In 2005, after going through various civil rights issues at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, I was invited to a forum on the radio to discuss racism in America. After the broadcast, this interview was done by the University’s student newspaper, the Kaleidoscope. My views then are almost the same as they are now. Read below.
NAACP chapter president discusses 21st century racism
Kaleidoscope Spectrum Editor
Brian McCoy, President of the UAB chapter of the NAACP, recently took part in a panel discussion on the 95.7 Jamz talk show, Taking It to the Streets. Jude Eversley, Chair of the Press and Publicity Committee for the chapter, was also a member of the panel.
The topic for the July 3 broadcast was “Racism: Past, Present, and Future.” Panelists discussed both the progress that African Americans have made as a consequence of the Civil Rights Movement and the challenges that members of the black community face today.
Education was one of the first topics discussed by panel members. When Birmingham schools were first integrated in the 1950s, few foresaw that white citizens would soon move to the suburbs and form their own schools. As a result of this segregation-by-choice, the majority of black students were left in the Birmingham City School system. Many of these schools are today said to be struggling and in financial straights. Some blame integration and the consequential re-segregation for these problems.
One of the talk show’s call-in listeners said that integration was not to blame but rather the steady decline of the quality of education that can be found in Birmingham City schools. “Naturally when the quality of an education is taken out of the school system, then you have those students who are going to leave the school system because they can get a better education elsewhere,” he said. The panel also discussed the economic standing of African Americans in their communities.
Some members expressed their concern that African Americans no longer own their own businesses because they are selling out to white corporations. For example, billionaire Bob Johnson recently sold his Black Entertainment Television cable network to Viacom for $3 billion. Both panelists and listeners voiced their opinions about the presence of racism in the 21st century.
Listeners called in to tell of the racist acts that they had experienced in their lives. McCoy explained how members of UAB’s chapter of the NAACP responded to a racist letter that was found in Rast Hall. “We […] met with the President of UAB and are pretty much writing new rules and policy for reporting letters of intimidation,” he said.
McCoy said that there had not been a clear policy for reporting letters of intimidation prior to the incident. The organization now forwards civil rights complaints to Dr. Dale with the Equity and Diversity Office and makes sure that the administration follows up on such complaints.
In addition to following through on civil rights complaints, UAB’s chapter of the NAACP has been very active in other areas on campus since its reactivation in 2003. Members began the First Book program, which provided 5,000 books for Birmingham children. The organization also funded its 1st Annual Image Awards and Fashion Show in November 2004.
The organization recently won the Best College Chapter Award at the Region V NAACP Conference.
In an interview following the broadcast, McCoy said that racists acts in today’s society are not as obvious as they were 40 years ago. “Our job with the NAACP is to make racism feel uncomfortable. The worst part of racism today is that it is hidden, so you really don’t know who is racist. It’s not white sheets and shotguns anymore,” he said. McCoy also said that faculty and students can work together to make UAB a more inclusive university for all students.
He said, “To make it more inclusive is not just about saying a pledge. We walk by each other without saying hello. Including diversity in our everyday lives is going to make a difference, not just getting along with each other.”
To join the NAACP, fill out an application at www.uabnaacp.com or send an email to email@example.com to set up a time to join.