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. CowGirlUp

    You want an answer to the question so here it is! Racism has always been in every culture and part of human nature since along time ago. It starts in the mind and it causes competiveness between human beings. Even animals are in the mix. The only way to get something done is this. Human beings of all nationalities need to stop using their minds to control their actions and use their heart instead. Treat human beings as you would like to be treated. Simple as that! But in reality make a change in yourself because the whole human race will never change all at once. Plus all of the negative reports plus personal experience just feeds the beast more. You have good thoughts and bad ones. So the one that wins is the one you feed the most.

    April 5, 2012 at 12:03 am | Report abuse |
  2. Superman

    @@@all the good people,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,",the soul knows no color, only love and compassion for all" thats how i handled that situation in tennesse.......some people are lost to there own will. And others to the will of good.love you all

    April 5, 2012 at 12:03 am | Report abuse |
    • CowGirlUp

      So superman are you gonna get rid of the past and go back and see your family? I would if I was you.

      April 5, 2012 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
  3. Superman

    God created man in his own image,did he not? So we are then all equal to god.god has no boundries to his people but why must people put walls between one another ?

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

    When was new york or boston all caucasion?

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

      @chrissy: i'm sure it's a suburb thing

      April 5, 2012 at 12:29 am | Report abuse |
  5. banasy©

    I bow in apology the the fair dazzle, as I just talked to her, and it is indeed her.
    My apologies for doubting you.

    That's all I gots to say!

    April 5, 2012 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
  6. Superman

    Ill never go back to tennesse againbeen asked not to thats enough for me plus they are supremists,,,,,not my beliefs im me not them

    April 5, 2012 at 12:32 am | Report abuse |
  7. Fat Racist (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    I'm about ready to pull the plug. I really enjoyed discussing racism with "you people".

    April 5, 2012 at 12:36 am | Report abuse |
  8. chrissy

    @ lee, yep we were just talking about that. And i live in 4 blocks from the home where morgan freeman was born and raised lmao! For real.

    April 5, 2012 at 12:40 am | Report abuse |
  9. chrissy

    Ok my phone is about to die, good night all! And good night celebrity dazzle lmao!

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

      Very funny Chrissy girl, so not a celebrity. Yes the suburbs surrounding New York were all quite white bread at the time.

      April 5, 2012 at 1:03 am | Report abuse |
  10. Superman

    To all the good,,, im checking in good night

    April 5, 2012 at 12:47 am | Report abuse |
  11. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    Good night banasy, Chrissy, leeintulsa, superman, dazzle, cowgirlup, last but not least Nicole Saidi because without her this thread would not be possible.

    April 5, 2012 at 12:52 am | Report abuse |
  12. Superman

    Good nite paa,good night maa,,, good nite john boy LOL

    April 5, 2012 at 2:00 am | Report abuse |
  13. PR

    well i said is something that will be there until we take this matter as a national interest and let me tell you something i am a latino I live in Puerto Rico and my experiences is that as a latino form Puerto Rico I deal with more racist from latinos and african american and contrary as a popular believes no racist from white, side note I am Dark Skin PuertoRican , another note I live in Texas for 3 years and there was racist form latinos to me and i live in GA for about a year and surprise for me the racist was where the african american have a white or blue collar jobs and again is just my experiences because i do believe that racist people are the minimum % in the US

    April 5, 2012 at 2:26 am | Report abuse |
    • leeintulsa

      @pr: it depends on where you go, i'm sure. and north/south has nothing to do with it.

      here in tulsa, you can't turn around without knocking one over. it's *almost* safe to assume any okie you meet is a racist.

      sure, they'll work with, play with, even be friendly with someone of a different color. until that person leaves the room.

      'there are many who's hatred of slavery is only surpassed by his hatred for the slave himself.'

      April 5, 2012 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
  14. - Many Hued -

    ... Every Nation on the face of this Earth has bigots of one sort or another. In the 60s, in America, Bill Cosby did more for his race than Malcolm X ever did. And he's still doing it, God love him.

    April 5, 2012 at 5:21 am | Report abuse |
    • ♔Mmmmm♕

      you've just earned the dimmest, dumbest comment award of the year...

      April 5, 2012 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Candy

      Great point but when Crosby did that instead of the blacks listening and trying to understand and do better – they just hated him for it. To get a good job as a black you must clean up your grammar. You can't say MF every other word and use the getto lingo. Try to change – it maybe it will work for you.

      April 5, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      too bad other blacks condemn him as an "uncle tom"

      April 10, 2012 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ♔Mmmmm♕

    racism isn't innate...it is an acquired, taught behavior...it is an anomaly, the influences of sick adults, who breeds the next generation of haters...

    April 5, 2012 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Ann

      Indeed but biases can be formed on one's own. Several repeated negative experiences with the same race or ethnicity can lead to a bias against that race or ethnicity. I'm not saying its right but we as humans learn most things through personal experience.

      April 9, 2012 at 1:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      Humans are programmed to be racist, it's a defense mentality, if someone is in your territory and they look like you, you can easily communicate and make accurate assumptions to why he is there and what he wants, if someone who doesnt look like you is in your territory, it's usually because they have insignificant resources wherever they come from and are going to take yours, forcefully or not that foreign person is putting extra strain on your environment and is a threat.

      April 10, 2012 at 7:12 pm | Report abuse |
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