Racism Throughout History The Move to Change Perce
ptionsRacism is the mistreatment of a group of people on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, place of origin, or ancestry. The term racism may also denote a blind and unreasoning hatred, envy, or prejudice (New Brunswick Human Rights Commission). Racism has had a strong effect on society. Despite the many efforts made to alleviate racism, what is the future of African Americans? Racism’s long history, important leadrs, current status, and future outlook will be the main factors in determining how to combat racism. Racism is still present in many societies, although many people are doing their best to put an end to racism and its somewhat tragic ordeals.
Though racism is a controversial subject, many other subjects have received just as much controversy. One of these is discrimination. Discrimination is the denial of equality based on personal characteristics, such as race and color. Racial jokes and ethnic slurs are obvious examples of racial discrimination. These comments not only leave the victim feeling helpless and fearful, but they have a negative impact on worker productivity and economic performance (New Brunswick Human Rights Commission).
Other examples of these controversial subjects are stereotyping and prejudice. Stereotype means, “set image.” Stereotyping refers to forming an instant or fixed picture of a group of people. Prejudice is very similar. It literally means to “prejudge.” No law can prevent prejudiced attitudes. Law can, however, prohibit discriminatory practices and behaviors (New Brunswick Human Rights Commission).
Racist and racism are provocative words in American society. To some, they become curse words. They are descriptive words of reality that cannot be denied. Some people believe that race is the primary determinant of human abilities and capacities and behave as if racial differences produce inherent superiorities. People of color are often injured by these judgements and actions whether they are directly or indirectly racist. Just as individuals can act in racist ways, so can institutions. Institutions can be overtly or inherently racist. Institutions can also injure people. The outcome is nonetheless racist, if not intentional (Randall).
Whenever people discuss race relations today and the effect of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, they remember the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was and continues to be one of the most influential people that have ever lived. His thoughts and dreams of a day when all people will live together in harmony are still not accomplished (“Martin Luther King”).
Throughout his life, King felt the pain of racism, and being the kind of person he was, he knew he needed to do something. In 1957, he founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The conference was very influential and invaluable during the Civil Rights Movement. Through this group, King was able to build a strong reputation for having a strong will and desire for equality and justice for all people. This reputation made him a leader, if not THE leader, of the Civil Rights Movement (“Martin Luther King”).
With the SCLC and the passive resistance philosophy, King was able to lead actions such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the March on Selma, Mississippi. The most widely-known march is the March on Washington. In his speech, he talked about his dream for unity and equality among all people. However, because of his marches and protests, he was arrested over thirty times. Despite these arrests, King still made many other accomplishments. In 1963, he was named “Man of the Year” by Time Magazine. He also won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. King’s awards show the support that people had for his ideas and improvements of Civil Rights (“Martin Luther King”).
Another influential Civil Rights leader is Jackie Robinson. Rarely do people find an individual who has the courage and perseverance to break down social barriers. Jackie Robinson is one of these ground breaking individuals. Robinson not only broke the color barrier in baseball, but he was also active in the Civil Rights Movement (“Jackie Robinson”).
After accepting an athletic scholarship to UCLA, Robinson joined professional baseball in the spring of 1945 with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League. Branch Rickey, owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, signed him to a minor league contract on August 28, 1945. During his baseball career, he had to go through racial taunts and attacks. He had to be tough to withstand the racial pressures from coaches, players, and fans. It was especially tough at away games. Despite this, Robinson was selected as “Rookie of the Year,” elected the league’s most valuable player, and led the Dodgers to the World Series. He also went to the World Series six times in his 10-year major career and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962 (“Jackie Robinson”).
Along with his many athletic achievements, Robinson was also an active member of Civil Rights Organizations. Robinson was a main speaker for the NAACP. In 1956, he received the NAACP’s Spingan Medal for Service to black Americans. He was also involved with the integration of the Little Rock schools (“Jackie Robinson”).
Thurgood Marshall, a leading black activist, is the one who ended segregation. He broke the color barrier in housing, voting, transportation, and education. When he realized he wanted to do something about segregation, he decided to go to Howard University of Law School. Many of Marshall’s cases involved Civil Rights issues, and he was an extremely important legal figure for almost 60 of the 84 years he lived. Marshall was also appointed assistant to Counsel Charles Hamilton Houston, Marshall’s mentor and the first black lawyer. In 1938, Marshall began working for the NAACP. While working for them, Marshall won 32 of 35 cases. His most memorable case is Brown v. Board of Education, which ended school segregation (“Thurgood Marshall”).
Marshall’s most significant achievement came on August 30, 1967, when he became the first African American to serve as a Justice of the Supreme Court. Lyndon Johnson appointed Marshall to the honorable position. Marshall served for 24 years on the Supreme Court until 1991 when he retired. Marshall paved the way for many black advancements (“Thurgood Marshall”).
On December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks walked into the history books when she refused to give up her seat for a white man on a city bus. She was arrested for a violation of the city’s segregation laws called the Jim Crow Laws. After challenging the laws in court with no success, Parks and others organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The 382-day boycott led to the desegregation of the city’s buses. Parks and other people had lost their jobs, and they were harassed and threatened during the boycott, but the boy cotters held. It was an important turn in the Civil Rights Movement (“Rosa Parks”).
Later in life, the Parks moved to Detroit where Rosa took a job working for Congressman John Conyers. She then founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development. Parks continued her work for the NAACP and other civil rights organizations. In 1986, she received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor for her achievements in this area. She was also inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame. Parks is often known as the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement. On her seventy-seventh birthday, Parks said, “I would like to be known as a person who is concerned about freedom and equality and justice and prosperity for all people'” (qtd. In “Rosa Parks”).
So, the problem has remained. Racism has swept through history and managed to survive even though there have been leaders, protests, and even laws to try and stop it. Therefore, people today are left with only one option. We cannot change the past, so why do we not try to learn from it?
Of course, changing the fate of racism at present time is not an easy task. Even though Civil Rights leaders have made many advancements for African Americans, the battle has still not been won. It has been over 130 years since the Civil War ended slavery. However, race relations have not changed that much. The country is still rebuilding from the deep wounds of the Civil War and slavery. After all, it is not easy to shake off years and years of racism (“Racism: Melting Pot of Hatred”).
It is because of these deep wounds that we have had to deal with America as a racist society in looking at the relations between black Americans and white Americans. Also, “new” immigrant groups from Southern and Eastern Europe were regarded as inferior compared to Northern and Western Europeans because of a racist society. However, these problems have not gone unnoticed, and many people have tried to account for how that racism has had a major impact on the organization of our society and our relations with the rest of the world (Tishler and Schultz).
We have also had to deal with America as a racist culture. White people have attempted to govern through politics, economy, cultural impact, and the directions of society. They try to keep those whom they regard as, at best, second-class citizens firmly below them in social pecking order (Tishler and Schultz).
The question now, however, is how far will this racial culture and society extend? The fear, for many, lies within their children. ‘Minority’ students have to suffer multiple oppressions of racism everyday in public and private schools. It is for this reason that many of them drop out. Blame can partially be placed on teachers and administrators. With these dropout rates, it is safe to assume that education is being seriously mismanaged. Conveniently, drop out is only seen as the student’s fault. One important reason why many minorities drop out is that they are worn down by the racist K-12 curriculum which worships all areas white and treats minority cultures as ‘dirty and uncivilized’ (“NYPD in Public Schools”).
While students are dealing with just trying to survive, many of the teachers and administrators have networked and organized themselves for increased salaries and benefits to resist attempts to integrate the racist education bureaucracy. It is only racist opportunism that can explain why this bizarre, failed occupational group of educational functionaries has no remorse or guilt over the fact that they have not served in the interest of minority students and communities. Along with the harsh times they face at school, minorities could be offered an even greater challenge. The racist police station is the most feared institution in a minority community, which will give minority students yet another reason to drop out (“NYPD in Public Schools”).
Though in many citizens’ eyes, the teachers’ and administrators’ behavior is completely inappropriate, statistics have shown that they may have some justification. The problem is that these teachers and administrators are confused. They have problems distinguishing between two black cultures. The dominant black culture of hard work, family solidarity, middle-class dreams, church, and biblical values has been completely severed from another black culture that is a social and cultural wreck. This cultural wreck is often called the black underclass. It consists of the 1.6 million blacks living in neighborhoods with disproportionately high illegitimacy, welfare dependency, school dropout rate, male unemployment, and rate of violent crime. Also, African American adults are arrested for a disproportionate share of property crimes, including two of every five automobile thefts (Herbert).
To many, these statistics are good reasons for the actions that teachers and administrators are taking. However, unadorned racism cloaked in rationality is no less despicable. This deception also does not change the fact that blacks are rejected for mortgages at twice the rate of whites, and the denial rate is higher in minority-occupied neighborhoods. Anti-racism authors argue, and many critics agree, that nothing is more harmful to blacks than avoiding these uncomfortable topics of race, merit, and achievement. The best anti-racism is to reform the cultural pathologies of the black community so that blacks are competitive with other groups. After all, there are greater threats to civilization than the extremes of black culture (Herbert).
The problem with racism remains that society has yet to realize that black folk are no different than white folk. There are good and bad within both races and an equal amount of diversity. Therefore, there are still many problems with race in America these days. These problems include white people being terrified of Affirmative Action and black people being afraid of the Affirmative Action Backlash. Also, when white supremacist groups speak up, it only deepens the wounds of racism. Furthermore, it has been shown that people raised by racist parents are likely to become racists themselves. Racism and discrimination do exist today and, just like these problems, they are not likely to disappear anytime soon, if at all (“Racism: Melting Pot of Hatred”).
At present time, racism is still a strong battle in many societies. It has long been part of our lives, and we cannot reverse the effects it has had. We can, however, make attempts to end racism in the future. Besides, many great strides are being made to end racism. A news column in Vermont, one of the whitest US states, which discussed white male backlash against Civil Rights and anti-discrimination laws, was not considered controversial. Vermont also claims that despite this, racism in its state has remained more subtle and milder. Of course, Vermont has long been an active player in ending racism. Its state constitution was the first document in the world to outlaw slavery, and it has been a vital force in the Abolitionist Movement and Civil War (Holhut).
By no means, though, should Vermont carry this responsibility. Equality must extend to the protection of personal dignity around the world. This equality is often taken for granted. Also, everyone must be allowed to do, think, and believe whatever seems best to him or her. We, as a nation, are unwilling to confront the lack of equality and diversity in our society (Holhut).
However, some are becoming quite active in confronting the problem at hand. They believe that racism is an evil constant. However, America stacks up better than most societies on this subject. These people feel that we must distinguish between the good, official racism and bad racism. Good racism does not drive out bad. The battle against bad racism becomes not only unwinnable, but also self-perpetuating. The effort to combat racism grows evil in itself (Morrow).
Many people also understand that no African American should use the term racism or racist. The words are a feckless indulgence, corrosive to blacks and whites alike and to relations between them. The word racism has degenerated to being a mere ritual term of abuse and self-pity. It is obvious that any adult knows racism exists in America. Racism exists almost everywhere in the world. Many of these adults feel it is time to regress to Martin Luther King’s idea. The content of one’s character, not the color of one’s skin, is the sole decent America criterion (Morrow).
With all this in mind, it can be said that the battle is far from over. After all, racism is a word that means much to many people. To some, it is the description of a way of life. While to others, it is a repulsive term that represents closed-mindedness. However, some opinions are that only one race exists, the human race. No matter what our color or physical features may be, it all boils down to the fact that we are all human. This humanity is yet another concept we must seek to fully understand before we can attain true peace (“My Opinion on…Racism”).
So, the question still remains: what can be done to end racism? Many hope that a stronger, smarter generation will find an answer, while others hope that people will see the error of their ways. Regardless of how racism ends, it definitely needs to be discussed. No hope of ending racism is anytime soon, but who knows what the future holds? In the meantime, all the world can do is wait and hope that these issues will soon be just a memory of the past.
Herbert, Wray. “The Fate of Racism.” U.S. News and World Report 18 Sept. 1995: 93-94+.
Holhut, Randolph T. “Racism and Affirmative Action: The Hottest of the Hot-Button Issues.” Written Word 24. Mar. 1996: n. pag. Online. Internet. 27 Nov. 2000.Available WWW: http://www.mdle.com/WrittenWord/rholhut/holhut20.htm.
“Jackie Robinson.” Civil Rights Leaders: n. pag. Online. Internet. 3. Dec. 2000.Available WWW: http://www.pschulze.com/jackie_robinson.htm.
“Martin Luther King.” Civil Rights Leaders: n. pag. Online. Internet. 3 Dec. 2000. Available WWW: http://www.pschulze.com/martin_luther_king.htm.
Morrow, Lance. “The Cure for Racism.” Time 5 Dec. 1994: 106.
“My Opinion on…Racism.” Racism: n. pag. Online. Internet. 27 Nov. 2000. Available WWW: http://members.tripod.com/DirkRavenwind/race.htm
New Brunswick Human Rights Commission. “Say NO to Racism!” NBHRC Homepage 1998 (updated 15 Mar. 2000): n. pag. Online. Internet. 29 Nov. 2000. Available WWW: http://www.gov.nb.ca/hrc-cdp/e/sayno.htm.
“NYPD in Public Schools.” Racist Schools 1998 (updated 3 July 2000.): n. pag. Online. Internet. 28 Nov. 2000. Available WWW: http://saxakali.com/edwatch/racism_in_schools.htm.
“Racism: Melting Pot of Hatred.” The Liberal Lobby: n. pag. Online. Internet. 27 Nov. 2000. Available WWW: http://members.tripod.com/Beeracuda/racism.html.
Randall, Vernellia R. “Institutional Racism in American Society.” Race, Racism, and the Law 2000: n. pag. Online. Internet. 27 Nov. 2000. Available WWW: http://www.udayton.edu/race/intro.htm.
“Rosa Parks.” Civil Rights Leaders: n. pag. Online. Internet. 3 Dec. 2000. Available WWW: http://www.pschulze.com/rosa_parks.htm
Tishler, William P. and Stanley K. Schultz. “Racist Culture.” Review 5 1997 n. pag. Online. Internet. 29 Nov. 2000. Available WWW: http://pro.la.wisc.edu/swa/review 4.html.
“Thurgood Marshall.” Civil Rights Leaders: n. pag. Online. Internet. 3 Dec. 2000. Available WWW: http://www.pschulze.com/thurgood_marshall.htm.