April 4th, 2012
08:38 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Where does racism start, and what can be done about it?

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

Against the backdrop of the Trayvon Martin case, CNN is taking a look at race in America. We asked readers to post short video comments answering the question of whether racism still exists and where it comes from, in response to the commissioned study about children and race.

"AC 360°" study: African-American children more optimistic on race than whites

CNN.com readers had a lot to say about the study. We got a number of fascinating responses that branched in three distinct directions.

1. We need to look at the black community's leadership

Jerome Almon of Detroit says he used to be a political science lecturer. He says the black community needs new leadership and is not served well by the likes of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Russell Simmons and Spike Lee. He said he believes these men should be viewed with more skepticism.

"How do Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton make a living?" He asked. "You see them after a tragedy takes place."Almon went on to say that he believes these people have little credibility with black youths.

"Young people know when they're being played, or as Bill Cosby puts it, 'pimped out.' "

Vernon Hill of Morehead City, North Carolina, said racism is increased by reactions to figures like Jackson and Sharpton, a thought echoed by conservative iReporter Virgil Edwards of Lexington, Kentucky.

TeaParty432: "Racism will always exist as long as the government and the media continue to allow people and policies to exist that divide people into groups instead of treating each person as a unique individual."

Almon asked this question: "Why is black leadership so exploitive of black people in America?"

2. We need to acknowledge our own biases and fears

iReporter David P. Kronmiller of Burbank, California, shared an interesting story with us about his own roots. His parents were missionaries, and he spent some of his childhood in Brazil. There, he discovered feelings in himself - a "vivid recollection of fear" - about people who were of different religions. He also described coming back to the United States and having a hard time fitting in because of his religious background in Brazil. He struggled until high school to find peers. Beyond his own situation, he says he was surprised about Americans' attitudes.

dpkronmiller: "What struck me though even more than how I was treated when I returned was how we here in this country treat each other. In Brazil, the people who protected me, who kept me alive, who were my extended family, were not white. I didn't understand why skin color was such an issue here in this country. Why some (people) would view people of darker skin tone with suspicion or bias. To me, they were the ones I trusted the most, not the least. In fact, to this day, I have pictures of my Brazilian protectors sitting on my shelf at home. To me, the two Antonios that protected me on our river trips up the Amazon (affectionately called Little A and Big A to differentiate between them), and Franscisco, who took care of me while my father was preaching, those are like my uncles. Family, to be trusted and not feared."

Joanne Ciccone had a similar story. She said she was raised in a diverse environment and then later moved.

joanniebalon: "I grew up in Hawaii where being white was the exception. I enjoyed friendship with all Asian and Hawaiian ethnic groups. Later we moved to Kansas and since then I have married and raised two sons. As parents, we never really talked about racism, per se, just assumed our children would find something worthy in all people they met. If not, then maybe just avoid those people. Racism in America is getting better, but we have a long way to go. There will always be some form of racism. It is how many people react to an unknown person, especially if they are perceived to be threatening."

3. We need to open up a dialogue about race

Many readers implied that people are afraid to talk about race, and the solution is to talk. "Racism is as American as apple pie," said Omekongo Dibinga of Washington. He spoke of racism, and also talked about the kids and race study.

"Racism still exists in America simply because most people refuse to acknowledge its existence," he said in his video. "We are not a post-racial society."

He noted that he has been on both sides of race, both feeling like he's been profiled and also attributing stereotypes to others.

"My perspectives have changed once I started to engage other people," Dibinga said. "If we're going to make a dent in this thing called racism, we've got to engage in real dialogue."

But in order to do that, we have to create the right environment for such discussions to occur, said Egberto Willies of Kingwood, Texas.

EWillies1961: "Only when we can all communicate our most inner feelings about race among us all without the fear of being judged will we complete the resolution of our racial problems and accept from within that we are all equal."

These views were seconded by Matt Sky of New York and Dyana Glasgow of Philadelphia.

"Be a part of the solution, not part of the problem," Glasgow advised her fellow community members.

Mark Ivy of Farmersburg, Indiana, made a video from his hospital bed to explain his feelings about the need for one-on-one conversations about race.

k3vsDad: "Having grown up during those tumultuous years of the '50s, '60s and '70s, raised in both the North and South, I had friends of all colors and ethnicities. I sang in many black churches. What was so important was our one-on-one contact and getting to know one another. By talking, by sharing, we were able to lay aside the fears of the unknown and allay the racism of so many of our peers. It is only by taking it one by one talking and getting to know each other that we can allay racism in the USA. As we talk one on one and become friends and learn, (we might) slowly see an end someday to the majority of racism."

Cliff Olney of Watertown, New York, had a fairly simple point to make.

"Hate is a learned behavior, but so is love."

What do you think? Share your opinion in the comments area below and in the latest stories on CNN.com. Or share a video comment via CNN iReport.

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

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Filed under: iReport • Overheard on CNN.com • Race • Trayvon Martin • U.S.
soundoff (96 Responses)
  1. Deborah

    This is for Peter: What, pray tell does the "Tea Party" have to do with anything regarding this subject? Why didn't you focus on Al, Jesse and Spike Lee, they are the ones that turned up for a photo op and to get their time on camera. Who, by the way, are racist, hateful, people. I am ashamed of you, regardless of what color you are.

    April 12, 2012 at 5:35 am | Report abuse | Reply
  2. j

    Concern for what black leaders such as Jackson et al is legitimate, but should not be the primary focal point. Opening a dialog about race and acknowledging our own biases and fears should be the #1 focus here. Non-right wing white people are by and large too ashamed to admit that they may have some racist tendencies. The hardest thing for people to do is to see their own flaws and shortcomings and accept themselves warts and all. We live in a culture which promotes shame and value judgement. Healing this sickness of the soul is what will heal the problems we have related to "race".

    April 20, 2012 at 6:53 am | Report abuse | Reply
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