This past weekend we rented the film Selma. The movie documents the events around the famous 1965 march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, the state’s capital, in protest of voter registration finagling. Racist hurdles were systematically put in place to make it essentially impossible for African Americans – then called Negroes- to complete the voter registration process. The South had been ‘officially’ desegregated the year before, but when it came down to the grassroots nitty-gritty, individual government employees flouted that act by imposing their own methods to determine if a person could be registered to vote. Asking questions that were impossible to answer seems to have been very popular when it came to denying registration.
Flash forward fifty years and how have things changed? We no longer use the word Negro, but African American. And while one would like to believe the voter registration process has become more transparent, allowing all eligible African Americans to vote, there can be no doubt that racism still plays a role in society. What will it take to finally eradicate this wrong? Education would be a good place to start.
Not unlike the deep-rooted culture of racism in parts of America, a similar situation exists in many Latin American countries regarding corruption. In Venezuela, a country I am familiar with as it is the birthplace of my significantly better half, common day-to-day existence often involves corruption. A police officer pulls you over; it’s a shakedown, you can pay him off and go on your way, or you can take the high road and challenge the accusation and end up having your car impounded and wasting hours or even days trying to get it back. Most people just succumb to the system in order to function.
It will take perhaps several generations to effect the sea change in attitude toward corruption that is required. That is, once a decision has been made to make such a change. But corrupt governments have little interest in this.
Both racism and corruption have roots that are deeply embedded.