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Hand of Racism at Ballot Box

September 07, 1986

George Skelton and Bill Boyarsky's article (Aug. 24), "Racism Has a Hand at the Ballot Box," brings to the forefront what many have known, but few would admit. It is clear that the complexion of California, particularly here in Los Angeles, is transforming. However, our attitudes toward this transformation have not.

Racism at the ballot box is one isolated facet of our everyday life. Unfortunately, prejudice, bigotry and intolerance manifests itself in all facets of everyday life--education, employment, entertainment, housing and religion, to name a few.

The article states that "significant prejudice remains, and it can have a substantial even decisive impact on statewide voting." Further, that the politics of prejudice in this country is not a new phenomena and has been visited upon all ethnic groups at one time or another. However, at a time when we can put a black, Latino or Asian in space, we somehow are unable to put a black, Latino or Asian in the Governor's Mansion. This would suggest that racism is alive and well in California.

This is not an argument that we should elect a person to office solely on race, but it is not as if blacks, Latinos or Asians were not equally qualified as their white counterparts. As one commentator suggested "People with latent racial prejudices will always find an excuse to vote against someone."

Although racism today is less overt and pronounced, "symbolic" racism is no improvement. The effects of "symbolic" racism are just as damaging and evil. It continues to stir hostility toward racial and ethnic groups and is "politically, the most potent vehicle for (perpetuating) racial prejudice."

There is no one single cause, nor would it be fair to single out any one group or groups as the problem. For the most part, it is all of us. It would be foolish to think that we can undo, in a few years, what several decades of racism and ignorance have fostered. We cannot, overnight or even in one generation, eradicate people's deep-seated fears and prejudices. But whites, blacks, Latinos and Asians must begin to share the responsibility of creating a new California where people put aside their prejudices and differences to live and work together. To be more tolerant of each other and try to work toward common goals as opposed to working against each other.

Our government and its elected leaders are a direct reflection of us. They represent what we feel and think. Therefore, any changes in attitude or policy begins with each one of us.


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