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The resignation of the Mayor of Los Alamitos, California was appropriate given the country's current climate and abundance of racial hatred that is permeating in the wake of the election of the first African-American president of the United States. The Mayor sent an e-mail to a black woman who is a volunteer and business owner in the community that read "No Easter egg hunt this year" and rows of watermelons depicted on the White House lawn. But it didn't stop there. He subsequently apologized to the woman and anyone that may have been offended by the joke, but he contended that he didn't realize this type of stigma and pain behind a watermelon.
Then there was the recent incident in Coral Gables, Florida at a Barnes & Noble store with an Obama Book Display featuring a volume titled Monkeys. The book was featured prominently in a window display devoted to Barack Obama and naturally elicited widespread criticism as well as a public apology from the U.S. bookseller. "We believe that a customer played a cruel joke and placed an inappropriate title in the front window of our store," said Barnes & Noble spokesperson, Mary Ellen Keating, in a public statement. "We are looking into it and are taking the steps necessary so that it does not happen again."
And then, of course, there was the New York Post cartoon that has been criticized for depicting President Barack Obama as a chimp, eliciting protests from my group, National Action Network, along with others, prompting me to lead a delegation to Washington D.C. last week to meet with Commissioners from the Federal Communications Commission and see if we can prevent Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. from being granted a waiver for one of his TV stations WWOR for monopolizing the news media in the New York market.
What all of the aforementioned incidents say about the state of race in our country contradicts the message that pundits and journalists sent out upon Obama's election that we are a "nation beyond race" and there is no longer a need for civil rights leaders. In fact, there is more of a need for civil rights activism because as evident from the increased racial issues across the country, racial sensitivity is at an all time low and as we sink deeper into a recession, anger and hatred will spread. Our new Attorney General Eric Holder couldn't have said it any better when he asserted that, "we are a nation of cowards on issues involving race."
Thus, I don't intend to give up my civil rights work anytime soon, and as long as my telephone at the National Action Network continues to be flooded with complaints from across the country, there will be a continued need for civil rights activism and leadership.