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Noted Author Discusses Racial Equality in America

Racial equality in America is still a work in progress, author says at UMUC event

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The fact that the United States has an African American head of state reflects significant progress in the nation's efforts to achieve racial harmony, but Barack Obama's presence in the White House should not be taken as a sign that America has overcome its painful legacy of discrimination and exploitation based on skin color, author Bruce Jacobs told a UMUC audience Feb. 18.

"It's huge—almost beyond measure—that he was elected President of the United States, and I think that's a testament to how far the struggle for racial justice and social justice has gone in this country," Jacobs said during an event sponsored by the UMUC Office of Diversity Initiatives to mark African American Heritage Month. "It is also a situation that has huge limitations and to which I think we would be naïve and mistaken if we attached too much significance."

Race continues to define how people judge and treat each other, and it plays a significant role in many aspects of daily life in the United States, added Jacobs, author of the book "Race Manners for the 21st Century" and a speaker at colleges, organizations and places of worship across the country. "I don't think there's any argument that [racism] is still a huge defining force of how our society is structured and how a lot of us behave," he said.

But even as he asserted that the United States cannot yet be considered "post-racial," Jacobs said the nation's slow but steady progress toward equality in the face of great opposition shows how important it is for people to stand up for what they believe in—even if no one seems to be listening.

"Whatever it is that you believe and pursue, you can be in the minority and still prevail in the end because it's about political momentum and changing the mood and changing the stance of governance," he said. "It's not always about the majority of people going out and making something happen."