Despite America’s bloody historical record, it is still known as the land of opportunity to many people both within and outside of its domestic borders. It may even be referred to as the land of the free. Perhaps it does deserve this colorful title when compared to the severe bondage that people endure under other governments of the world. However, America is not color blind. With an attempt to suppress personal opinion, this essay aims to explain why America is drenched in racial discrimination. Looking at the America’s history and its modern-day events, it is easy to see that individual, institutional and systemic racism are as rampant today, as it was during the European invasion of Native American land.
On page 228 of his text entitled, Whitewashing Race: The Myth of a Color-Blind Society author Michael K. Brown wrote, “The majority of White Americans today do not comprehend the multiple ways in which their lives are enhanced by a legacy of unequal advantage” at the same time, he also stated that African American poverty is viewed (by many Whites) as being due to character flaws such as laziness. This is a mentality that permits an attitude of supremacy among White people over people of color. It most certainly would have an impact on how individuals treat others who are beneath them. Since birds of a feather flock together, racist people bond tightly with others who share the same mentality. Some White people might have only stood outside of schools shouting against integration. Others used their privilege to form gangs like the KKK (Ku Klux Klan).
Malcolm X understood the threat of racism quite well. He explained in his text, The Battle or the Bullet, that taking a civil rights case to a supreme court judge is like running from the wolf to the fox. (Malcolm X) These individuals who are judges, lawmakers and politicians are in agreement with one another in terms of their belief that Black people are totally inferior to Whites. Individual racism is what enabled the KKK to reign (with full police support) throughout the southern states as rapists, terrorists and murderers to be feared by Black people. (Sugrue) Blatant denial of individual racism is further proof of its existence. For example, one author wrote, “America has been more open to some than to others. But it is more open today than it was yesterday and it is likely more open tomorrow than today.” (Schlesinger) This is simply not true. At the end of the page 143 the same author referenced other successful Black people. He mentioned Black Supreme Court justices, mayors of Atlanta and athletes (Schlesinger) as proof that individual racism is a thing of the past. This idea spans the entire document. Not only is it insulting, but it pales in comparison to the daily instances of individual racism (endured by people of color) imposed by police and other individuals who see nothing wrong with racism.
In summary, individual racism was a burning fire in America when protesters were shouting against integration. It is present today. One would be naive and foolish to think this issue is simply a thing of the past.
Institutional racism refers to the policies, procedures, legislation and practices of institutions that have a disproportionately negative effect on the racial minority’s access to goods, services and opportunities. It can be explicit as in the institution of African Slavery. It stated that Whites had the right to enslave Africans until 1865. More recent example includes the Jim Crow laws that segregated public spaces. It prohibited Black people from eating, studying and use public facilities, or holding government jobs in the same places as Whites. In each instance of explicit institutional racism, a specific minority is singled out and subjected to disadvantages in society. On the other hand, implicit institutional racism does not specifically single out a racial minority. However, the effect of the legislation negatively affect the lives of the targeted group. For example, literacy tests were used to keep Black people from climbing the ladder of success in the education system.
The biggest and most current example of institutional racism is the disproportionate (mass incarceration) of African Americans in the U.S. prison system. The problem is that these policies fuel the justification for racial stereotyping and individual racism. Those enjoy White privilege might conclude that the racial disparities in schooling, income, jobs and incarceration are the result of “flawed culture and behavior of people of color” (Brown p. 226-227). Author Michael K. Brown insists that this is simply not true. He explained that the disparities between Black and White people reflect the legacy of this country’s past decisions. Even the legislation born from the passage of civil rights in the 1960’s was insufficient (though helpful) in its ability to eradicate racial discrimination and biased policies. History offers undeniable proof that institutional racism was a toxic cloud all over this nation. What about the present-day? The fact is, “Blacks and Latinos are less likely to have access to health care, and Black’s and Latino’s income and occupational status lag substantially behind Whites”. (Brown, p. 224)
Furthermore, institutional racism can be conveniently ignored by those who refer to themselves as multiculturalists. An education historian by the name of Diane Ravitch applauded multiculturalism (Auster, p. 72) She credited it with driving revisions in what children learned in schools. She claimed that it “demands unflinching examination of racism and discrimination in our history.” (Auster, p. 73) However, even if it demands examination, it does not offer a protocol for rewriting the racially-biased curriculum of history education. Black children are still given only a tiny amount of their rich African and African-American history. Meanwhile, they are still forced to learn about every other culture in the world. Lastly, Amish people do not salute the American flag. No one complains. One Black man kneels during the pledge of allegiance right before a football game. He wants to peacefully raise awareness about racially motivated police brutality and injustice. The entire National Football League exercises their (White) power to ban this one Black man from earning a living as a football player, after he worked hard to succeed. That…is institutional racism.
Systemic Racism seems like a giant umbrella over the above-mentioned forms of racism. If institutional and individual racism were plain donuts, systemic racism would be the icing on the donut, thus permitting the favorable (and flavorful) odds that benefit Whites in America while disenfranchising people of color. Despite systemic racism, Asian, Arab and various other internationals can travel to America, start businesses and thrive with their families. In addition, several Black, Latino or Native American millionaires appear to have escaped the choking smoke of systemic racism. However, this does not mean society can deny its filthy existence.
Systematic racism operates with a bully called, eugenics. Evidence of this was shared in a document entitled, “The Geopolitics of Eugenics and the Exclusion of Philippine Immigrants From the United States” by James A. Tyner. On page 55 Tyner explained, “During the late 1920’s and early 1930’s a public outcry demanded the exclusion of Philippine Immigrants, the latest victims of ‘yellow peril’ hysteria.” Under this train of (White) thought, biological and genetic details about human beings of a different race were used to justify their classification. More so, it permitted poor treatment of people of color based on favored laboratory research results that suggested their inferiority. In his text, Tyner cited an author by the name of Grant who argued, “the most practical and hopeful method of race improvement is through the elimination of the least desirable elements in the nation by depriving them of the power to contribute to future generations.” In a more cruel exclamation, a British eugenicist by the name of Wicksteed Armstrong published a book in 1930. In it he said, “To diminish the dangerous fertility of the unfit there are three methods: the lethal chamber, segregation, and sterilization” (Tyner, p. 58). Lastly, eugenics is not the only weaponry of systematic racism. This level of racism has a way of making sure that healthcare, the justice system, housing, employment, economic resources and wealth are all structurally set for Whites in America to benefit in extremely disproportionate ratios compared to other groups.
There is irrefutable evidence that all forms of racism are still present with no evidence to suggest the contrary. Nonetheless, there are plenty of positive events that emerged despite acts of racism. For example, Black unity was so beautifully comforting. Secondly, the Chicano movement for the equal treatment of Mexican Americans was chiefly inspired by the Black Power Movement of African Americans during the mid-1960’s. (Lopez, p. 161) Furthermore, there was a beautiful, musical explosion on the west coast of the U.S. that included people of White, Mexican and African American descent. “With its official slogan of More Music for More People”, (Macias) the 1947 Bureau of Music added a multiracial sweetness to the Los Angeles air and served as a “means towards racial harmony”. (p.697)
- Auster, Lawrence. “America: Multiethnic, Not Multicultural.” SpringerLink, Academic Questions: Point of View, 12 1991, link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF02683115. Accessed 7 Dec. 2017.
- Brown, Michael K. Whitewashing Race: The Myth of a Color-Blind Society. Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic, 2005.
- Haney-López, Ian. Racism on Trial: The Chicano Fight for Justice. Belknap, 2004.
- Macias, Anthony F. “Bringing Music to the People: Race, Urban Culture, and Municipal Politics in Postwar Los Angeles.” American Quarterly, vol. 56, no. 3, 2004, pp. 693-717.
- Martinez, George A. “The Legal Construction of Race: Mexican-Americans and Whiteness.” ERIC, Latino Studies Series, Oct. 2000, files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED455992.pdf://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED455992. Accessed 7 Dec. 2017.
- Schlesinger, Arthur M. The Disuniting of America: Reflections on Multicultural Society. An Academic Internet Publishers, AIPI, 2007.
- Sugrue, Thomas J. “Crabgrass-Roots Politics: Race, Rights, and the Reaction against Liberalism in the Urban North, 1940-1964.” The Journal of American History, vol. 82, no. 2, 1995, p. 551.
- Tyner, James A. “The Geopolitics of Eugenics and the Exclusion of Philippine Immigrants from the United States.” Geographical Review, vol. 89, no. 1, 1999, pp. 54-73.
- X, Malcolm. Malcolm X, the Ballot or the Bullet. Pacifica Radio Archive, 1990.