Color Blind America:
The Issue of Race and Immigration
p1. When the name America is mentioned, many different phrases can come to mind, but the phrase “the land of the free” is the most apparent. The freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and a variety of other freedoms are allowed in America for her people, but not every person experiences these freedoms equally. It seems counter intuitive put an emphasis on this idea but have it be overshadowed by two driving forces, racism and discrimination. Being the biggest inhibitors of these freedoms for immigrants and people of color, racism and discrimination causes a variety of problems for those on the receiving end of it all. But what really is racism, and how can it have unfair consequences for those in the self entitled “land of the free”?
p2. The first of these freedoms, is the right to free speech, however, in regards to racism, especially towards immigrants, people uses it as an argument advocating their right to be racist. On the surface, people do not really challenge the first amendment in this way, but it is a strange argument when examined thoroughly enough. Originally the first amendment was to protect an individual’s, or mainly News outlets, the right to produce articles of various opinions with no repercussions. The same applies for people’s actual opinions, but racism is a strange object where some people can claim it is an opinion and some can claim it is not. This is why when people claim the first amendment, in regards for racism, there is not really a way to decide if it is a solid argument. Most would claim not, racism is a terrible thing, but with no way to determine if racism is a learnt trait or an opinion the first amendment claim could very well be a solid argument.
p3. To really dig deep into just how and what the effects of racism do, look at how Caucasian people used racism as a way to solidify their power within America as the dominant people but as time went on that grasp of power faded as time flowed into the twenty first century. Take sports as an example, “Related stories of Black male athletic dominance on the playing field of mainstream American sports such as football and basketball leading to the alleged marginalization of young White boys who are turning away en masses from these sports reverberate in new millennium American culture to assert that White (male) power and privilege in American society is eroding. This excerpt from White Power and Sport-Journal of Sport and Social Issues, By Richard C. King, depicts a strange phenomenon that white folks are creating. This invasion of activities by “other people” is taking away the spotlight from white people apparently. And that is the mentality white supremacy created, that if these folk can come take our sports what else can they take, but this power thought has weakened, and if this power has weakened so much how come racism is still alive today? Racism has been so ingrained in Americas history, that it is extraordinarily hard to shake off this habit. So why can’t people just stop using this bad concept?
p4. If looked into hard enough, there are still minute blips of racism in films and TV, and, when it piles up, it can form uneducated stereotypes. When watching shows, most scenes where crime or drugs are involved it always depicts an African American man or a Spanish male in some back alley with a gun hidden somewhere on said person. Why is that the scene that’s always depicted? It stems from those who struggle within the low class and poorer areas of town or city, or the ghetto as it’s commonly referred to as. A couple shows come to mind when picturing this type of scene, mainly it’s the family sitcom from the 90s and early 00s. For those watching this puts an image in the viewers’ head that these type of people exude the prescience of danger and should be thought lesser of. This is how modern racism gets indoctrinated in the minds of the new generation, these uneducated stereotypes.
p5. It is not just the stereotypes that gets into the brains of the viewers, it is also the appeasement of white folk that can cement racism. When a person of color feels the need they have to appease a portion of white folk in order for their message, show, book, art, etc. to be noticed, then something is wrong. When BET emerged back in the late 80s, there were some difficulties when producing shows. In A Racial Divide Widens on Network TV, by James Sterngold, this such issue occurred “This has led to bitter feelings among many black producers, writers and actors, who say they are often asked to make their shows less overtly black in a largely vain effort to attract white viewers. These requests often take the form of demands to ”broaden the appeal” of the shows, code for adding more white characters”. When creating a show or book dedicated to a specific race, but having it be diluted down so that white audiences will not be shocked is not really a form of freedom of speech. That is why the argument can be seen as flimsy and not as a matter of opinion, and that is exactly what the grasp of racism has done to this country. It has made it unsafe for people of color to freely discuss their heritage, religion, and culture without the prying eye of white folk claiming that it is a danger to them for other races to express themselves, and this is why hate crimes spring up, from the mentality that these regular people living their lives is a direct attack on the lives of white people, so they begin to “defend” themselves.
p6. Understanding how and why racism came about, and why people feel the need to “defend” themselves only partially helps when understanding the widespread racism that happens now, especially towards immigrants. 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 mentioned, racial stereotypes start to appear when young, and eventually wind up as full blown racial views as time and occurrence go on. And like television, film, and other sources of media portray these stereotypes so, People will always keep in mind certain things. With thoughts like these, people will always be quick judge. For Example, a poor African-American family lives in a “sketchy” 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 eventually.
p7. 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 frightened “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, which 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.
p8. The results of the recent presidential event was even 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, and 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 what happens with racism in America, it spreads like a rumor.
p9. The cause and effect of Barack Obama’s presidency can be compared to other events too. The aforementioned events,such as, 9/11, Pearl Harbor, and others 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 frightening 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-Qaeda, a Middle Eastern terrorist organization caused the planes to crash, so many white American equated middle easterners to Al-Qaeda, so racism and Xenophobia against middle easterners, and those of the Islamic faith, grew rampant.
p10. Racism and Xenophobia against Middle Easterners also spread so rapidly after 9/11 because of the media. Networks 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, especially 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 hundreds of thousands innocent Americans”. Plots like this aroused the suspicion of White America, causing widespread distrust, against both longtime residents, and new ones escaping from hardship
p11. Having a core understanding of what racism really is, and how it has affected this nation, a couple of statements can be drawn from this. The most common few being “this country was built on racism, it will never go away,” or “You can’t 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 why is that? If there is evidence to support these claims how can they be weak? It’s the same way someone can have mounds of evidence on something else, but it can still be proven wrong. These statements are used by those who generally are not the most progressive, and will usually come out when situations like marches, or airport scandals, or other things 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, and they are the primary inhibitors of progress not being made in this country.
p12. 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. 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 it 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.
p13. A counterpart to the previous argument is ” you can’t change the way people think”. This statement is brought out when people are too stubborn or lazy to take the time to see the problems another race or gender faces. 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, that being these people have lived through some of these civil movements and changes in the country and have learned nothing and refuse to change. Partial blame can be put on how people were raised. Parents teach a majority of knowledge to their children without 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 cannot 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 can’t 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. It’s a weak excuse to try and brush aside ignorance under the guise of “some people can’t change”. People can learn about different issues, and be more enlightened to what goes on in the world around them, but white privilege inhibits that change.
p14. The last arguments is “if it was not for those aggressive laws, America would be a much different place”. While effective, it does not excuse racism and discrimination. Strong laws, like random searches, have protected us in airports, and have stopped many potential threats, but sometimes these searches aren’t entirely random. For immigration, seeking out and detaining every immigrant to uncover a “terrorist coup” after 9/11 has been an abused extreme. 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, hunting and arresting inherently innocent people under the guise of “suspected terrorism” is not the way a county should handle the issue. Things like this happen too often for it to be called random, and it isn’t often 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. While tightening a growing immigrant population is beneficial for a growing country with limited resources, painting new immigrants as untrustworthy and threats until proven otherwise is not the way to do it.
p15. “America, land of the free” is a color blind nation so set in its ways, they refuse to take down the eye sores that are racism and discrimination. Whether its because we are too lazy, or the weeds are too tough to pull out, we sit in a nation divided by the forgotten burden of one side, and the struggles of surviving on the other. America is not black and white, however the media, and other sources trick us into thinking that it is. These two giants harm the nation and her people, and with more and more examples appearing everyday, people can see the true damage that is done. Racism and discrimination will eventually bleed this country dry.
King, C. Richard. “White Power and SportJournal of Sport and Social Issues.” Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 10 Feb. 2007. Web. 07 Mar. 2017.
Sterngold, James. “A Racial Divide Widens on Network TV.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 28 Dec. 1998. Web. 07 Mar. 2017.
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.
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.