Counteracting complacency

Complacency: a feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger, defect, or the like; self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing situation, condition, etc. (

An interesting thing happens when Americans try to solve the problems that plague us – we stop at the first signs of success.

But often, the work is far from over.

Last March, a group of 20 black high school and college students filed charges of discrimination with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission claiming that they were denied service at a Springfield Applebee’s restaurant because of their race. They said that in February 2007 the restaurant’s manager told employees not to serve the group because they walked out on the bill on a previous occasion.

The staff could not identify which members of the group had caused the disruption and refused to serve them, even after they offered to prepay for their meals. In its defense, Applebee’s hoped to prove that members of the group were victims of “mistaken identity” not racial stereotyping.

But two weeks ago, the OCRC voted unanimously to uphold a ruling that Applebee’s turned the customers away based on race.

Anyone who thought such blatant lunch-counter racism occurred only in the south or before the 1950s needs to think again. The fight for racial equality and acceptance is far from won.

We’ve grown complacent and in our complacency, we moved on, believing we solved the problem.

But such thoughts are foolish – the history of racial tensions in the United States go back hundreds of years. Why would anyone think that only two decade of reforms could mend a rift that has caused irreparable damage on nearly every continent?

The generations that came before us made great progress toward eliminating racism but hit a wall when society became too self-satisfied with its accomplishments. We need to reopen dialogue before their work becomes so stale that society reverts.

The talking heads went crazy last week when presidential hopeful Barack Obama addressed the issue of overcoming racism to create a more perfect union. It had been so long since anyone had talked so honestly about race that no one knew how to react. The pundits wonder if it will hurt his candidacy, but at least he put the issue out there and talked about it.

If we truly want to make progress, we need to encourage such honesty, not fear it.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.