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. saywhat

    @ Mmmm
    That is not far off the mark. It is now infused in our collective psyche.
    Unfortunately the recent political climate in this country of ours has been the dirtiest in our history. And we have seen politicos and aspirants unabashedly use racism and intolerance as a tool.

    April 5, 2012 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
  2. wOT

    Racism starts in the home, just teach love for all mankind!

    April 5, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Candy

    Racism starts in the home. The black parents teach the children that they are here because of something that happened 200 years ago and blame it on the white people. Then the white people teach their kids to stay away from blacks because they may be dangerous to them. If the black parents would tell their children that they should be thankful that this happened those many years ago because of it they are in this wonderful country. Whites should tell their children that the black race is a plus for the nation and to welcome them into their lives. Won't ever happen sad to say.

    April 5, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy ©

      Thanks for your post perpetuating the myths that go hand in hand with racism.

      April 5, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Candy

      banasy HUH?

      April 5, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Pansy

    Why is it racism to be more comfortable around my own race? I harbor no resentment against any one of a different race. I however want to marry my own race and be around my own race. Why is that wrong? I didn't pick and choose that feeling. I have noticed that is how it is with others. If you go to a function sooner or later you will have a gathering of a group of black people chatting and being comfortable together and the same with Asians and Caucasions. I think that is the norm and if you don't too bad. I won't call you a racist. OK?

    April 5, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Lisa

    Where I was brought up and where I schooled was in a very mixed environment, its the ones in the UK that have been brought up without this that are racist, I think the more communities are mixed, in time the racist will die out . I am not racist have never even thought about it and I am disgusted by it totally. I believe that education is the key to stamp this out once and for all

    April 5, 2012 at 7:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ann

      Depends. I've found socio-economics are more of an indicator of neighborhoods than simply race or ethnicity. If anything living in a "ghetto" has not helped my view of many (not all of course) blacks. But I think it is more because of lowclass behavior than race and the same goes for white trash trailer parks. The obnoxious ones of any race are always the most obvious and therefore it perpetuates stereotypes.

      April 9, 2012 at 1:23 am | Report abuse |
  6. calvin

    Racism is in all races. This is something that breeds hate for generations of curses. I agree with the person earlier who stated thet the like of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton & Russell Simmons are not great candidates to speak for the Black race or any race. I am black and grew up liking/loving all people. Yes I have encountered many ignorant things from people who hate because of race. Yet God has blessed me to see people with Love not color. Racism starts from home. God help us all to Love and not Hate. Racism is just another tool of the Devil!

    April 6, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Candy

      Calvin I like your post. Someone in the mixture of races who has a grain of intelligence. Thanks

      April 6, 2012 at 8:09 pm | Report abuse |
  7. arale norimaki

    it start at home

    April 6, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Candy

    I reallyl am tired of all this. I am sad that a young man died but hundreds are dying over seas fighting a useless war. Enough already. It is what it is. Either he was protecting himself or he was not. I will be so glad when I don't have to see any more of the racism claim. Blacks are actually worse than the whites. Ask Jessie and Sharption.

    April 6, 2012 at 8:07 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jorge

    Racism still exist in America, but against NATIVE AMERICANS like George Zimmerman ... No one knows with certainty what happened the night Trayvon Martin was shot, but what it is obvious is that the European American media is continuing "business" as usual: Promoting hate against Native Americans (a.k.a. "latinos"). What would have happened if in this incident the dead man was George Zimmerman? Would the "Native Americans Haters" media have even mentioned it? Would anyone be in the streets demanding the arrest of Trayvon Martin? Certainly NOT ... Although Native Americans are murder everyday, not only in American cities but hunted like animals at the southern border, there have never been ONE demonstration demanding the arrest of ANY of the murderers. Don't we deserve the same rights that the immigrants from other continents?

    April 8, 2012 at 6:32 am | Report abuse |
  10. Candy

    Good God enough of this already. He is not the only young man to die this year. There are young men dying over seas and no one really notices. Soon we will know the facts so until then I hope the media will pay attention to other tragedys. How about the one in 2010 where a black man shot a young unarmed veteran in front of his daughter. I hear nothing about that but do know that the black man was never arrested. Wake up people enough of this racial crap..

    April 8, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Megan Grawe

    Racism continues to be cultivated by the liberal left and news agaencies like CNN! You have had at least 7 racially antagonistic stories in the last 2 weeks! ...this little distracting manuever is what typically happens when the liberals can't win on the issues!

    April 9, 2012 at 2:28 am | Report abuse |
  12. taylor

    I always tried to get along but I would say racism started with me when the black kid that lives behind us shot my son in the arm with a BB gun then a black man ran into the back of my elderly moms car and he threatened to beat her if she called the police then it got even worse when 4 black youths broke into my house and stole every piece of electronic equipment I own.

    April 9, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Blade1975

    Umm Racism... let's see. Being black i watch my friend tell their children to hate whites, that whites think they are better than them, and my most hated "If you punch a white child just say they called you the n word and you'll get away with it."

    I sit there listening to white parents telling teir kids to respect everyone, share, play with all kids.

    And my own telling their kids to hate, demand more, hide behind 200 year old victim babble.

    When my own didn't have fathers to raise their kids, they just say "Don't stereotype." ignore the problem and ignore it, and wallow in their problems. Anything to be a better victim.

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

      I think you're generalizing too much. There are lots of Tea Party types who are pretty clearly racist and probably teach their kids to be the same, although perhaps not always explicitly. Probably lots of the Tea Party members aren't racist and get mad about being accused of being racist, but that's always what's going to happen when you have some openly racist people in your organization. I honestly don't know what black parents teach their kids behind closed doors, but I know a few middle-class black guys from work and these guys actually fit in more with the nerd stereotype than anything else, and I think they're more likely to teach their kids how to play World of Warcraft than to hate white people.

      April 10, 2012 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • LOLLOL!!

      I've read and heard BETTER lies....smh.

      April 11, 2012 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Deborah

      Kudos to you for your Honesty! It's all about the "bigger victim" as you put it, and you are 100% correct.

      April 12, 2012 at 5:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Tommy White

      I doubt very seriously that you are Black. And I doubt very seriously that this is a true story. Grow up. Get a real life....

      April 17, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  14. mikey

    If Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Spike Lee and the other 'black leaders' didn't get involved in these incidents would they get to the national news level? Probably not but then what else would Jesse Jackson do with is life, his 15 minutes of fame are about over and he is trying to extend it as long as he can! Sure what he, and others did in the past was important, but he, and the others, have NOT MOVED ON from there!!! They are STILL angry black men not even trying to figure out how they fit into the United States of America! Long ago I figured out how I fit in, as just a man doing a job that others need me to do, but LOTS of 'angry black men' haven't found their niche yet and the likes of Jesse Jackson, Spike Lee and Al Sharpton are NOT helping them do that!!! YES, ABSOLUTELY we should ALL be angry at what happened in Florida, but why is it a black and white thing, it is one man SHOOTING AND KILLING a teenager!! Would Jesse Jackson and others be as angry if a black man had shot a white kid...not in their racially motivated hyperbole and wanting their 15 minutes of fame World it would not! Good grief the Black members of CONGRESS stood up and asked for 'JUSTICE in the name of Trayvon'!!! So if a black man shoots a white person EVERY white member of Congress should do the same thing calling for the black persons arrest, RIGHT NOW!!! Racism is practiced by BOTH races of people and unfortunately the Black race seems to do it publicly more often, and then screams 'racism' when someone calls them on it! When this stops so will racism in general!!! Call a crime a crime and take the race out of it, crime is bad no matter who it happens too!!!

    April 11, 2012 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
    • LOLLOL!!

      it is a "black and white thing" because of the Media, Zimmerman's supporters and Zimmerman himself.
      Stop trying to blame black civil rights activists all of the time and claiming they are playing the race card, when the media itself is referring to Zimmerman as a "white hispanic". Not blacks. Face the facts and realize this child was RACIALLY PROFILED and lost his life, not to mention the other men Zimmerman called '911' on (68 times TOTAL!!) were ALL black. Take it for what it really is, a crime of ignorance, bigotry and hate. Just look for yourself and see the tone and language used by the socalled Zimmerman supporters. The demographics won't be too hard to identify either....

      April 11, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • LOLLOL!!

      [Racism is practiced by BOTH races of people and unfortunately the Black race seems to do it publicly more often, and then screams 'racism' when someone calls them on it! When this stops so will racism in general!!! ]

      WOOOOOOW!!! That's who you are. Those two lines says it ALL. You're a bigot.

      LOL!! "The black race". I love how you said so as if describing a street gang (oh yeah! I know it's coming.....). I guess if sme black guy punched a white guy he's "taking it for the team". You're delusional and pathetic.

      As for "racism ending when blacks stop": I guess you forgot how it began. Conveniently forgot how this nation was founded and the people exploited in its infancy....yeah. I guess the native Americans and enslaved Africans are the ones who are REALLY to blame for their suffering and are in fact the creators of racism...smh.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike D

      If the sickness of racism were such a problem for Americans who whine about Sharpton or Jackson, they would do a better a better job of helping to end the ubiquitous. "conservative" hate speech peddled to the simple masses as "political discussion". You're not fooling anybody. Thank God the Martin family had Rev. Sharpton.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • tj

      Definetly agree with you Mikey and I'm black...people tie everything into race in this country. The shooting of Travon Martin was exactly what you said...a teennager being shot nothing more. I guess its common place to put a white/black tab on everything because of how people think and how the media projects it.

      August 23, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  15. jey jey

    All I can,say is am black and proud of it.I kno racism s in everywhere bt we need to believe no one is above the rules weather black or white and we all need to respect tht .. if zimerman killed trayvon for being black and all the whites are clubbing for him the law does nt know u ....we need to forget all,the hatred ,we all humanbeing n have equal rights ...equality we can survive and go on our way bt REM racism creates conflicts with no solutions...........many Thnx to the prosecutor..........thnx...

    April 12, 2012 at 12:24 am | Report abuse |
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