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lalelalela's avatar

My friend thinks racism is over. I know he's wrong, but I can't quite articulate it - any good resources?

Asked by lalelalela (27 points ) November 3rd, 2010

My friend – who isn’t much of a friend, more of an acquaintance – is a huge jerk and was talking last night about how “racism is over” and that people should stop complaining about it. He said that if people of color and white people go to the same schools and have the same opportunities, there is no reason why they should get any special privileges or attention simply for being non-white, and that to blame white people for the problems of minorities would be racist in and of itself. He thinks that problems that inner city minorities see in their communities (poverty, etc) have been brought on by individual actors themselves who choose that lifestyle, not society as a whole.

Now I know that he is wrong, and that these views are borderline racist (maybe they are just plain racist?). But…I can’t pinpoint how exactly. It’s like I know that these are backwards, ignorant opinions but I can’t quite articulate what is so wrong about it. Can anyone help me articulate – for my own sake (not to try and start a debate with him) – why he is wrong?

Also, feel free to direct me to good resources/reading if you have any suggestions. Note: I’ve read the White Privilege essay by Peggy McIntosh (which honestly seemed a LITTLE bit dated, but definitely still relevant)

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25 Answers

Anon_Jihad's avatar

I honestly think your friend has a point personally.

KatawaGrey's avatar

It most certainly is not over. You do not need any special resources to see that. All you need is to live in the world. Little things that ordinarily go unnoticed by white folks prove that racism still exists. For example, a book by a non-white author is placed in a different category than a book by a white author. Practically any book a black person writes is called “African American literature” rather than simply “literature.” Most items meant to blend in with a person’s skin tone stockings, make-up, band-aids, bras are made for light tan skin and rarely are made for brown. A person’s race can be the deciding factor in getting a job or going to college. A person’s race can determine the degree of fear with which they are met.

Oh, racism still exists, but it is quiet and insidious. The thing about racism is that it isn’t necessarily about hating one race but about feeling, even on an unconscious level, that one race is normal and that other races are not normal.

6rant6's avatar

When people like your friend start talking about “Our problems” instead of “Their communities” then racism is over.

Evelyn_475's avatar

I wrote an 8 page research paper on the social stigmas of interracial relationships over this past summer…

Racism definitely exists and anyone who says otherwise is ignorant. I am in an interracial relationship and I chose to write this paper based off of personal experiences.

Here are some scholarly [published by academic presses, and are subject to a peer-review process, which means that other “experts” or specialist in the field evaluate the quality and originality of the research as precondition of publication] references that your friend might want to read if he would like to be more informed:

Davidson, Jeanette R. “Theories about Black-White Interracial Marriage: A Clinical Perspective.” Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development 20.4 (1992): p150–57. Print.

Firebaugh, Stephanie, and Michael W Firmin. “Historical Analysis of College Campus Interracial Dating.” College Student Journal 42.3 (2008): p782–788 . Print.

Henslin, James M. Essentials Of Sociology. Custom Edition for Antelope Valley College ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2009. Print.

Kreager, Derek A. “Guarded Borders: Adolescent Interracial Romance and Peer Trouble at School.” Social Forces 87.2 (2008): p887–910 . Print.

Solsberry, Priscilla Wilson. “Interracial Couples in the United States of America: Implications for Mental Health Counseling.” Journal of Mental Health Counseling 16.3 (1994): p304–17 . Print.

filmfann's avatar

Show him any of the online photos that have been photoshopped to make Obama look like a witchdoctor

Joybird's avatar

You need to collect a hundred examples of peoples personal experiences with racism…real life experiences. I’ll start you off with two. I live in an affluent burb just outside of Rochester, NY. I was in a well known dept store chain in a nearby mall during prom time. I asked the white sales girl to hold two dresses for an hour for my white daughter. She complied with my request smiling. I was still in the store just an aisle away when I overheard a black women make the same request with her daughter. This sales girl said to her, “I’m sorry we don’t hold items here.” The women was pleading a bit because that was the only dress of that size left and she just wanted to check one more store and was pretty sure they wanted that dress. But no, the sales girls would not assist her. She was walking away with the dress and I walked up to her and told her that I would assist her as I had just had the same sales girl hold two dresses for me and I told her the name the dress would be held under. And then I went to the manager of the store and wrote a formal report of racism and made quite a stink about the whole event. I had the customers name and phone number and suggested to them that when she returned that a pretty big discount should be given on the item that was not going to be held as a result of blatant racism….and if I heard it hadn’t happened I would be on news ten on the 10 o clock news. You know how this went down don’t you? Sales girl fired and a 50% discount given on the dress and a follow up letter of apology to the other customer and myself.
If you witness it you need to step up to the plate. Racism isn’t dead by a long shot. You need to raise a stink…a mighty stink.
Racism happens in housing, in retail, in classrooms, and in how police treat their suspects. It can be subtle or blatant. It is a problem that doesn’t just affect the group targeted negatively it effects us all.
I know just witnessing it made me sick to my stomach.
You want more examples…I can tell you about my daughters best friend who had her car keyed because she had her ID card from her Islamic group hanging on her rear view window.
And I could tell you about a clerk who went behind an African American customer because she felt his being black meant he might have stolen something from a display.
Racism is far from dead.

blueknight73's avatar

Just tell him to look at some of the signs at the tea party rally’s.

lalelalela's avatar

@blueknight73 “Just tell him to look at some of the signs at the tea party rally’s”

@filmfann “Show him any of the online photos that have been photoshopped to make Obama look like a witchdoctor”

I just want to note that these really aren’t the types of answers I’m looking for as it doesn’t actually explain much. If I were to show my friend a picture of a racist sign at a Tea Party rally, he’d probably just say “So? That’s not holding anyone back from succeeding, sticks and stones etc.”

Kardamom's avatar

Check out this link

There’s plenty of racism in the United States, some of it has gone underground and the manifestations of it have changed, but you can see incidents of racism on the news every day.

cockswain's avatar

I saw a pic online of a sign over a toilet that said “Free Obama Dolls.” Guess what? Racism! Also look at the fact people in the US are freaked out by Muslims. More racism.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

As @Anon_Jihad stated perfectly plainly, your friend has a good point. What he might have stated to make it plainer is that “institutional” racism is pretty soundly dead, and not about to come back.

Yes, “some people” are still racist, bigoted, chauvinistic, caste-based and in other ways subtle and blatant ‘non-egalitarian’. They always will be. We will always have cultural and class differences, differences in sensitivity, religion, language, clothing, music, food, you name it. Some of the differences are “charming”, and sometimes those same differences are seen by others as “grating” and “exploitive”. You can’t please all people all of the time.

But our government is multi-cultural. Our schools are all open to all. Sports appeal to all races and recruit based on ability, not national origin, color or other non-sports based criteria. All races participate in our military, and our forces join with allied nations of all races to achieve common goals. People can buy homes anywhere they can choose and afford to, and they can attend any church without question. Most businesses clearly articulate and rigorously enforce codes of conduct that severely punish overt racism and related practices. But not every person of every race will have the opportunity to have every job he or she wants. Not every person from every race will win a political contest or receive a political appointment.

You get the drift. Just because institutional racism is dead, and it is absolutely dead in this country, doesn’t mean that “there is no racism”. We don’t need large scale government programs to stamp out what is already by and large stamped out. We do still need justice on a retail level, however. Racism still is practiced at a “retail” level, and judges need to adjudicate racist injustice when it is practiced, same as they do any other kind of crime on a personal level.

“Institutional” racism is dead, but that doesn’t mean that everything is now perfect.

asmonet's avatar

Sad, but it’s everywhere. And that’s only ONE ideology, with lots of media attention. Besides obvious racism like that there are smaller less noticeable ways it’s expressed as mentioned above.

Why doesn’t your friend just spend a day counting how many white or privileged people wait on him during the day. Who serves his food? Who cleans his house? His office? How many people of an ethnicity besides his own does he work with?

Now compare the number of white folks, to the number of underprivileged disenfranchised minorities.

Tell him to shut the fuck up and read a book, watch something other than Fox and stop talking to him. People are set in their ways. Chances are you will not be what changes his mind. If it does happen, it will be because of his own efforts not someone else.

BarnacleBill's avatar

In the Bluegrass Poll in May, 2010, 60% surveyed said that the law should require businesses to serve people of all ethnic backgrounds, meaning 40% believe it’s okay for businesses to discriminate based on ethnicity.

lapilofu's avatar

Racist perceptions are visible everywhere if you’re looking for them. People stop a black boy from stealing a bike and not a white one. Perhaps your friend would argue that the black guy chose to be stopped. Or how about white people finding food and black people looting it. Or how about your friend who thinks that black people choose that lifestyle? I suppose he thinks there are some inherent differences between black and white people such that they make that choice? These perceptions are often unconscious in society, but they’re there. And if that’s the way people see black people—if they’re so eager to see them as villains—don’t you think that will make it hard for them for find, for instance, a respectable job? A home in a nice neighborhood?

As far as institutionalized racism is concerned, the system is still broken. Regardless of whether or not it’s governmentally enforced any longer (and there are actually good arguments that it is) it hasn’t been fixed in the space of a single generation. There are far-reaching ramifications to historical discrimination against minorities that require conscious course-correction. You can’t just tell the child of a poor family that they suddenly have every opportunity in the world to be rich. Some people are born into privilege—and those people, disproportionately, are not black, hispanic, &c. And while we’re at it, white people and black people don’t go to the same schools.

The idea behind things like affirmative action is that a child born without privilege can be just as skilled, as smart, as hard of a worker as someone born with privilege and not make it nearly as far. No matter how well you do on the SATs, someone whose family has the money to pay for expensive SAT tutoring is going to do better. That’s proven fact. Someone who doesn’t have to work a job every day to help support their family is going to have less time to devote to building (white-collar) skills to raise their social class. And someone born into a family that doesn’t value education is less likely to get one.

Sure these things could be true of any person born to a family of any race—but they aren’t. They apply disproportionately to minorities—and that’s still racism. That is to say, there are systems, still keeping people down related to their race.

DancingMind's avatar

Your friend… he’s white, no?
Not that color should matter, just that it does unless you’re “white”: the racism isn’t as noticeable because white’s the default, the “correct” color of skin

This was discussed in a class of mine: nothing’s overt anymore, but it’s still there. We’re just all bombarded with symbols, media, merchandise, etc, all enforcing that white is the superior (what @KatawaGrey and others! was saying)

So that if you’re the “correct” way, you don’t notice. But if you’re not, “right” “white” you know how much it does matter even when you’re a kid
skin-color talk makes me feel so sick

Kraigmo's avatar

Racism is a word that is too all-encompassing.

New words that are sub-components of the word “racism” need to be invented.

What if you have a White guy who never wants to hurt anyone else, doesn’t think he’s superior, does not tell racist jokes, does not make racist business decisions….. but if he’s in a dark alley, he gets more scared if a black guy shows up, than a white guy? Is that racist? If it’s not, then what is it? What’s the word that describes it?

Or what if a Black business owner interviews three candidates, one of them Black, and they are all equally qualified on paper, and all equally personable and likable in the interview, and he has to make a flip-of-coin type decision, and due to that, he hires the Black candidate. Is that racism? Or is that just an attempt to do the most good overall?

The owner carefully weighed all qualifications and personalities first… that shows he’s doing his responsibility. So is his final move racist?

(Or perhaps he’ll choose the female out of 2 males after going through all the qualifications and character qualities…. is that sexist?)

I think we should be tolerant of gray areas. Your acquaintance probably isn’t racist. He’s probably narrow minded and egocentric as a personality trait. He has not witnessed racism, therefore it does not exist in his mind. He probably uses this logic in all aspects in his life, whether its a race isssue or not, and this fact is what actually makes him not a racist.

Of course racism exists in the world. Lots of it. America has solved a huge portion of its institutionalized racism, and that’s another thing your acquaintance probably is thinking of in his sanitized mind.

mattbrowne's avatar

Even in the most developed societies there will be always be a small minority of racists. But the overall trend is encouraging. Some consider the United Federation of Planets in the Star Trek universe an ideal world with no poverty and no wars. Curiously enough racism is still present.

mattbrowne's avatar

@cockswain – “Freaking out” about Muslims is a sign of Islamophobia which can be seen as a special form of racism. Criticism of Islamism, which is a set of ideologies holding that Islam is not only a religion but also a political system, and that modern Muslims must return to their roots of their religion, and unite politically, is not Islamophobia or racism.

The dangers of Islamism are real and Western societies should be more outspoken when defending our set of values based on freedom and the Age of Enlightenment.

cockswain's avatar

I loathe the concept of Sharia law and encourage everyone to be outspoken against it.

I agree anti-Muslim sentiment isn’t exactly racism as we aren’t talking about a race. However I’m willing to bet if they weren’t brown they wouldn’t get as much grief.

snowberry's avatar

I’ve seen football games between football players at rich white private high schools getting really upset at private schools with black kids on the football team. We’re talking bad fights on the ball field, and the umpires doing nothing.

snowberry's avatar

What I meant to say is that the white kids were the agressors.

plethora's avatar

@cockswain I don’t think you would win that bet and to continue to default to racism when the issue is Islam per @mattbrowne The dangers of Islamism are real and Western societies should be more outspoken when defending our set of values based on freedom and the Age of Enlightenment. is to deflect from a very real problem.

suzanna28's avatar

It is not over and never will be.

It might be over in certain areas.

But i think some people are racist but you just don’t know it because they have been told that it is antisocial to be racist.

So they have the thoughts in them but they will never say it out loud. Only keep it with their family and friends.

Also some people are racist and they are not even aware of it.

For example I know people who proclaim they are not racist but yet they see nothing wrong with laughing at Black people’s natural hair and telling black people they should straighten their hair.

Also these same people see nothing wrong with saying “oh you are so pale , you need a fake tan”. That is attacking the white race. Because naturally white people don’t have dark skin.

6rant6's avatar

@suzanna28 I don’t think what you’re reacting to is so much racism as it is another pervasive and horrifying social monstrosity – Teenagism”. They mock everyone.

Misspegasister28's avatar

Does he even know what’s going on in Ferguson right now?

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