Racism Essay, Research Paper
It is very easy to imagine a world that does not involve race. Humans would work together to make advances in medicine, technology, and education. Asides from imagining, hoping, and dreaming the question comes to mind; is it possible? From the day that you learn that Columbus ?discovered? a New World a cloud settles in over the rays of hope and imagination. In the educational system you are molded to believe that white is right and everyone and everything not white is wrong. Fortunately for some, you begin to learn that that is the furthest thing from the truth. Experience dictates who you are and how you think. If you are raised under the impressions that appearing different equals being different and never experience anything that proves that notion wrong then the world could become a very easy place to exist. If you are one of the fortunate individuals that realizes early, that differences are what make the world exciting, you may be in for some difficulties growing up. The reason that I make these points is, if you are narrow minded on the issue of race, you would, if you are white, feel that what you do is the right way to do things. You could be a horrible driver and get into an accident with a black person, being narrow minded and white you would say that it was their fault and truly believe it, even if you backed up into them. ?Knowing that you have more money you may hire an expensive lawyer and try to win a lawsuit. What happens when you lose, you say that it was reverse discrimination and piss and moan for the rest of your life. That would be the easy way out. On the other hand if you have had the chance to see people for what they are and not what they appear to be life can prove to be difficult. The best things in life have never been said to come easily.
To understand the entire concept of race is very difficult. If you come to a crossroads in your thinking and move forward in areas where it is easier to fall back then you begin to feel tingles of satisfaction. Before you jump the gun and assume that because you are starting to understand things that they no longer exist, you have to step back and look at the grand scheme of things. What you will see is that ?the concept of race is arguably the most controversial, confused, conflicted, and contested concept in America today? (Kilker). To say that I understand everything about this subject would be a flat out lie, but I will say that the wheels are turning.
Race has been shown to be a social construct used primarily by whites to advance themselves in terms of wealth and prestige, while holding others down and not allowing them to obtain affluence in white America. Differences between people, in regards to skin color, head shape, and body shape have been used to aid oppression by ?white? folks. The American Anthropological Association has shown through DNA evidence that there is more variation in genetic make up within a ?race? than between them. If this evidence was around in the 18th century one might say that racial categories might not have been drawn. The face of the matter is this evidence did not exist and these categories are still used to discriminate against people today. Why do differences scare people and why does this fear of the unknown give anyone the right to oppress.
During the 19th century white Europeans had come to the point that money equaled power and in turn gave them the right to enslave people that were unlike them. When these Europeans accounted cultures that were different then their mainstream, they say them as uncivilized beasts that needed their help. To ?help? these ?beasts? they gave them passage to a ?New World?. Did it matter that these people did not need anything new and that they were happy with the life they lived, absolutely not. In the European ?helping? way these people were taken from their families so that white hands did not get blackened by the dirt. The differences that the Europeans saw in these people were used to create new species. This new black species was seen as equivalent to animals and thus became pawns in the white game of chess. Africans were not the on lee group that was uprooted from their homelands due to the helpfulness of white. Native Indians were also ?different? from the Europeans and therefore needed ?help? as well. Very early in colonial America, a pecking order of color was being established. White Europeans were on top and everyone that did not appear as they did was considered lesser humans, if not animals. How is it that this country could have been founded by people who referred other humans as animals? It was the easy way. No racial categories existed until it was deemed necessary. When white settlers deemed that they did not want to do work for themselves race was created to make their lives easier.
By creating lines between groups wealth and power were able to be controlled. As more people began to come to the United States, more lines were being drawn. Irish and German people were now coming and this posed a problem for the whites that were already here. Europeans did not want to share what they felt was theirs. On the basis of ?saving? money, power, and land, white Irish, white German, black, and Native Indian people were being discriminated against. No longer were people being held down on the basis of color alone. As it stated in the ?AAA Statement on ?Race? ?Human cultural behavior is learned, conditioned into infants beginning at birth, and always subject to modification.? Irish and German immigrants saw themselves as similar, based on physical appearance to the Europeans, and they did not quite grasp why the struggle within the white ?race? was taking place. As I mentioned earlier people more often than not, take the easiest route to solve problems. To solve their ?problems?, Irish and German settlers began to act more ?white? by showing a dislike for other ?races? and thus looked better in European eyes. Now an even stronger pecking order was being established. White Europeans still were at the top. Other ?whites? like the Germans and Irish were next with Native Indians and blacks at the bottom.
As the years moved along, more and more people came to this country in hopes of creating opportunities for themselves. As this happened and more people came, expansion to the western territories was inevitable. By now the Civil War was over and slavery was no longer legal. As the country expanded, so did the means of travel. As the railroad became increasingly popular, new tracks had to be laid, so ?new? people had to be imported. This is where the ?new? slavery began. With the ?S? word being illegal, whites needed a way to get work done. The Chinese were the way that this was accomplished. They were not forced to work the way that Africans were, but the wages that they received were pitiful. The wages and the work being performed by the Chinese was enough to make the ?whites? act more white. Not only was money that whites felt should be theirs but jobs as well were no longer sitting in just white hands. As if the pecking order was not enough out of control within the whites, now whites were still on top, but the base was expanding.
Groups other than whites were held down until whites saw a gain. Once the gain was established then these groups were pushed down again. For example, in 1877 Southern states felt that if their population was based on white numbers alone then they would be dramatically underrepresented in congress. As they could only gain through proper representation, the agreed the 3/5 of their slaves could be counted for purposes of representing in congress. Even though the southern whites wanted proper numbers, once their representatives had been selected, blacks were pushed back down the ladder of races. In the case of the Chinese, they were brought in to do hellish work for terrible wages. Once their work was finished they were place in concentration camps and in 1882 the Chinese exclusion act was enacted to limit the number of Chinese that entered the US. In 1870 3/4 of Native Indians were made citizens. Already their lands were taken away and they were forced to live on reservations. Not until 1920 did the rest of the Native Indian acquire citizenship. In 1950 the Chinese Exclusion Act was lifted. So whites basically took Native Indian lands, brought Africans here to reap profit, and brought the Chinese here to build railroads. These three groups helped carve this land we call the United States and to repay them we oppressed them for year after year and continue to do so today. As the US expanded west, another group began to get exploited. Hispanics were already in the west when we arrived, so how do we greet them? We take their land by force as well. President Roosevelt called these Hispanics savages due to the prevailing differences.
Due to the events above and the stereotypes whites hold about those who appear different, the US is still firmly held the concept of Racism. Hopefully by educating newer generations on the harsh realities they will see where our forefathers have erred. People are making strides in the right direction but there are more people still walking backwards than impedes that process. The AAA has suggested to the Office of Management and Budget that the 2010 Census should not contain the category of race, instead it should use a term like ethnicity. As was mentioned in class this is just a new catch phrase that implies the same racial over tones. People are trying to make a difference, but what will really help? As the American Physical Anthropologists statement on the biological aspects of race states all humans belong in one group homosapians. People understand that differences among people stem from heredity, the environment, and society. If environments are different, then people will adapt, as they need to. Physical characteristics may appear different as a result. With all that is known how is it so hard to re-educate people.
As I stated earlier, many groups have been discriminated against throughout history of America. When racism and discrimination occur, groups that appear similar will bond together because as the saying goes, there is strength and safety in numbers. If blacks bond because of similarities and for safety, why is this viewed as a problem? The reason is that whites see their unity as a threat to ?their? society. Many times I have either been in conversations or listened to people talk about how black people show a tremendous bond with each other. Often I have thought it was amazing that a black student could walk into a university and not know anyone, they can then attend a black student union meeting and within a meeting have contacts and a circle of acceptance. After reading Optional Ethnicities by Mary Waters, I began to see things in a slightly different way. She says that ?black students have the positive attraction of being around other black students who share some cultural elements, as well as the need to band together with other students in a reactive and oppositional way in the face of racist incidents on campus.? (Walter, 434). It made me upset in a way that society today is still wrapped in race so much that these students feel that they have to protect themselves. I do not blame them at all because what has ever been shown to make them feel safe or wanted? Nothing. Black students have their ethnicities thrown at them through slurs, slangs, and dirty looks. It is not an optional ethnicity for them the way white students can self identify. If by chance a black student makes friends in a clique of white students, then they may have conflict with other students for acting too ?white?. Another example of this ?optional? ethnicity is shown in June Jordans, Report from the Bahamas. Jordan comes face to face with a white woman that tells her she is lucky because the has a cause. ?Poverty, Police, violence. Discrimination in general.? (Jordan, 38). This shows that her heritage causes people to think that because she is black and has to deal with these types of things that she enjoys this. Since when has anyone that has been discriminated against enjoyed it? Jordan also brings up the picture of the black waiter bringing drinks into the water. She sees this as him in a way acting in a white way. This causes conflict within her that black people seem to have to take service jobs because higher level whites see them as only qualified for that job.
I use the word qualified as a transition to Moore?s ?Racist Stereotyping and the English Language.? Moore made many relevant points in this article. It is true that not only what we learn directly affect how we view race, but also the way people speak affects us. I have made references to ?them? and to ?us? throughout this paper. I begin to question how else to say things without being too wordy or not being able to say the right thing. Obvious day to day slang and slurs have left my vocabulary. I was raised in a prejudice household where blacks were ?niggers? and Hispanics were ?spics?. I never realized how ignorant these terms were until my senior year. I was in home room and I was speaking to on of my best friends, LeRon and I made a comment regarding a ?jungle bunny?. I did not know this was bad, I was raised that way and I though my Dad was the all knowing person. Luckily I had been a friend with LeRon for well over a year, and I did not get my ass kicked. He explained that I should know what I am saying before I say it. That is when I decided to rethink my vocabulary. This article is another one of those instances where if I really want to be respected for what I have to say, then I need to think of better ways to say things. His section on politics and terminology make you realize how deep the ?white? influence is. To call someone economically disadvantaged compares that situation to what the ideals of a white society holds. In all actuality, the term economically exploited makes much more sense.
It is ironic how a phrase will get another wheel spinning. Economically exploited can easily make reference to black athletes. In ?Breaking the Taboo? by Jon Entine, many facts about athletics are brought up. If you turn on Sports Center on ESPN, and clips of all major sports are shown. As it is stated in the article you will see a disproportionately large number of black athletes. Entine makes the claim that it is because in general blacks are just better athletes. This reflects views from colonial times that blacks are closer to being ?animals? than whites. In ?Masculinities and Athletic Careers?, Messner holds a different view. He says that blacks will strive with all effort to make it to the pros. He also says that this is due to the way the educational system stereotypes their teachings. When you are in elementary through high school you learn of all the ?great white people? that have so ?positively? influenced society. In sports black students can be themselves and take out any frustrations that day to day ?white? life can cause. It is not that blacks are closer to animals, it is that socialization is different for people. ?White? society says hey white kid go to school, go to college, and start a career. It is not that is does not say the same thing to blacks, but it is shown in a different way. If a black student/athlete can succeed in a profession that allows them to utilize gifts they might possess, then why strive for education by the books. Chances are they will see majority of white professors and white students and be taught ?white? education while having their culture and history constantly portrayed as inferior.
As I stated above that blacks feel the burden of a white education Arturo Madrid states that Hispanics feel it as well. In Missing People and Others Joining Together to Expand the Circle, Madrid states that in words what many students of ?minorities? feel. He says that ?Despite the operating myth of the day, school did not erase my otherness. It did try to deny it, and in doing so only accentuated it.? (Madrid, 24). He says that people try to flee otherness. White society says act as white as possible and it might accept you. What happens though is many will embrace this but due to skin color, accent, dress, and the idea that you might not really be white will often shut the door in your face. If society does not slam the door literally in your face, it will at least put a screen door up to slow you down. In Cofers The Myth of Latin Women, she describes how her style of dress got her ostracized by the girls in class at career day. By dressing in her typical dress clothes, she was shunned for her heritage. The screen door was up. She was looking in through the door at ?White World?. Even when she went to read a poem in her professional career, because she was Hispanic, she was deemed as the waitress.
It seems that it does not matter how hard someone strives if they do not happen to be white. With hundreds of years of stereotyping, bigotry, and racism it seems difficult to believe that it will ever end. Hopefully it will, but maybe it won?t. The only thing I can do is strive to show people why I feel that way that I do about this topic. If I make my points straightforward and have information to back it up, then someone will be influenced. In turn they may influence someone else. It is a step by step process that can only occur on stride at a time.