Two Nebraskans speak about their firsthand experiences of racism

WSC Political Science Club hosts discussion on what it’s like to be black in ‘Post Racial America’

Amanda Krehbiel, Staff Writer

“Stop pretending like it’s not happening,” said Dr. Mark Leeper
at the open forum ‘Being Black in Post Racial America’ hosted by the Political Science Club on Oct. 8. He called it an “enlightening evening.”

The lecture hall in Gardner was overflowing with students and faculty intently listening to two speakers talk about their firsthand experiences of racism.

Glory Kathurima of Norfolk and Shanita Ale of Omaha brought quite the crowd as they raised awareness of the presence of racism.

“Race and race conversations are ones that we as people need to be having consistently,” Kathurima said.

She talked about her recent experience with racism, which was very close to home.

On July 4 of this year, Kathurima and her daughter went out to attend the Independence Day parade in Norfolk, never expecting what was to come.

A local man had entered a float in the parade that depicted a seemingly racist theme. Kathurima wouldn’t stand for it.

KMTV described the float as “a pickup with a flatbed attached, [carrying] an outhouse with a dummy. On the side of the float, writing that said ‘Obama’s presidential library.’”

The dummy had a dark skin tone and wore a suit underneath a pair of overalls.

Kathurima described it as a depiction of Barack Obama himself, inferring that the float gave the meaning “he’s the president—but he knows his place.”

She was in shock when the float came by, so much so that she couldn’t bring herself to respond immediately. She kept repeating

“That’s not okay. Does anyone else think it’s funny?”

Kathurima’s nine-year-old daughter was confused by the entire incident.

“Why are you clapping? It’s not very nice to do,” she said.

Since, Kathurima has contacted the city and the Odd Fellows Lodge, who organized the parade. She has not spoken directly to the creator of the highly publicized float. No efforts have been made to prevent future floats of potentially offensive themes.

Is this a special case?

125 miles away and nine days later, Shanita Ale found herself in an explicitly racist situation. Ale, her husband and 2-year-old son decided to take a walk from
Omaha across the Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge to let their son play at Playland Park in Council Bluffs, Iowa—a walk the family takes often. Upon arriving they became aware of a man and a woman sitting on their front porch, watching the family intently.

“I realized he had a gun in his lap,” Ale said.

The man, Brian Young, 43, eventually approached the family and pointed the gun at Ale’s husband, saying “I wanna shoot me a n—-r today.”

Ale’s husband began dialing 911, however, his phone died. Upon seeing that the family was contacting the police, Young ran “like the speed of lightning” back into the house, according to Ale.

The family finally got in contact with the police. Ale has said that she will not return to the park.

No charges have been filed against Young. According to KETV, Pottawattamie Attorney Matt Wilber said he can only file the assault and harassment
charges, only misdemeanors, even if the motivation is race.

So now what?

Nothing has been done about either of these happenings.

Kathurima and Ale have been raising awareness of racism by participating in speaking events such as the panel discussion on Oct. 8. They encourage others to talk about it, too.

“Will racism continue? More than likely,” Ale said. “The best thing to do is educate. When you hear those comments, speak up.”

“Every single one of these people, even if their ears were shut off, something went in their head,” Kathurima said about the panel. “A few years from now . . . something we said is going to come up in their head. That’s success.”