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. chrissy

    Unfortunately, you cant fix the SOS – stuck on stupid – mentality of people!

    April 4, 2012 at 9:02 pm | Report abuse |
  2. genomega1

    When the msm doctors videos and audio tapes to fan the fires that tells you all you need to know. Race hustling is a profitable enterprise just ask Jackson and Sharpton

    April 4, 2012 at 9:09 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mary

    Only 23 yrs ago I got on a bus sat down with my son in my lap and looked up to see a women disapproving face staring back at me... does anyone think racism just vanished over night?

    Another case-in-point, myself and his Father were in a dispute as to whether our son had scratched the upstairs neighbors car. My son was about 2 at the time.
    One night a next door neighbor said to my son's Father ..."hey, just pay for the car to get fixed" the argument went on and the guy finally said... "well if you can't get along with your neighbor, then just MOVE"

    Basically saying that it was our fault no matter what and that we should move because we weren't wanted there.
    Kinda like saying "be a good 'boy' and MOVE"

    Those people had kids also, do you really think racism has been obliterated in the past 23 years, just like that?

    My son IS the best thing that has happened to me, next to coming into the truth about God.
    Right after is my friendship with Philip.
    PEACE and was not Mosses of dark skin? ;)

    April 4, 2012 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
  4. leeintulsa

    racism starts in the home, and there is nothing that can be done about it.

    April 4, 2012 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    Where does racism start, and what can be done about it?
    Just ask Mikey, he hates everything...Hey Mikey.
    I was raised in a racist home when I was a kid. So most definatley, it starts at home in my mind. And as I grew up, I realized I didn't have to be that way to gain friends, respect, maintain a job, so on and so forth.
    What can be done about it, is if you have kids, nip it at the bud, and simply don't teach them to profile or judge others by thier race or national origin.
    When I see others, the way "they see" our kids, thier mother and I have nothing to be ashamed of. ;)

    April 4, 2012 at 9:34 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mary

    Racism, s e x ism, cliqueism, social status 'ism', ect...
    And it all bubbles forth in junior high.
    There have been moments even on this very website, so 'ISM'S" continue and make a person look VERY ugly.

    April 4, 2012 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
  7. bobcat (in a hat) ©

    Racism, it seems, is selective. It doesn't appear to me to be totally invasive. It depends on individual att itudes. I look around me many times and in many areas and I see total harmony. I look around me many times and in many areas and see total hatred. Why ? Is this hatred normal ? No. Could it be that a lot of it was taught at home ? Yes. Can individuals get past what they were taught at home ? Yes. But a person must be able to look past differences to do it. It used to be that children didn't know a difference. But now I see young children who are already bitten by this bug. We are all people. We all live. We all die. A lot of people don't like me. Fine. I don't be around those people. I don't like a lot of people. But it's because of att itude and nothing more. We can all get along. I know. I've seen it with my own eyes.

    April 4, 2012 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Superman

    @@@ chrissy,,,,,,,,,, good one i love it! ,,,,,,,,,,as far as racism i cant stand it evry time i see or hear a nasty remark related to racism im immediately on the wagon. I remember riding the buss to downtown long beach ca and always (i)wanted to sit in backbut ny grand mother would say no! Thats where the blank sits . I knew at six years old that this was wrong in the worst of ways. To this day i still remember those bus trips on the weekend. Such remarks only made me more curious as to what was wrong with these people. When i was older still in grade school i started meeting hispanics, african americans, and pacific islanders and i learned something ,,,,,,,,, that is that everybody is equal no matter what color ethnicity or religion and ive been that way ever since and to love all people is a great thing. I dont hate i just disaprove. My girls have most of there friends that are not white mostly black and hispanic. And they have never learned what racism feels like why because they have never dished it out. And never will it starts in the home and with the parents thats a job well done the parents!!!

    April 4, 2012 at 10:36 pm | Report abuse |
  9. leeintulsa

    we can raise our own kids not to be racist. problem is, racists raise their kids *to* be racist. and, tragicly, many racists have more kids than i do.

    kids can grow out of it, so to speak, and for some, it is the way they rebel against their parents.

    i keep hoping it will breed out, eventually. but then i realize it hasn't bread out yet, and we've been here quite a long time... now we have some laws, and perhaps a greater sensitivity, but it just went underground, to pop up when it can do the most damage.

    i would rather my daughter ended up with a good black man or woman than a bad white man or woman.

    April 4, 2012 at 10:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      I agree.

      I see the White Supremists on TV and it nauseates me to no end...
      I hope intolerance of any form is bred out of our children, and grandchildren, but as long as one child hears words of hate and tells another child, that is not likely going to happen in my lifetime.
      So be it.
      At least I will have done my job as a parent; one thing I have taught my children is that it a total waste of energy carrying around so much hatred for another inside.
      It consumes a person, fanaticism does.
      Thank God my children do not have that yoke around their necks.

      April 4, 2012 at 11:04 pm | Report abuse |
  10. banasy©

    Intolerance of any sort is insidious.
    Racism is right up there with religious intolerance, gender-preference intolerance, and the like.
    Hate is hate is hate.
    Some people hate Blacks.
    Some people hate Muslims and Jews.
    Some people hate gays.
    Oh, they may not actually *say* that, but one knows they do by what their rationalizations; hiding behind a cloak of 'rules' and 'guidelines' to enable themselves to foster their bigotry...
    Hate is hate, period.

    April 4, 2012 at 10:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. chrissy

    @ Superman, yea most people learn racism from parents and grand parents & those beliefs are generally instilled in children at a young age. My parents were god awful racists! Weve had many, many arguments over this issue! And they have 3 mixed grandkids!

    April 4, 2012 at 10:48 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    @ Katie Couric
    Don't go away mad. Just go away.

    April 4, 2012 at 10:52 pm | Report abuse |
  13. leeintulsa

    racism is like religion in that it is a belief.

    it's hard, if not impossible, to change a belief.

    April 4, 2012 at 10:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Good analogy, leeintulsa.

      April 4, 2012 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |
  14. chrissy

    But i was and always will be anti racist, and love my sisters children unconditionally. I raised two of them. Also went l5 years without any contact with my parents. You can break the hate tradition if you want too.

    April 4, 2012 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Dark Drew

    I find it pointless to hate someone simply by the color of thier skin. If your really going to judge someone, If you want to be all self rightous, do it based on a persons actions.

    April 4, 2012 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • leeintulsa

      problem is you are preaching to the choir for non-racists, and racists won't hear you.

      in oklahoma, there are more racists of every color than there are free people. most people who know me know how i am. they like me because i don't hate them, i'm friendly and laid-back, and they respect my intelligence.

      but if racism comes up in conversation, they pat me on my head as if to say poor, misguided lee. i might as well be telling them god doesn't exist. it's the same response.

      they think i'm so smart in so many ways, but wrong about this.

      i'm tired of trying. now i live and let live and stifle myself when they are going on and on about it, so we can get a little work done.

      April 4, 2012 at 11:17 pm | Report abuse |
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