Fear and Loathing in America
Understanding how and why racism came about only helps a little when understanding the widespread racism that happens now, especially towards immigrants. Racism works in a chain, X causes Y, which causes Z, so on and so forth, and learning how it came about helps understand this chain a little in the sense that we know where X comes from. X in this case being the billowing fear and stereotypes that come from the hearts of the close-minded American people. With certain ideas implanted into the heads of these people through mediums such as television and political talking heads, these preconceived notions are what allow racism to spread like a plague to the younger generation.
Certain ideas about other races have stemmed from historical events. Pearl Harbor, 9/11, and other historically recent events cause fearing Americans to be more “alert” around those that look like they committed acts like that, but racism is not a viable defense mechanism, especially decades after the events, so why does it keep happening? Like previously stated, racial stereotypes start out as jokes when young, and eventually wind up as full blown racial comments as time and persistence goes on, and like before television, film, and other sources of media portray so. people always hear about certain things and then once they read about it they assume it to be true. Say, a poor African-american or latinx lives in a shabby neighborhood, even sub-consciously, a white American will start to guess and assume about what life is like for them. “do they sell drugs, do they steal, do they have a complete family?” even if one doesn’t outright focus on these preconceived notions, they cross the mind.
These notions “plagued” white America when former president Barack Obama first took office. one strange results to these notions came about in “white denial”. According to between Barack and a hard place by Tim Wise, “White folks by and large failed to see what all the fuss was about when president Obama took office”. To see the emergence of “white denial” is stunning to see when the first Black president, ever, gets inaugurated, and ” white America” still doesn’t see how monumental of an event that was is almost astonishing. The polarity of what it is today however, going from the first black president of the United states and a somewhat frighted “white america” to a man who is every ideal and belief of said “white America” goes to show how powerful these harmful ideas of “another people” can really be harmful and influential they are in America. America was so quick to go back to a “comfort zone” of a white president, that they didn’t care who it was, or what their platform was built on. It was normalcy, something humans desire when things get too out of hand for them.
The big picture of this recent presidential event was nicknamed a “white lash” at the rest of America, so in a sense this can be seen scale model effect, when compared to racism in America as a whole. The idea of a black president stunned and infuriated that jokes about certain things going wrong would always have the punch line of “thanks Obama”. Because, for a time, most of “white America” genuinely believed that it was his fault for a majority of their issues. He became an escape goat, an while every president has issues tied with their presidency that people do not agree with, they were never the butt of a joke. So the cries and fears people had for having a black president caused jokes, rumors, and other assorted things associated with him to spread throughout America, leaving some with a diminished view of him. And this is exactly what happens with racism in America on a larger scale.
The cause and effect of Barack Obama’s presidency can be compared to other events. Like previously mentioned, 9/11, Pearl Harbor, and other events caused Americans, mostly white, to act in a “defensive manner”. recently after said events, people being on edge was to be expected, it was chaotic and frighting for many during the time, but as time went on, feelings diminished, but some people stuck with their “gut feeling” about other races. After 9/11 specifically, things like the TSA started to crackdown to ensure the safety of people, however random searches soon became “random”, that meaning if someone was middle eastern, and or wore a turban they would be called in for a search. It comes from the premise of equation. Al-queda, a middle eastern terrorist organization caused the planes to crash, so many white american equated middle easterners to Al-queda, so racism and Xenophobia against middle easterners, and those of the Islamic faith, grew rampant.
Racism and Xenophobia against Middle Easterners also spread so rapidly after 9/11 because of media, once again. Places like Fox News were quick to jump the gun on anything related to muslims, but mainly the television trope of combating terrorist caused a rise in prejudice, easpecially thanks to shows like JAG and 24. An excerpt from Arabs and Muslims in the media: race and representation after 9/11 by Alsultany reads “…Bauer subverts a nuclear attack by the apparent “Middle Easterners” partially orchestrated by the Araz family, which has lived in the united states for years, secretly conspiring, with other to attack this country and murder hundres of thousands innocent Americans”. plots like this aroused the suspicion of White america, causing widespread distrust, against both long time residents, and new ones escaping from hardship
Realizing the effects that racism causes truly shows how harmful it is to those on the receiving end of it all. So these deep rooted ideals about other “people”, mixed with recent tragedies, and a wide variety of media portrayal causes this tidal wave of racism that still sweeps the country. Which in turn, causes some brush back from the receivers, and soon mass amounts of tension form with in the nation, and like a chemical reaction, said tension will explode at some point, which repeats the cycle all over again.
Alsultany, Evelyn. Arabs and Muslims in the media: race and representation after 9/11. New York: New York U Press, 2012. Print.
Wise, Tim J. Between Barack and a Hard Place Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama. San Francisco: City Lights, 2009. Print.