Experts: Racism More Subtle Today - NBC4: Columbus, Ohio News, Weather, and Sports (WCMH-TV)

Experts: Racism More Subtle Today

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Bryan and Sharita McRay have nine children, eight girls and a boy. Bryan calls racism a "demon" that individuals can respond to with hard work, perseverance and good decisions. The McRay's are firm believers in teaching their children how to make good decisions and take personal responsibility.

Bryan, who was raised in foster homes, says he's committed to giving his children a strong family life.

"I'm here with mine every day," McRay said. "I can't be everywhere else and hope and wish that my family is going to be ok. You've got to structure that."
 
Bryan said that both George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin had decisions to make before and during their confrontation. He believes either one could have made a decision that would have averted the tragedy.
 
Sharon Davies, executive director of Ohio State's Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, said Zimmerman's decisions may have been guided by an unconscious bias. She said  racism in America today is more subtle.

"We made it through the civil rights era and we think of those scenes as racism - that's what it looked like and we don't see that anymore," Davies said. "So we convince ourselves that race doesn't operate on the human mind but the reality is that race does shape judgments about individuals." 
 
"Unconscious racism is a bigger issue for us today," Davies said. "It's an issue for whether we're talking about police officers and the way police officers engage citizens on the street and it is an issue when we're talking about a civilian like George Zimmerman who, without even realizing it, may be judging someone like Trayvon Martin in a way in which he wouldn't judge someone who wasn't a young black male." 
 
Charles Wheeler, executive director of The Neighborhood House in Columbus, recalls getting advice from his father about how a young black man should behave if he gets stopped by police.

"Just be quiet and listen," Wheeler said.

It's a conversation he later delivered to his own children and one that many black parents have with their children.

"That's the America we live in today," Wheeler said. "That's what has to be eliminated. It's one America, one people, united."
 
Asked about racism in America, Wheeler said, "We try to camouflage the fact that it does exist - we have our Affirmative Action and civil rights and all of that but what does that mean as it relates to young black men and other minority groups getting jobs?"
 
Davies believes the Zimmerman case offers an opportunity for America to have an honest discussion about racism.

"Really this case is about a collective responsibility, collective culpability really, national culpability in creating a different lived experience for black males in particular than others…that we've allowed conditions to exist in this nation that we love, that are unequal, unfair and in fact life threatening to black boys."

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