power need to stop using their pain and tragedy to move forward in their careers. 

They need to use their resources and words to fight for what they believe, not focus on the distant past.

Midgett, a communication junior, 
can be reached via dccampus@mail.uh.edu

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