The Realities of Racism
After having a core understanding of what racism really is, and how it has affected this country, a couple of statements could be drawn from this pool of knowledge. The most common being “this country was built on racism, it will never go away,” or “You cant change the way people think,” or “if it were not for those aggressive protection laws in airports or other places, this country would be in a far worse situation.” While there is plenty of evidence to support these claims, overall they are weak, flimsy arguments, but how? if there is evidence to support the claims how can they possibly be weak? Its the same way someone can have mounds of evidence on something else, but it is eventually proven wrong. These statements are used by those who generally are not the most progressive, and usually come out when situations like marches, or airport race scandals, or other things are within the news. These statements are the only real opposites to Racism and Immigration discrimination being terrible things. These statements let people beat around the bush, coming out and saying “oh well this kind of stuff happens” or something along those lines. These statements are the only “real” rebuttals to racism and discrimination being wrong, and are the primary inhibitors of real progress not being made in this country.
Breaking down these three statements is the only real way to understand just how they inhibit change. So when people say “this country was built on racism” this is what they really mean. During the 1800s to 1900s Slavery was a huge proprietor to this country’s wealth and well-being, and in reality this country was literally built on the backs of black men, women, and children, but it was white people who took the credit. Racism was used in the form of a power. Degrading, insulting, and outright dehumanizing other races, especially black slaves in America, is how White people held dominance for such a long time. And it can be seen today too with immigration, especially after 9/11. Like previously stated, shows like 24 and those of similar concept sprung up after 9/11, and always showed a white American thwarting some secret Middle-Easter terrorist plot. Not only was this plot a great selling point, but the main premise of the show almost felt like it was supposed to teach White America to be on guard, and that if they see a Sihk man, or a middle-easterner being rigorously questioned at the airport, they were not supposed to question it, that person could have took down another flight, or killed a dozen more people. And the same can be seen with immigration. White America has a huge stigma against Syrian Refugees, they claim that those refugees are a threat to their job security and their families. When in reality, people are more likely to die to a radical White American, than any Syrian refugee. History tends to repeat its self, and we live in a time that is all too similar to the red-scare, except this time, Racism is being used as a means to “snuff out” potential threats within America. There are no real threats these people of color are showing, they are more in danger than White America is. So the phrase “this country was built on racism” is most definitely true, but its is a lazy argument that inhibits progress simply because people do not want to admit that their grasp of power is being weakened by a multitude of factors.
A counterpart to the previous argument is ” you can’t change the way people think” This is not true, the ability to open someones eyes is already a primary step to changing someones thought process in regards to an issue. This statement is brought out when people are too stubborn or lazy to take the time to see the kind of problems another race or gender faces. Generally this argument is made for older people who may be too “set” in their ways to try and change now, but can apply to younger people as well. This reveals a critical weakness in that argument, and that is that these people have lived through some of these civil movements and changes in the country and have learned nothing and still refuse to change. Partial blame can just put on how people were raised. Parents teach a majority of knowledge to their children with out even knowing sometimes, but TV and the education system play a big role in this too. This is most apparent with “white Privilege”, the invisible weight that most Caucasians are not explicitly taught to recognize. Doctor Peggy McIntosh, sheds some light on this ignorance in her work White Privilege: Unpacking The Invisible Knapsack. She states “My schooling gave me no training in seeing myself as an oppressor, as an unfairly advantaged person, or as a participant in a damaged culture. I was taught to see myself as an individual whose moral state depended on her individual moral will. My schooling followed the pattern my colleague Elizabeth Minnich has pointed out: whites are taught to think of their lives as morally neutral, normative, and average, and also ideal, so that: when we work to benefit others, this is seen as work which will allow “them” to be more like “us.”” Most white people who can not change their thinking due to this subconsciously taught problem, which was more apparent with things like segregation back in the 50s. And using terms like “We” and Them” helps tear the divide even more. So the real reason people who cant change their thinking is because it takes an effort to understand privilege, the struggles of others, and how everything is interconnected, but with the right teachings this change of thought can most definitely happen. Its a weak excuse to try and brush aside ignorance under the guise of “some people cant change”. People can learn about different issues, and be more enlighted to what goes on in the world around them, but white privilege inhibits that change.
The last, and actually most compelling argument is “if it was not for those aggressive laws, America would be a much different place”. This is very true, but it does not excuse racism and discrimination, but it is effective. Strong laws have protected us, mainly the airport regulations in regards to random searchers. They have stopped many potential threats and have increased the safety of flights, but this does not exclude just “randomly” middle-easterners, mainly those of apparent Muslim faith. However, for immigration, seeking out and detaining every immigrant to uncover a “terrorist coup” after 9/11 has been something abused. A piece from Victor Romero’s Decoupling Terrorist from Immigrant :An Enhanced Role for the Federal Courts Post 9/11 reads “…Following the September 11 attacks, The Immigration and Naturalization service (INS) arrested and detained approximately one thousand mostly Arab and Muslim non-citizens for immigration code violations in an effort to uncover possible terrorist among them.” Regardless of violations or not, hunting and arresting inherently innocent people under the guise of “any of them could be a terrorist” is not the way a county should handle something like this, and things like this happen too often for it to be called random, and it is very rarely someone of a different faith or race. So while they are good safety measure, airports and organizations like the INS,tend to racial profile or stereotype, instead of actually conducting random searches. The same thing can be said about immigration as well. Tightening the immigration intake is beneficial to a growing country with limiting resources, but painting new immigrants as untrustworthy and threats until proven otherwise is not the way to do it. There are many different ways America could protect itself without discrimination, but racism is far too ingrained within the county for that to happen.
All and all, Racism is a huge issue with this supposed “land of the free” and causes so much pain and fear for those just tying to live their lives normally. Racism is a tool used to illicit fear in those who are no a part of white America, and the abuse of this tool will always cause a chain reaction for the entire nation. Immigrants face hate crimes and discrimination for just being themselves, and if they are not Americanized, they are seen as potential “threats”. And that’s the sad truth about racism and discrimination, innocent people get painted as offenders, and those that claim they are threatened are the perpetrators in disguise. It’s a vicious cycle that, without a strong push for real justice, will Continue to grind on this country for a long, long time.
Romero, Victor C. “Decoupling Terrorist from Immigrant: An Enhanced Role for the Federal Courts Post 9/11.” Journal of Gender, Race and Justice 7.1 (2003): 201-212.
McIntosh, Peggy. “White privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack.” (1988): 31-36.