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The Daily Tar Heel

150 years later, race con?icts remain

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War.

With North Carolina commemorating its secession decision on Saturday, I find myself wondering if reality and the reenactment differ in any way besides the style of dress.

It was, of course, not just the war itself but the aftermath that defined the next century and a half of American history. The topic of race relations since the end of Reconstruction should be well known to the rest of you all and if they’re not, well, I suggest a quick return to high school history and an even quicker kick in the rear for ignorance.

We remember this period every year during Black History Month and through the required classes we take. The recent anniversary, however, has led me to question whether this is truly an effective way to approach race relations in this country.

Some seem to believe that the struggle towards racial harmony reached its conclusion somewhere between Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous speech and the election of President Obama.

While the violence has largely ended and legal forms of racial discrimination have been swept away, there are still signs that all is not as it should be.

No one group is to blame, but one can see examples of the troubled state of race relations across the country and even here on campus. At our University, the different races have arranged themselves into set and separate activities, bars, Greek institutions and even apartment complexes.

The number of times per day I hear a character flaw blamed solely on race is shocking.

The troubled state of racial affairs in this country is not a secret. However, despite nearly universal recognition of the unresolved issues which still exist, it appears many are too scared to talk about them in any serious manner.

Instead, Americans allow the issue to simmer under the surface until a black man running for the presidency or a state’s attempts at buckling down on Hispanic immigration brings out hidden racist attitudes. In a country where we pretend not to see race, it seems that, in fact, it is all we can see.

The 150th anniversary of the Civil War should not simply make you casually remember how painful memorizing all of those battles was before returning to your carefree summer. It is a reminder that many of the same underlying issues are still relevant today.

So while you’re droning away at your unpaid internship, soaking in the sun at the Chapel Ridge pool, or studying abroad in a far away land, give some thought to your own hidden prejudices. Admitting their existence is the first step, so they say, and you might find that the issues surrounding the Civil War live on in more than just your history books.

Ellen Locke is an editorial board member for The Daily Tar Heel. She is a senior political science and global studies major from Raleigh, NC. Contact her at elocke@email.unc.edu.

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