Which brings us to today. Sort of.
It's not that there aren't other things I could talk about...
I could talk about the race riots in Shreveport in '88 just after I'd gone off to college. Guess what they were over. The shooting death of a black man by a white person (a woman in this case). I could talk about my friend who was also from Shreveport (he was black and from the Cedar Grove neighborhood where the riots were taking place) and how worried he was about his family. He was a sophomore and, theoretically, had a lot of friends but, when it came down to it, I was the only one he could talk to because everyone else was too busy making fun of "all the black people burning down their own houses." They said that kind of stuff to him without any regard that they were talking about his home. It didn't help when it made national news and even Leno was making fun of the situation.
My friend couldn't even find out what was going on, because the phones were down and he couldn't get a call through. [Yeah, that sounds so weird, now, but there were no cell phones at the time.] He spent days worrying about his family, eventually got someone to drive him back (I didn't have a car my freshman year), and, pretty much, didn't come back to school after that. I don't even know what happened to him other than that I found out that he came back at some point and moved his stuff out.
I could talk about how in 1991 David Duke was almost elected governor of Louisiana. David Duke who had been a member of the KKK, was "famous" for wearing Nazi uniforms during his days as a student at LSU, and was involved in inciting several racial incidents during that same time period. There were three candidates, and Duke captured, basically, a third of the vote, so there was a runoff between Duke and previous (but not incumbent) governor, Edwin Edwards. Edwards won the runoff, but Duke still took more than half of the white vote in the state. Yeah, that's the state where I grew up; I'm not proud of it.
I could also take about my black friend who went to D.C. for for a work conference during the mid-90s and got the reverse treatment that I had received when I'd been there. One day, when out to lunch with some friends at a rather high class restaurant, she was completely ignored by the staff. The host shut the door in her face when they were going in. She was with two white coworkers, and the host, then, only offered them a table for two. Upon being corrected by one the white male of the group, they still only set two places at the table and had to be prompted to set a third place. The waitress did not acknowledge her presence and left after only taking the orders of the two white people she was there with. When the waitress came back, the male, again, had to place her food order for her while the waitress made comments about how someone must be really hungry to need to order two entrees.
Or I could talk about how just a few weeks ago during a report about the Nepal earthquake that killed nearly 9000 people and wounded almost 25,000 more, the reporter called special attention to the five Americans who were killed. Five! She spent almost as much time during the report talking about the Americans as she did the rest of the report about the earthquake. I kept thinking, "Why should I care about these five people who were killed in comparison to the thousands of Nepalese who were killed?" Why? Because they were white? And I have to assume that they were, because in our national consciousness American=white.
As far as I can tell, nationalism is just a more insidious form of racism. All of the immigration stuff going on, right now, revolves around nationalism and how we need to "keep jobs safe for Americans," but what they really mean is that we need protect white people and their jobs from all of these brown people who keep crossing our border and who will worker cheaper.
I think all of this comes down to some mistaken idea that we somehow "defeated" racism back in the 60s with the death of Martin Luther King and, eventually, giving him his own holiday. While I would agree that we took a step forward back then, by the 80s we'd decided to sit down. "Oh, yeah, we did all that racism stuff back in the day. We're all through with that now." Unfortunately, part of the problem is what was once part of the solution. For instance, that we refer to black people as African Americans rather than just Americans. Sure, it was, at the time, a way of respecting the roots of black people but, now, it's a way of setting blacks apart from whites. They're not "Americans;" they're "African Americans," just a subset of actual Americans and an inferior one at that.
Why do we need to have African Americans and Asian Americans and Whatever Americans at all? White people are not Caucasian Americans or European Americans or anything other than Americans. And that's not to mention that we don't include South America or Mexico in "Americans." That's a thing that has bothered since I was in high school.
Honestly, we won't have dealt with this issue, the issue of racism, until we don't have Americans at all. Or any national identities at all. What we need to have is Earthlings. [And, when it comes down to it, we may eventually need to include more than just humans in the description of Earthlings.] One planet. One people. That, really, is the only way forward.