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Obama’s presence as the President of the United States is largely focused on the color of his skin. When he first ran, even the option of having a non-white president was seen as progress for America and its history of racism. His slogan of hope prevailed and citizens waited for the change to occur. Obama not only embodied the American dream, but his race was a reminder of the equality that is accessible in the United States. He symbolized the result of years of progress against racism and his victory in the election united the nation in the defeat. Yet, America was too quick to celebrate. The presence of a racial caste system is not abolished within society and there is strong evidence that we have not “moved beyond race.”
In an article by Michelle Alexander, evidence of a surviving racial caste system is examined through statistics. Comparing the facts from America’s most racist time periods to modern day society suggests that a “racial caste system is alive and well in America.” The nation’s “color blindness” is refuted by the number of African Americans under correctional control, disenfranchised, disintegrated, or imprisoned. One large explanation for the unequal caste system is the Drug War. Alexander states, “This war has been waged almost exclusively in poor communities of color.” It is largely responsible for increasing the amount of inmates in prison. Yet, the political agenda has used the drug war to their advantage. By cracking down on drug offenses, the strategy used “racially coded political appeals on issues on issues of crime and welfare to attract poor and working class white voters who were resentful of, and threatened by, desegregation, busing, and affirmative action.” Eventually, this political plan was a success and generated millions in funding from the congress. The Republican and Democratic parties began to crack down on minor offenses, in order to display their “toughness” on the “dark skinned pariahs.” These forms of political, economic, and social discrimination are “perfectly legal” if an individual is labeled a felon. Because of this, “people of color rounded up en masse for relatively minor, nonviolent drug offenses.” The discrimination legally denies basic human rights that many fought for in the history of defeating racism. Although the Jim Crow Era is over, racism is still prevalent through different systems that enable the segregation and discrimination of non-white citizens.
As a Caucasian female living in the U.S., I am extremely privileged. I have not experienced the discrimination that still exists in modern day society. Michael Schwalbe states, “Whites can live anywhere they can afford to without being limited by racial segregation; whites can assume that race won’t be used to decide whether they will fit in at work; whites who complain usually end up speaking to the white person in charge; whites can choose to ignore their racial identity and think of themselves as human beings; and in most situations, whites can expect to be treated as individuals, not as members of a category.” These privileges define the line between being a white member of society and being any other ethnic background. Even if America claims to be living in a “colorblind era,” the treatment of the Caucasian percentage is further proof that there is a surviving inequality within the social caste system in the United States.
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