To the editor:

Racism has much in common with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Like the virus, racism is deadly. Sometimes it kills in eight minutes and 46 seconds. More often, it kills by wearing people down over a lifetime never being fully free.

Like the virus, racism spreads by community transmission. It spreads from person to person and generation to generation.

Like the virus, racism is invisible unless you are one of its targets.

There are two pandemics in America. One is the pandemic experienced by those who have been ill or have mourned its victims. The other pandemic is, to many, just the flu or a political conspiracy.

Likewise, there are two Americas. One is the America in which White people live. The other is the America in which people of color live.

In White America, anyone can succeed simply by working hard enough. In White America, a law-abiding person need never fear a traffic stop. In White America, a child can seek protection from one of Mr. Rogers’ “helpers.” In White America, people expect to be heard when they express their opinions.

In people-of-color America, one must work twice as hard to achieve success as a White person and can still have one’s merit questioned. In people-of-color America, children are taught at an early age how to respond so a police officer does not feel threatened. In people-of-color America, citizens moderate their voices and choose their words so listeners do not turn them off as offensive or angry or violent.

We like to tout the diversity of Rantoul, as if we have found the magic formula for a post-racial community. But what is true of this nation is true of this community. There are two Rantouls: White Rantoul and people-of-color Rantoul.

The pandemic has not magically disappeared. Neither has racism in Rantoul.

Debra Rawlings