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Look around us. Today, one major topic that society always has and probably always will struggle with is the global issue of racism. According to Pierre Berton, “Racism is a refuge for the ignorant. It seeks to destroy. It is the enemy of freedom, and it deserves to be met head-on and stamped out.” While it may seem that as the years pass, society will forget about all the negativity we have pushed onto people who don’t look like us, but sadly that is not the case. Society has given us images of people we are supposed to dress like, act like, and look like. It is almost as if our minds are being poisoned by what we should consider picture perfect. However, everyone seems to ignore the fact that we are all people, born to be different and not the same. In this essay, I’m going to talk about the beginning of racism in the United States, people’s mentality towards racism, modern racism, and how what I did contributed to today’s issues when it comes to racial discrimination.
Racism started back when the United States was founded. Back when the white people assumed that any and all African Americans, also referred to as blacks or negros, were considered to be nothing. They were kidnapped from their homes back in Africa and forced onto ships. On these ships they were chained together by the neck, waist, and ankles. Neatly lined up in rows, hundreds of African Americans lay on their backs. There were waste buckets placed throughout the ship, but only a few of these soon to be slaves could manage to reach them. They were fed twice a day, food brought on small plates and placed randomly, only giving a select few the chance to eat if they could manage to reach the plate. Of course with these living circumstances, there were lots of diseases spreading along with the ship. If an African American died or was considered too sick to be of any good for their slave owners, they would be thrown overboard, given to the depths of the ocean. Any slave who managed to live across through the trip, they were all (men, women, and children) were given to slave sellers. These sellers would dress them all in clothing and line them up neatly in rows to be auctioned off to the rich white landowners. Husbands and fathers and sons were taken from their families. Mothers had to witness their children being inspected as if they were a workhorse.
Children watched as their families were being taken away from them, not knowing they would most likely never see them again. Once an African American was sold to a landowner, they were forced into the life of horror and labor. They were forced to work tedious hours in the fields, picking crops, like cotton. If any were caught attempting to escape, they were punished however the landowner seemed fit.
By the 19th century, racism had matured and spread around the world. In many countries, leaders began to think of the ethnic components of their societies, usually religious or language groups, in racial terms and to designate “higher” and “lower” races. Those seen as the low-status races, especially in colonized areas, were exploited for their labor, and discrimination against them became a common pattern in many areas of the world. Dating back to the civil rights movement, racism in the United States was mostly targeted towards black people and African-Americans. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the fight for social justice overpowered most of the other horrible issues in the U.S. at the time. Although slavery had been abolished a century before, the Reconstruction Amendments that were established afterward, in a hope to make people have the right to more equality, had become overruled by the Jim Crow Laws. These laws were specifically designed to limit people of the non-white race in their day-to-day lives. Segregated water fountains, bathrooms, buses, and schools were just some of the many laws non-white Americans were forced to abide by. In 1948, President Harry Truman took decisive action to promote racial equality. He urged Congress to abolish the poll tax, enforce fair voting and hiring practices, and end Jim Crow transportation between states. Four Southern states abandoned Truman’s Democratic Party in protest. Then, as commander in chief, Truman ordered the complete integration of the armed forces. He did not wipe out racism but instead opened the door so generals who were trained to obey commands, complied as best they could. In Korea, during the 1950s, integrated U.S. forces fought their first war.
The Civil Rights movement helped change these laws and made a huge impact on the United States. For example, ways history changed included legalizing interracial marriage, ruling bus segregation as unconstitutional, and overturning the “separate but equal” doctrine. However, racism didn’t stop there. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, created with good intentions was only a catalyst for the progress of racial interaction towards black people. One would think that discrimination would be put to a halt after the act was signed, but it seemed to lead to a bigger issue. The 1964 act ended up principally outlawing “intention to discriminate” in the present. Intent but not outcome became the preferred proof of discrimination. A strong piece of evidence of intent to create the racial disparity is the “white only” sign, which became the principal marker of discrimination. Not the racial disparity itself, or the absence of people of color. People seemed to confuse the death of the Jim Crow laws with the death of racism, yet that was not the case. Racism progressed when Americans refused to identify discrimination by the outcome.
Racism progressed when new racist ideas blamed black inferiority for persisting racial disparities. Racism progressed when Americans chose the law and order of inequality over the civil right of equality. 53 years after the Civil Rights Act, the racist springs are still poisoning our racial atmosphere, with no resolution in sight. Although equality was achieved, the act didn’t change the views of the people as racism is still a recurring issue today. Racism is and always will be a part of society, but it is how we choose to act on it that matters. People should all be considered equal regardless of what they look like, talk like, or even do that makes them who they are. Racism is extremely wrong, but it makes the one who is acting so look so much worse than the one being judged.
Modern racism, or better known as “Symbolic Racism”, is leaving a big impact on society these days. This belief reflects on the idea that black people are inferior to white people, which leaves us with the prejudice that white people are superior. It also highlights the concepts of incompatibility of cultures, protection of indigenous cultural values, and the clash of civilizations. Modern-day racism stems from a series of underlying factors which have been believed to be some of the biggest influences on the idea. These constituents include racialized belief in traditional values, belief in equality of opportunity, low belief in equality of outcome, group self-interest, and low knowledge of black people. People who hold symbolic racist beliefs tend to hold negative attitudes, most likely gained in childhood, towards black people that they may not be aware of.
Not all racism is driven by hate, but fear or anger as well. Most of these beliefs have stemmed from traditional American values such as those who are hard-working and have individuality, and it has morphed into something more racialized. If we look at ways racism is being held onto by society, we notice the continuation of the Ku Klux Klan (a white supremacy group started in the south), job inequality, police brutality towards minorities, and so much more. Although the past presidential position was held by an African American man, many Americans still hold on to their racial opinions and biases.
The psychology of racism is more complicated than one would think. It is a psychological defense mechanism generated by feelings of insecurity and anxiety. There is some evidence for this view from the psychological theory of ‘terror management.’ Research has shown that when people are given reminders of their own mortality, they feel a sense of anxiety and insecurity, which they respond to by becoming more prone to status-seeking, materialism, greed, prejudice, and aggression. They are more likely to conform to culturally accepted attitudes and to identify with their national or ethnic groups.
This basically means that racism isn’t always driven by hate as most people would think, but primarily fear. People can also develop racist tendencies because of their environment as a child or young adult. Sometimes people make jokes or say things they don’t even realize could be seen as racist. I am a prime example of that. My intentions were not driven by hate or fear or anger, but rather a desire to be recognized by others and pressure by my peers.
What I did was unacceptable. I made a stupid decision because I thought it would make me look cool. All it did was get me in huge trouble and made me look like someone I’m not. Because racism is such a big issue these days, what I wrote contributed to the problem of racism in America. I regret the decisions I made and after writing this essay, I understand why what I did is very offensive to others and is not even close to being acceptable. Everyone should be treated equally no matter the color of their skin, their gender, or sexuality. We are all humans who deserve the same level of respect and rights as anyone else and especially in America, whose foundation is built upon the fact that everyone is created equally.
I understand that I should never have taken part in modern-day racism because no one deserves to be treated as if they are not equal or good enough for society. I also feel terrible about how my words and actions could affect someone so negatively. I have made a promise to myself that I will watch what I say and do so I no longer put myself in the position to accidentally affect the way others think or feel about themselves.
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