Racism in the USA: Myths, Reality and Predictions
Even though the contemporary society considers racism the remnants of the old times, the study proves that the incidents of hate crimes and racism still take place in the US. Americans consider themselves “post-racial society” because there are no recorded facts of racial discrimination. This research paper analyses and discusses the cases proving existence of racism in the modern society. Taking into account the historical development of the American society, including the period of slavery and racial discrimination, some suggestions can be made concerning the methods required to overcome the spread of racism and fight against it.
Nowadays racism has a very controversial issue while some US citizens consider it to be extinct and not impacting the life of the county. However, there is a need to study the problem of racism in the USA thoroughly in order to define the current state of affairs. The historical development always has a particular impact on such aspects as racial discrimination, language or religion. That is the reason why the historical development of the USA will be considered with close attention. Except for historical development, aspects such as constant agressions between the Whites and “people of color,” inequality and environmental racism are to be taken into consideration. Based on the current events it is possible to draw a conclusion about the future development of racism. Moreover, so-called “reversed racism” will be analyzed in the paper since it refers to the current life sittuations people experience. Based on the detailed analysis, it would be possible to make some perdictions about the future development of racism.
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Racism Viewed in the Historical Perspective
In order to understand the way racism evolved, was developing and the prospect of its development in the future, it is important to study the historical background to racism. Considering the historical development, incidence of racial discrimination and hate crimes used to be much higher in comparison to the current times. However, some scientists are afraid of the possibility of resurgence of racism after the period of relative calmness.
According to Graham Richards, the first time the notion of racism appeared was at the beginning of Christianity: “Since the Bible reports that Ham was cursed (for seeing his drunken father naked), our ‘common humanity’ was reconcilable with the view that Ham’s descendants (those with black skin) were eternally ordained to be inferior ‘hewers of wood and drawers of water”. As a result, the above-mentioned statement was used by the first racists as the reason for diminishing the rights of black people. The 18th century, the humankind considered that every race has the right to develop in the way they would like. This period was called “the noble savage” and did not last for a very long time. In the next century, the relation to racism changed due to the imperial expansion, and discriminatory treatment of “people of color” was prevalent again. In the same period, there arose confusion about the matters related to race. During the 19thcentury, the divergence between the superior nation and the nation of lower race was the wides. A lot of literary works written at that period, such as Charles White’s Account of the Regular Gradation in Man, reflected pro-racist opinions of many contemporary people. Eventually, the countries which had a lot of colonies in Africa or India emigrated from these colonies. Concerning America, at the time of its settlement, the notion of slavery was only developing. Slavery at that time was considered normal and accepted. After the slavery period came to an end, the division of people into superior and low-ranked society was even clearer. Moreover, during the 19th and 20thcenturies, the spread of racism was enhanced by economic, cultural and scientific development. Therefore, one may come to a conclusion that racism existed for a very long period of time and was inherent in the white people. However, the study proves that such relation to “people of color” was not universal. Thus, according to Richards, Europeans in most cases considered black people as an “exotic tribe.” One of the proofs of this argument is availability of inter-marriages between people of different races.
Since the rise of Christianity till the 20th century, racism was manifested with the most serious cruelty. “People of color” had no rights and could even be killed by the whites since they had no right to testify in the court. According to the authors of The Construction of the Race and Racism, racism later evolved to the Eugenical Sterilization law, which required sterilization of “socially inadequate people”.
Racism in the Contemporary USA
According to Dr. Derald Wing Sue, racism in America has not gone anywhere but transformed into a new state: “During the miniconvention, some of us presented statistics indicating that racism had not disappeared but was morphing into contemporary forms labeled “modern racism”, ”symbolic racism” and ”aversive racism”. These expressions reflect awareness of individuals about White Supremacy. Even though there was an expectation that racism disappeared at the end of the 20th century, there were a lot of incidents of racial discrimination in 2007. According to Stephen Menendian, the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination cannot establish the rules and regulations in terms of racism for all possible life situations.
One of the reasons why hate crimes and incidents of racial discrimination still take place in the USA is the current demographical situation in the country. Thus, the demographic policy in the USA is changing towards the majority of “people of color” rather than the Whites due to the fact that the number of the latter is decreasing in comparison “people of color.” As Dr. Wing Sue states: “Many Whites are beginning to realize that in several short decades, they will become a "numerical" minority.”
It is necessary to mention about the nature of racism currently exiting in the USA. Thus, it has changed considerably from the way it used to be in the Colonial Period. A number of researchers refer to it as “racial microagression” as compared to the previous “old-fashioned racism”. If previously racism was a well-organized series of actions taken by the supreme whites against “people of color,” now it transformed into cases of microagression of some individuals towards people of “lower races.”
Joe E. Feagin argues that the current “post-racial society” still witnesses the cases of racism, but they are not institutional or systematic as it was before. Moreover, in different life situations “people of color” are more often justified in comparison to the whites. But this does not refer to all life situations: “While all racial discrimination is carried out by individuals, the social context is very important, for that is where the framing, norms, and proclivities perpetuating discrimination are institutionalized. Individual discrimination activates the underlying hierarchical relations of power in which whites generally dominate Americans of color”. Consequently, since the power is usually concentrated in the hands of the whites, the black people might consider it a new type of discrimination.
One of the facts proving existence of racism in the USA is the choice of land to build plants polluting the environment. In most cases, these plants are still built in the poor areas inhabited mostly by “people of color,” who are forced to live there due to employment inequality. This can be proved by the research study on the local environmental conditions in the US schools, namely public schools in the vicinity of Los Angeles. Thus, according to research results, “minority children suffered the most exposure to air pollution at school. At schools ranked in the bottom fifth for air quality, the children were 92% minority”. Rachel Massey claims that cancer and asthma are is most prevalent among the children and adults living in the polluted areas, i.e. in most cases these are black people or people of color. The most frightening is the fact that constant exposure to pesticides, which is a common occurrence in poor areas, is closely connected to cancer, even at children, and thus increased morbidity. Although the government must be aware of such a problem, no particular actions have been taken yet to resolve it.
There is also a dilemma related to whether poor people willfully decide to live in the areas with polluted land due to low prices or whether the areas were inhabited by them for a long time and later polluted without their consent. This question is ambiguous while, on the one hand, people are attracted by low prices and, on the other hand, the areas where they already live may be polluted in the long run. According to Manuel Pastor: “Several recent national-level studies have tried to address this issue by making use of exposure risk indicators based on toxic air releases; the results suggest that race is indeed correlated with the allocation of potential health effects”.
Racism Viewed from Another Perspective
Racism has always been considered a set of negative actions in relation to a particular group of people, i.e. “ people of color.” The current society went through a number of attempts to overcome racism in the world and ended up feeling the negative impact of these attempts on the white people. Thus, in any type of incidents currently happening between white and black people, in most cases, black people are justified. For instance, if there is a quarrel between a black and white child, the latter is very rarely justified even though he/she might be punched or hit by the former. According to Michael I. Norton, “the whites see racism as a zero-sum game that they are now losing”. The author argues that starting from 2000 or even 2011, after Barack Obama was elected as the President of the US, racism has changed into so-called “reverse racism.” According to the author, the Whites have now become the victims of discrimination. Due to a number of negative incidents happening to black or yellow people, there are still occurring quarrels and misunderstandings between the two parties in the field of education, employment, etc.
According to Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, racism existing in the USA these days can be characterized as enigmatic because no one considers himself/herself a racist. Nonetheless, racism still exists, and this cannot be denied: “Most whites assert they ‘‘don’t see any color, just people’’; that although the ugly face of discrimination is still with us, it is no longer the central factor determining minorities’ life chances”. The author also claims that most white people consider the presence of racism as the result of complaints of black people, who cannot forget what was happening to them hundreds of years ago. Anyway, the whites own the majority of lands and homes in the USA, which was developed historically. As a result, the black have limited choice of available places to live. Hence, the whites claim that racism no longer exists in the USA, whereas “people of color” still in disadvantageous position in terms of living conditions. Eduardo Bonilla-Silva argues that “whites have developed powerful explanations—which have ultimately become justi%uFB01cations—for contemporary racial inequality that exculpate them from any responsibility for the status of people of color”.
Racism from the Psychological Perspective
According to a number of studies, racism cannot be considered pathological, but everyone has a disposition to racism. Dr. Derald Wing Sue also claims that racial behavior is normative and widespread and cannot be referred to a particular country or territory: “We now understand that racism is, in many ways, very normative, an everyday occurrence, and generally invisible in our lives. They occur almost constantly in the form of racial microaggressions; invisible and outside of conscious awareness”. According to the scholar, the fact that the presence of racism is denied by people, makes it stronger. One might have witnessed that subconsciously groups of Whites might have a definite relation to the groups of “people of color” or individuals to individuals. The fact that many people deny existence of racism makes it stronger, and, as a result, many children, youngsters, and adults still have problems in education, healthcare or employment.
Many people consider that racism has a negative effect only on “people of color” and does not influence the Whites at all. However, racism has considerable adverse impact on both parties. Despite being considered superior for decades, the white people were taught the concepts of democracy, fairness, equality in order to change their relation to black or yellow people. Realizing the necessity of these qualities for the proper treatment of “people of color” is painful for the Whites. This pain made the white people more susceptible and gave more privilege to black and yellow people. The sound proof of this could is the number of lawsuits won by “people of color.” Taking into account negative feelings the white people are experiencing because of the discrimination of others, racism is acting as a clamp on the people’s mind, making them behave according to definite ethical norms.
According to the statistics made by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, there has been a significant rise in workplace nooses. Most of these cases are related to the the absence of promotion or negative relations between colleagues at work. In addition, it was concluded that the Whites keep reminding the blacks that “they should stay in their places”.
According to professor Ann Sanson, racism nowadays can be referred to as prejudice due to the fact that the government and particular politicians might get benefit from either promoting or decreasing racism: “prejudiced attitudes and behaviors follow from these stereotypes only if beliefs are consonant with the stereotypes. It is thus not necessary to view prejudice as an inevitable phenomenon”.
Methods to Overcome Racism
One of the major factors that should be considered when developing approaches to overcome this problem is the fact that the presence of racism is denied in the contemporary America. If the majority of Americans accepted the fact that the cases of racism are provoked by subconscious beliefs in the superiority of some groups of people over the others, it would be easier to solve the problem of racism. Solution of the issue greatly depends on the willingness of people to be open and frank with each other. Thus, racial discrimination in the field of employment, for instance, is closely connected to the unwillingness of managers to explain their relation to their employees openly.
Lawrence claims that the development of each nation depends on the academic achievement of children. Generally speaking, the whites’ children have more chances to excel in education in comparison to the blacks’ children. Scientists came to a conclusion that the “open” and “old-fashioned” racism, which appeared a long time ago and existed for many decades, created cultural stereotypes among “people of color.” These stereotypes led to low performance of black children, who were afraid of being low-rated and prosecuted by the whites. The fear was later transformed into inferiority, which led to low academic results of many black children. That is the reason why the relation to black people in terms of their place in society has not changed for decades. According to Lawerence, so-called oppositional culture is already well-rooted in America: “Ogbu's oppositional culture theory suggests that low expectations lead minority students to feel ambivalent about school and to disengage academically, in the belief that academic achievement is the sole purview of whites and that their own hard work will not deliver the expected reward”. According to the oppositional culture theory, the relation to work and achievements gained because of hard work is rather normal and accepted by the whites rather than “people of color” because, as mentioned before, “people of color” do not believe in the fruitfulness of their work and more often tend to look for alternative ways of making money. However, each person is an individual, and it would not be right to explain the presence of racism only by means of one theory. Anyway, the oppositional culture theory gives one of the explanations why the relation of some white people to “people of color” is still based on the superiority of the former. So, in order to prevent the cases of racism in the future, it is important to start with some changes in the educational system, which should be based on equality. Even though some actions are being made in this direction, stronger actions are required. In order to overcome racism, massive changes in the education of children either in the black or white families are to be made.
Discrimination also exists in the labor market and employment. A number of scientists argue that it is very difficult to overcome racism at work since the labor market in the USA is very competitive and employers have legal rights to employ or fire any worker. Racism at labor still remains a serious concern while employees still have stereotypical view about some races. “People of color” do not always have the same rights in the recruitment procedures where the whites are involved. Although these actions are evident to everyone, in most cases they are not discussed. Low employment rates among black people do not give them another choice except for looking low-rated and low-paid jobs.
The aspect of interpersonal relations between the white people and “people of color” also has to be mentioned. Taking into consideration a number of studies related to mixed-race families and race-related subjects, it is important to note that the answers of respondents taking part in the surveys did not always reflect the reality. In fact, the respondents gave answers that were considered normal or neutral. However, not everyone was ready to express their real relation to the issue. What is more, in any types of interactions between the whites and “people of color,” the former tend to be very discreet in their expressions when speaking to black or yellow people. However, during conversations with people of their own circle, they may express some negative relations to “people of color”. Lawrence claims that racism has also transformed in a different direction: “The first set of theories, at heart, are social-psychological; they all share the assumption that old-fashioned racism has not disappeared but rather has been replaced by a new and different brand of racism”.
As the result of the study, it is possible to come to a conclusion that the nature of racism in the USA has changed from conventional to power-driven. Even though the cases of hate crimes are not that numerous, “people of color” still feel supremacy of the white race in the housing sector, healthcare, employment, etc. In most cases power belongs to the whites, which is the reason for a number of “hate crimes” or racial microagressions. Moreover, racism is also considered a prejudice, towards less powerful circles.
To conclude, the current study shows the way history might impact the developments of relations between different races. The problem of racism exists not only in the USA; it is widely spread around the globe. On the one hand, the current study provides the arguments proving the fact that racism may never disappear. One of them is the development of common racism into the “reversed racism.” On the other hand, education of the nation makes a considerable influence on people’s mindset. Therefore, the only way to overcome racism consists in the ability to provide proper education of children in families and schools, which will influence the relation of children to each other at school and later in their life, thus eradicate racism. Moreover, all the changes related to education are to be based on psychological aspects, the roots of the major problems in the nation lie at the domain of psychology. Consequently, existence of racism in the USA mainly depends on the desire of the nation to change.
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