Posted on February 28, 2006

Soto: Racism, Though Polite, Still Exists

JoAnne Young, Lincoln Journal Star (Neb.), Feb. 28, 2006

The two words seem at odds. Racism. Politeness.

But that’s the way it is these days, said Jose Soto, the Southeast Community College vice president of diversity, multicultural education and affirmative action.

Racism has taken on a more polite tone, he told students gathered Friday at Lincoln Southwest High School.

Now it is symbolic, unintentional, passive.

Speaking at Southwest’s first annual “One World” cultural celebration, Soto said racism is hidden in the workplace, schools and public places.

People believe they are open and inclusive.

But racism is real.

“And being on the receiving end, whether it’s intended or not, it hurts,” Soto told the students.

The school’s multicultural club designed the “One World” day to create more understanding of diversity at a high school that has 1,763 white students and 122 students of color, said David Tien, Southwest special education teacher. They brought in six speakers from different cultures to talk about their experiences in Lincoln and other areas of the world.


Patrick Jones

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Assistant professor of history and ethnic studies

Jones said the “white” race was not created by biological differences but as a way to justify inequality and create distinctions, he said.

In the beginning, races were identified by the countries people lived in: the French race, Norwegian race.

As concepts of race changed, white people were associated with Christianity and civilization. By the beginning of the slave trade, he said, race distinctions were associated with whiteness and blackness.

“The fiction of the white race, we created it,” Jones said.

People have even used bad science to try to distinguish the white race, he said, by measuring the size of people’s skulls and declaring the white race as superior.

Today, white people don’t see the privileges they have, he said. Many will deny any benefits from their skin color.

“We need to take the opportunity to untangle that knot and recreate it,” he said.