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Racism in America Today
It has been 150 years since the abolishment of slavery in America, and although racism was prevalent in the years following the adoption of the 13th amendment, the existence of racism in America today is called into question. Some say it is completely eradicated from society, stating that “race has become supremely irrelevant” (Hart), while others disagree and claim that racial prejudice is alive and well. Racial persecution is very clear in American history, but is it circumscribed to the past or is racial bigotry an issue in the present as well?
On one hand, America is a very diverse and multicultural country, appropriately dubbed “The Melting Pot.” This is evident even in America’s governmental systems, as Eric Bolling says, “We have a Black president, Black senators, we have Black heads — captains of business, companies, [and] we have Black entertainment channels” (NewsOne). The diversity of America is seen everywhere. The many different types of cultures and people make America great, and racism is not a problem anymore because every race contributes its own greatness to make America an even greater nation.
With all of this information in mind, America has changed and improved vastly over the past century and a half. Race no longer plays a significant role in society, like Richard Cohen, a Washington Post columnist said, “ a glance at the White House strongly suggests that things have changed. For most Americans, race has become supremely irrelevant. Everyone knows this. Every poll shows this” (Hart). America has developed a distinguishing tolerance that accepts the existence of every race. Society has moved on.
Not only has society moved on, but because it accepts everyone regardless of skin color, it proves that race is a social construct. A study by Edith Gnanadass told of a story about a boy named Gallifrey, an Indian boy whose parents immigrated to America. In second grade, a classmate thought he was Black, so Gallifrey thought he was Black as well. When his parents discovered this, they sat him down and explained that he was Indian and that they had emigrated from India to America. He had to be taught about his race; he was not born knowing it. Race is therefore a social construct, and one cannot be racist if race does not truly exist. There is only one race, and that is the human race.
On the other hand, the nickname of America, “The Melting Pot,” is precisely the reason racism is still prevailing even today. The nickname is a metaphor that refers to the assimilation of immigrants in the United States. This assimilation erases the very cultures and diversity that America is proud to hold, and a historical and present example is seen with the Native Americans. Every year during halloween, children wear feathers, face paint, and maybe even a bow and arrow to match the racist caricature of an “Indian.” As Jennifer Keith in The Manitoban claims, “Not only does this disregard the multiple, diverse and distinct nations across our country; it erases indigenous peoples' contemporary existence, their contemporary struggles, and their contemporary issues. In short, it trivializes and sustains the colonial practice of erasing indigenous peoples” (Gonzalez and Menchaca). This is a prime illustration of cultural appropriation, the adoption of parts of one’s culture by people of a different cultural group, and cultural erasure that will continue to perpetuate racism and continue to send the message that it is okay to destroy another’s culture.
Secondly, the representation of people of color in the media is neither proportional to the population of people of color in America nor is it accurately portraying people of color on television. The United States census reports “72% of Americans as of 2010 identified as white alone. The other 28% identified as either some other race and/or of mixed race” (C.I.). However, 28% of people on television are not comprised of people of color, and any person of color that is on television is usually portrayed stereotypically, such as the quiet, shy, Asian girl or the loud, sassy, Black friend. Stereotypical and racist depictions of people of color are detrimental to the way they are treated in society.
Finally, racial discrimination is particularly prominent in law enforcement. For example, “African-Americans comprise 13% of the U.S. population and 14% of the monthly drug users, but 37% of the people arrested for drug-related offenses in America” (Quigley), and this is because the majority of whites think of Black America in terms of low-income neighborhoods and stereotypes (Feagin and O’Brien). This thinking creates the illusion that people of color are more likely to commit a crime, and this proves to be true when a national survey showed that “a clear majority of white people and Black people agree with the statement ‘Blacks are aggressive or violent’” (Welch). These ideas especially come from news coverage and the way news portrays people of color. Lisa Bloom, a former newsman, reported “[I] used to anchor a show on Court TV, and when we heard about a new arrest for some horrific crime, my African American co-host would whisper, ‘Please don’t let him be black’” (Bloom). The fact that a criminal’s race was the first aspect to come to mind shows that the legal system is inherently biased. Racial discrimination is within the societal system, and the information shown shows it is in the governmental systems as well.
Although the issue of the existence racism is very controversial, there are many facets of each argument. Perhaps this is a new age and America has moved on, or perhaps racism is still a very real problem today. This controversy is an intricate matter of change and advancement; it either shows how America has learned from its past or how it has repeated it.
Bloom, Lisa. "White People Commit the Most Heinous Crimes, So Why Is America Terrified of Black Men?" Alternet. N.p., 13 May 2014. Web. 24 Oct. 2014.
C.I. "Race in the Media: Is Representation a Problem?" Dreams Come True. N.p., 31 Jan. 2013. Web. 24 Oct. 2014.
Feagin, Joe, and Eileen O’Brien. “Race in America.” White Men on Race. 5-29. N.p.: Beacon Press, 2004. Academic Search Complete. Web. 19 Oct. 2014.
Gnanadass, Edith. “Learning to Teach About Race.” Adult Learning 25.3 (2014): 96-102. Academic Search Complete. Web. 19 Oct. 2014.
Hart, Peter. “Richard Cohen on Racism: Not a Problem!” Fair Blog. N.p., 5 May 2009. Web. 19 Oct. 2014.
Now, NewsOne. “Roland Martin ‘Stuck on Stupid’ Segment Goes in on Eric Bolling.” Newsone.com. N.p., 23 Jan. 2014. Web. 19 Oct. 2014.
Quigley, Bill. "Fourteen Examples of Racism in Criminal Justice System." The Huffington Post. N.p., , 26 July 2010. Web. 24 Oct. 2014.
Welch, Kelly. "Black Criminal Stereotypes and Racial Profiling." Journal of Contemporary
Criminal Justice 23.3 (2007): 276-88. Web. 26 Oct. 2014.