How racist are we?

America, a place that continues to say there is freedom for all people, seemed to fail in that aspect in the past and continues to do so today. There are obvious examples of this throughout American history that are blatant and revealed in history books throughout middle school, high school, and even college, but what I find hard to believe is the amount of events that are left untold.

A perfect example came up in the reading from Ngai’s “Impossible Subjects.” Filipinos originally came to this country and were accepted more widely among Americans than the many African American men and women that were apart of this country. However, after a while, they too began to be ostracized. Whites in America tried to find a way to push the Filipinos out of the United States permanently, only allowing American citizens to reenter the country. The catch behind this scenario was only whites could be considered citizens in this time period.

This is something that I personally didn’t know before reading Ngai’s book. Sure we know of the big acts of racism within this country such as slavery and the Jim Crow Laws. We continuously talk of the impact that the Civil Rights Movement and the impact that black activists such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm had on racial equality, but we fail to examine the injustices that killed people like Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner. We fail to stop unreasonable violence against blacks like the recent events on UVA’s campus dealing with Martese Johnson.

History books will probably never mention the increased racism that has occurred over the past 3 years in America, but these cases resonate with the idea that this country is still very racist. Minorities are still being wrongfully killed by whites, and the same whites are arguably being protected by laws meant to protect us all. So even though we may not be as racist as Hitler’s Germany or some of the other notable racists mentioned, we need to assess ourselves as a country once again to really determine the amount of racism that still resides among us.

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8 thoughts on “How racist are we?

  1. I think this is a great point. I am currently writing my senior research on how Filipinos have been ignored in the United Farm Workers and in the subsequent historical scholarship and it blows my mind how this group of people have been almost completely ignored. People are completely oblivious to this history unless they seek it out themselves.

    In response to Trent’s blog, I do think that the unlawful murders of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, and many others will not be forgotten in history ( Just as an example, the Trayvon Martin case and primary documents from the case are in my history textbook for another class). I personally hope that historians remember these cases and do not let them fall victim to the historical forgetfulness because I strongly believe that is a disservice to our country.

    One of the reasons I love learning about South African history is to read about how Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu did not “forget” the atrocities of apartheid, but rather used them to strengthen their country. That said, I believe the United States should, and is slowly, taking steps to do the same thing. These violations of human rights have led to increased dialogue about race, police brutality, and many other important topics. Many other things must be done and there will always unfortunately be these issues in society, but I think that history will not forget these acts, at least I hope not.

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    1. You bring up some very interesting points Alex, but my question to you is when is dialogue just not enough? I understand there is increased sense of knowledge about these subjects and I believe that is great, but when the law continues to fail African-American families after the losses of their loved ones, our talk means absolutely nothing. There was so much talk about police officers having cameras on them at all time on duty. How often has that failed within the first few months of this experiment? It seems like it has so very often.
      I think it would be hard now to forget about the atrocities occurring in our country today not because of their significance, but because of the number of individuals dying for no reason. The law has failed to compensate for these losses also because people are not being convicted. With gun laws that protect the shooter rather than the victim, it is hard to ever think we will take the necessary steps forward in the direction of racial equality. To be honest, this is becoming eerily too similar to the days of the Civil Rights Movement. We were supposed to be out of that era, but racial discrimination is steadily ruling our country once again. Change needs to happen now before it is too late.

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      1. I agree in that dialogue is not enough to cure many of the institutional and structural forms of racism we have in our country. That said, I think dialogue is really important because people are so unaware of what is going on in our cities. All they see is the medias portrayal and we all know how problematic that is. And perhaps the people who should be having this dialogue are our elected officials and judges who have the ability to make serious change. Our media has made American society fixated on police brutality, crime, riots, etc. when in reality there are many root issues they should talk about. For example, in cities with high crime, poverty and unemployment are incredibly prevalent. It is very much about race with these types of inequality too and I wish that the people who can implement change would talk about race in relation to these core issues. People of color are clearly victims of police brutality, but they are more so victims of income inequality and employment inequality. The larger the dialogue on these issues, the greater chance the people we elect to “represent” the people will start to do something.

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  2. I really agree with what your saying here. The biggest problem I’ve seen in racism over the years is that people don’t believe that it still exists. Some people really believe that the police brutality in cases like Eric Garner and Trayvon Martin could have easily happened to a white person and are only getting so much attention because it was a white-on-black crime. Not to say that white people are not also victims of police brutality as well, but blacks have such negative connotations to their race that when a police man, say, pulls over a black man for speeding, that police officer is already more suspicious of him than he would be for a white person. As a society, we have to acknowledge that this sort of racism still exists. It’s not as blatant as slavery and segregation anymore, but it’s still just as serious of an issue. Now, racism is built into stereotypes and embedded in our everyday thoughts. The first step in solving this issue is acknowledging that racism wasn’t simply something of that past, but rather that it is still a huge societal problem.

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    1. To your point Alex, you are completely right. I am not saying that dialogue would not advance the need for change, but I am saying that more needs to be done. With that being said, incarceration and unemployment rates are so high in some of our cities that it is hard to expect anything different than violence from these situations. These same cities are filled with minorities that cannot move out of their respected area due to being economically stifled. How else would they be able to support their family?

      I think each individual has a talent or skill to work hard, but blacks and other minorities are usually never given the opportunities from these Equal Opportunity Employers. Race needs to be the focus for many of our elected officials, but as we sometimes see in class even, talking about something that is so uncomfortable at time is undesirable when it isn’t necessary. But then I ask, when will it ever be a necessity? To us, this is an important issue, but to many of our elected officials, it is an issue that can wait. Our government is supposed to essentially protect its people, but minorities are dying on that same premise of race. My question now is how do we get their attention when all of these racial events are occurring and they seem to want to stay out of it? This is a problem we need to address sooner than later.

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    2. I also think you bring up a great point Jacqueline. Racism is still so prevalent in our society and yet we fail to acknowledge it most of the time. We have the media’s negative portrayal of black people as thugs, but that is supposedly an acceptable replacement for the “N” word. At some point, we need to look at America and wonder if we truly are all equal because our actions as a country speak a lot louder than words.

      Blacks and other minorities have been given these racial stigmas that we cannot get away from, and when we try, we are frowned upon for being “too” white. Why do others not want to conform to be more black instead of white? That is because blacks don’t have the privileges that whites do. This also dates back to our days of slavery to now with job interviews. If your name is too black, you probably won’t be considered for some jobs. Yet, these same companies are a part of the EEOC. How ironic is this? Until we find a way to lessen racism in America, we will continue to have this huge societal problem that you spoke of. The only way to fix this is through the people who we elected. They have the power to eradicate the amount of racism within our country.

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  3. Powerful stuff here. Two quick comments – first, I think for most white people, the hardest hurdle is overcoming what Mills calls the ‘epistemology of ignorance.’ That’s what I think Jacquie and Alex are pointing toward – most whites are unaware of any privilege that comes with being white. Unless and until that is challenged, such people don’t see injustice around race and instead impute racial disparities in education, incarceration, wealth, etc. as a result of bad individual choices of people of color rather than a structural conditions.

    But as Trent points out, knowing is not enough. To make change, and to be allies, whites have do stuff rather than simply rest secure on the moral high ground of recognizing that there’s a problem. Some authors (Charles Mills, Joel Olson, and Iris Marion Young) argue that those in positions of privilege must constantly seek to undercut their own privilege and must do so IN THE NAME OF JUSTICE. That is, whites can’t rely on justifications of self-interest (which is my critique of the ‘diversity’ rationale in the affirmative action cases) but instead must act on the basis of justice.

    So seeing race and its structural work is necessary, but not sufficient. Action is required. What shape that action may take is open-ended: from asking people why they think that joke that derogates people of color is funny to choosing to keep your kid in public school to donating to/volunteering at organizations that have racial justice as a central mission to asking hard questions of yourself. These are all important. But the structural parts are what we need to change – not just minds, but institutions.

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    1. I agree wholeheartedly with you Dr. Pool. We do need to change the institutions ALONG with the minds of people. Talking recently to a friend of mine from Baltimore, he explained the real injustice of these so-called riots as referred to by most news broadcasts. He said that a person told him directly the reason why the Baltimore City Schools were shut down or closed on Monday was to keep these “thugs” off of the street. Thugs? These are innocent children just like us who just want equality in their institutions, their neighborhoods, cities, and their country.

      But the problem also lies in the idea that shutting down a place of learning is beneficial to getting kids off of the street. Not only does school provide an outlet for the children to learn something and keep them out of trouble, but it also provides meals for children who rely on those two meals provided by their respected institution. It’s unbelievable to think, but 70,000 individuals attend Baltimore public schools. Baltimore is not one of the richest communities either, and the idea that 140,000 meals are lost because of stupidity, that is not right.

      To be honest, with leaders who shut down schools and allow people to get away with comments degrading the children within their society, the action that may need to be done is getting the “leadership” out of office. A leader is someone that people are supposed to follow, but when that leader gives up hope on a group of people that are actually the majority in his community, who is there to follow? We need to think about this and find ways to not only make change, but make effective change. That is the only way a country that was also built on racism and discrimination will ever move in the right direction.

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