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What is racism? Racism can be defined as where one ethnic race views another as inferior, for they are seen as outcasts due to a different skin color (adl. org). Racism can date all the way back when society were being formed. The international markets oust to participate in slave trade in the developmental era which has been the root of racism in the world. There are many stories of individuals going through the struggles of racism in their lives, but no of those individuals capture the moment quite like Trevor Noah in his book Born A Crime. His story talks about his struggles of being born mixed, which means having both parents being form two different ethnicities, in a South American society that did not condone that type of child.
In Trevor Noah’s book, one can see what the causes of racism and consequences of racism can have on not only individuals but also a child. What are these causes and consequences of racism? In Born A Crime, one can see many causes and consequences of racism; however, the main causes are stereotyping, fear of difference, and social environment teachings, but all causes have consequences such as criminal justice, economic equality, and housing which are all contained in this book.
Racism does not just magickly come into existence, for every action has a reaction. One of the main causes of racism is stereotyping. What is racial stereotyping? It is where an individual judge another individual character, moral, and actions based on what they look like without actually meeting the person. For example, in Born A Crime, Trevor Noah talks about a moment where he stole a car from a junkyard to go to look for discounted cell phones (Noah, 229). He did not break the law, but he describes the police by stating, “Cops in South Africa don’t give you a reason when they pull you over. They pull you over because they’re cops and they have the power to pull you over; it’s as simple as that” (Noah,229).
The officer then asks, “Do you know why I pulled you over? ” (Noah, 229).
Trevor Noah replies, “Because you’re a policeman and I’m a black person? ” (Noah,229)
The officer then says, “That’s correct. License and registration, please” (Noah 229). Trevor Noah even wanted to call out the officer for racial stereotyping, but he knew it would not get him out of trouble which is where the humor of this book shines the most (Noah,229). Stereotyping is dangerous mentality to have, for it leads to taking away an individual’s identity just by first glance instead on judging them by their personality. One of the consequences of stereotyping is mostly seen in the criminal justice system, for certain ethnic groups are reduced to a single reputation which in no case represents each unique individual. German Lopez did a study on the consequences of this behavior in the criminal justice system of America. He had many great examples of how dangerous serotyping can be. For example, he writes, “In Baltimore, a September 2014 report by the Baltimore Sun’s Mark Puente found that the city had paid about $5. 7 million since 2011 to more than 100 people — most of whom were black — who claimed that officers had beaten them. Vox’s Ezra Klein explained some of the deplorable allegations after Freddie Gray died of a fatal spinal cord injury that he suffered while in police custody” (Lopez). This is a clear indicator that those who work in the criminal justice department have a stereotype for certain ethic groups which, as one can conclude, determines how an individual is treated. However, this is not the cause and consequence event that can be found in Trevor Noah’s book Born A Crime.
The worst emotion an individual can feel is fear. Individuals do all they can do to live their life without fear, buy fear is an aspect of the mind that no one can escape. How does this factor into racism? Individuals fear what is different of their own character. For example, university phycologist Elizabeth Phelps did a study on how fear interacts with race (Balter). They tested individuals on the way the brain reacts to pictures of different ethnic groups (Balter). Michael Balter concluded Phelps’s findings by stating, “Phelps’s team concluded that racial bias was linked to a deep-seated fear of people perceived as members of a different social group, a connection that some researchers had suspected but for which solid data was lacking” (Balter). This fear of being different can be seen from the birth of Trevor Noah in Born A Crime. For example, Trevor Noah talks how about it was one of the worst crimes to have intimate relations with a mixed race in South Africa (Noah, 21). This is a perfect example of what can happen when fear drives one race into forcing all other races to stay in their segregated position. Trevor Noah then describes how serious the crimes are. He talks about how the government of South Africa made all races register their ethnicity in order to keep them separate (Noah, 22). Trevor Noah elaborates on the weight of the consequences on how certain races could not mix or leave their designated living zones by stating, “The government went to insane lengths to try to enforce these new laws. The penalty for breaking them was five years in prison” (Noah,21). He could not even call his own dad “Dad”, for it would cause the police to ask questions about his illegal birth (Noah, 104). This fear of the what is foreign has many consequences, but one of the consequences that can be found in Born A Crime is economic equality. Trevor Noah describes a time in his life where him and his family were so poor that they had caterpillars for dinner (Noah, 260). Race is not the only cause for economic equality, but it certainly plays a major role. Other researchers also find that in America some ethnic groups start out having a slim to no chance of escaping poverty. For example, Raj Chetty talks about the statistics behind economic equality. Chetty states, “American Indian and black children have much higher rates of downward mobility than other groups …
By contrast, white children born in the top quintile are nearly five times as likely to stay there as they are to fall to the bottom” (Chetty). Economic Equality collides heavily with race because it is buried in the fear of being different that certain ethnic groups want to keep other groups under their thumb so to speak. However, economic equality is not the only consequence that comes from racism. Social environment teachings have such a deep impact on how other individuals treat others. Paulette Parker writes an article addressing why this is true. She quotes David Kirk, who did a study on Americans mindsets in different locations, stating, “Where you live profoundly shapes who you are. “They fear that when poor people move next door crime, drugs, blight, bad public schools and higher taxes inevitably follow. They worry that the value of their homes will fall and the image of their town will suffer. It does not help that the poor are disproportionately black and Latino…I would go as far as to argue that what is truly American is not so much the individual but neighborhood inequality” (Parker). This study means that if an individual grows up in community that only likes mayonnaise on their sandwiches then that individual will know nothing of what a sandwich tastes like without mayonnaise. As a result, this individual will dichromate those who do not like mayonnaise.
One can see this in Born A Crime where Trevor Noah, being a mixed kid, talks about how he did not fit in with any white or black community (Noah, 120). He talks where he lived being confusing because the community was made of colored people because other ethnic groups did not claim them, so they were seen as outcasts of the outcasts (Noah, 119). This made Trevor Noah deeply confused cause he could not figure out where he belonged on the social latter. His environment teachings were to stay with his own kind. One can see this in where Trevor Noah states, “For centuries colored people were told: Blacks are monkeys. Don’t swing from the trees like them. Learn to walk upright like the white man” (Noah, 120). These teachings can be dangerous because, in Trevor Noah’s case, can lead to further segregation of other ethnicities. The consequence of social environment teachings goes hand and hand with the housing of those ethnic groups. Housing issues happen solely when social teachings teach individuals where they should belong. An editorial board at The New York Times did a piece on this issue that outline the disadvantages of keeping groups separate. They state, “African-Americans were essentially shut out of early federal programs that promoted homeownership and financial well-being…
This missed opportunity to amass wealth that white Americans took for granted is evident to this day in a yawning black-white wealth gap and in worse health, living conditions and educational opportunities for African-Americans” (Editorial Board). Ilyce Glink also did a study on how race factors into the housing market. She states, “In nearly all cases, whether renting or buying, minorities were told about and shown fewer properties than white people. Blacks were told about and shown about 17 percent fewer homes than whites, while Asians were told about 15. 5 percent fewer homes and shown nearly 19 percent fewer properties… rental agents don’t allow minorities to hear about or see all properties available to them, they may wind up assigning their kids to worse schools, reducing their overall safety and limiting their job opportunities (Glink). She outlines the fact that numbers do not lie when it comes to housing is connecting directly to housing. The impact that housing can have on racial issues is so vital to the push of segregation.
In conclusion, Trevor Noah’s book contains many stories showcasing the causes and consequences of racism. First, this book shows how serotyping leads to misjustice in the criminal justice system. The situation could have been different if Trevor Noah was white, for the officer might have not even pulled him over. Second, Trevor Noah highlights to his audience how the fear of different people leads to more racism which in turn can lead to economic inequality. Third, Trevor Noah talks about where he grew up, and his social environmental teachings of “black people” which shaped his outlook on “black people” at an early age. These teachings led to thinking that it was normal to be housed separately because he thought “he did not belong” with other races. All in all, in Born A Crime, one can see many causes and consequences of racism; however, the main causes are stereotyping, fear of difference, and social environment teachings, but all causes have consequences such as criminal justice, economic equality, and housing which are all contained in this book.
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