Today marked an historic day as the nation’s first African American president took the oath of office on the same day dedicated to to Martin Luther King, Jr. NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider sat down with Sen. Ron Rice (D-28), Chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, to talk about the significance of the day.
Looking back to when he first arrived in New Jersey from Richmond, Va. in 1955, Rice recalled a time of segregation.
“I remember my mother, a very light skin, fair complexion woman, [was] almost always treated differently. They thought, when she was with dark skinned people, she was white and cops would harass her. You had to go through the back doors to see her in a restaurant where she waited.”
Despite the significance of Barack Obama’s second inauguration, Rice says there is still a great deal of racism and bias in the country, especially for blacks who are African American.
“I always tell people what disturbs me is if you’re really black in this county — “African American” — for some reason we’re still being treated differently than blacks who come from the Caribbean or blacks that come from the continent of Africa.” That attitude, according to rice, stems largely from the slave mentality. “Folks don’t want us to be proud to say that we are black and we came from that history, but we built this country with sweat, tears and blood and that’s a a reality.”
As chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, Rice is leading an effort to raise the visibility of black voices in the media. Whether it’s print, talk radio or television, Rice said blacks and other minorities are underrepresented in mainstream media. In response, he said the caucus set up a website and and a cable program that airs weekly on Cablevision and Comcast.