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.

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

    It seems that all African Americans do not really wish to be American. They are always looking for something to be upset over. I usually stay away from them at work – not because I must but because I do not feel comfortable. I am afraid that I will say something wrong. Racism is alive and well and it is not only one race. When you have people who will quit their jobs and travel to other states just to cause problems – makes you wonder what their priorities are. I feel that it will never be any different sorry to say. They get special treatment when it comes to schooling and many other things but they will not be happy in this country. I read somewhere earlier about president Lincoln saying after the civil war that the races will never coexist in one nation and I do believe it. He recommended they go back to Africa.

    April 4, 2012 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    I listen to comedy from the Apollo theater in New York occasionally on the TV. Lots of gifted talent.
    But the first time I heard Dave Chapelle do his "N" word routine, I was simply shocked.
    If I would do that? The Black Panthers would probably gun me down. OMG!

    April 4, 2012 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
  3. banasy©

    You and your sisters managed to break that cycle withing your family.
    Well done.

    April 4, 2012 at 11:08 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Candy

    Sadly it seems that we can't or will not become color blind in this nation. Just when we think that we can someone will point to the color of skin as a reason for something wrong. It seems the black race wants you to be color blind in all respects unless their color suits their purpose. I have nothing to blame my faults on since I am white even though my ancestors were brought here under servatude. They worked for someone until they died and then the children took over. Same as slaves from Africa only white slaves. However I am so glad to be in this country that I do not think of that as a negative thing. Good for me I don't have to come here illegally. I was born American.

    April 4, 2012 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
  5. chrissy

    @ Candy, racism isnt limited to color and you do realize that you just profiled in your post right?

    April 4, 2012 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Candy

      chrissy HUH? Say what?

      April 5, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
  6. chrissy

    I hate when I forget to wear my Depends diaper...

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

    @@@everyone i traveled to tennesse one year to visit family one year and saw a person hanging from a tree right in town why i asked my relatives? Because he was in the wrong place at the hangers right time racism is a sickness as far as im concerned and i will never get that image out of my mind. As far as my heart it went out to him,and his family. He was just passing through. Needless to say i never went back, they asked why im not coming back out i hung up

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

      You saw someone after they had been lynched?
      OMG, that is horrifying!!!

      The capacity for harm that some individuals exhibit in the name of bigotry never ceases to amaze me...dois kind of a person possess a conscience??

      April 4, 2012 at 11:32 pm | Report abuse |
  8. chrissy

    I just dropped a duece in my shorts.

    April 4, 2012 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse |
  9. leeintulsa

    @sam and candy: when you say all 'african-americans' or 'the black race', you expose yourselves as part of the problem.

    all blacks do not think the same way, anymore than all whites do. we are all the same.

    April 4, 2012 at 11:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Candy

      That is my way of letting you know who I am referring to. If you can't handle it then don't read Candie's posts. We are NOT all the same.

      April 6, 2012 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
  10. banasy©

    Trollchrissy, puhleeeeeze see a doctor about your incontinence problem.
    Thank you.

    April 4, 2012 at 11:35 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Henry

    Couldnt put a pic of a black, Asian, Hispanic, or a native kid on here? That would be racist huh? CNN STFU!

    April 4, 2012 at 11:39 pm | Report abuse |
  12. chrissy

    @ banasy, yea most of my sisters anyway. And @ superman, that story sounds horrible! I dont think i couldve remained calm. In fact im certain i wouldnt have!

    April 4, 2012 at 11:40 pm | Report abuse |
  13. dazzle ©

    I grew up in a totally Caucasion community and never saw a black person until I was in college. Since my major was Education, I had to do several teaching internships. One was at Eastside High School in Paterson, NJ. The black principal, the wonderful Joe Clark, was pivitol to my development as a teacher and as a person. Imagine being a 20 year old white girl in an inner city high school that was notorious for violence and drug dealers. When I graduated from college, Joe offered me a job and I took it. He became my mentor and I still have his framed cover of Time Magazine in my office. Joe autographed it and his message to me was personal and inspirational. When I find myself having a quandry in my work life, I look at his message to me and then I can think clearly. To this day I don't see the color of a persons skin.

    April 4, 2012 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • leeintulsa

      @dazzle: wow. did someone play you in that movie?

      April 4, 2012 at 11:46 pm | Report abuse |
  14. banasy©

    Wasn't that 'Dangerous Minds'?

    April 4, 2012 at 11:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • leeintulsa

      @banasy: it came to me after i hit the post button. morgan freeman in lean on me.

      April 5, 2012 at 12:04 am | Report abuse |
    • dazzle ©

      Hey @leeintulsa and @bansasy, The movie was Lean on Me and no, no one played little old me in the movie;-)

      April 5, 2012 at 12:04 am | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Leeintulsa, I think it's a combo of both movie plots, anyway....whatta post.

      Ah, well.
      I'm turning in.
      Gn, all.

      April 5, 2012 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
    • leeintulsa

      @dazzle: i've always been a huge morgan freeman fan. how was his joe clark, compared to the real guy?

      April 5, 2012 at 12:12 am | Report abuse |
  15. chrissy

    @ dazzle, WHERE did you grow up? And answer quick please.

    April 5, 2012 at 12:02 am | Report abuse |
    • dazzle ©

      I grew up in a suburb of New York but born in Boston.

      April 5, 2012 at 12:08 am | Report abuse |
    • dazzle ©

      @leeintulsa, Morgan Freeman nailed Joe' mannerisms and way of speaking down to perfection. I don't believe Mr. Clark assisted in any way in the making of the movie.

      April 5, 2012 at 12:45 am | Report abuse |
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