General Question

tinyfaery's avatar

Are you surprised at the amount of racism in the U.S.?

Asked by tinyfaery (40787points) September 18th, 2017

I live in Los Angeles. I have been surrounded by many different people and cultures my whole life. I’ve dated all kinds of people. My niece and nephew are biracial and so is a lot of my family. My college education involved a lot of study into racism/sexism/classism, etc.

I have always known that racism exists and how institutionalized and implicit racism actually is, but I never really thought that people outside of certain areas of the U.S. and extremists were more than implicitly racist. Well, the last year has made me realize how wrong I really am.

I am half Mexican and my wife is white. We have been discussing the disturbing events and implications of the last year and she told me that you have to be white to know how racist white people really are. She tells me that even in Los Angeles white people tell her so many disturbing things because she is white and assume she shares their opinions. I am not privy to these revelations. These people act one way and believe something completely different.

Honestly, 2017 has left me baffled. My ideas about racism in America have been destroyed. I thought I was aware of societal issues of justice and equity, but I don’t know shit. A large part of my understanding of the ethos of America has been shattered.

Anyone else feeling this? Are you shocked by the amount of racism in the U.S.? I’ve been rocked to my core about this.

I would like this discussion to remain on topic and not a platform to tell me you how you disagree with my opinions, but it is fluther. Can you just let me know if and how your ideas about racism in America has changed or not changed in 2017?

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58 Answers

stanleybmanly's avatar

Not at all. But having lived this long, and witnessed the strides in my lifetime, I truly believe the shelf life of this particular stupidity to be predictably limited.

zenvelo's avatar

Surprised? No.

I have been awfully surprised, though, at the willingness in many quarters to be explicit about it.

ragingloli's avatar

Not in the least.

jca's avatar

I’m not surprised. My father is from Mexico but I am white and my whole life, I’ve heard comments about Mexicans, “Guats,” you name it. People tell me all kinds of things like they assumed my husband was Hispanic (I’ve never been married). I’m used to it.

JLeslie's avatar

No change for me.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

My experience has been similar to all the above. Not surprised at all anymore.

funkdaddy's avatar

I’m surprised by the marchers with torches and their faces showing in 2017. I guess that’s to say I’m surprised by the boldness of public extreme racism rising instead of falling, and under a variety of banners.

I’ll never be surprised by the quiet jokes or the assumption that I agree with them.

I’m constantly surprised by the number of people who believe nothing is racially based and equally by the number of people who believe everything is.

Race is an easily discernible way to mark “difference”, so racism is not going away any time soon. I had a teacher who posed the question “how much power do you want to give them?” when he’d talk about the reality of racism to our mostly minority class. The point was, there’s ways around most of those barriers. I agree with that in most cases.

I don’t know how you get around your neighbors marching with torches though. That’s surprising, and saddening.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

No, but I currently live in North Carolina.

filmfann's avatar

I am.
While I have always been aware of racists around me, I didn’t expect the numbers. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and in school and the work place, there have always been a few people who make jokes or comments about minorities, but I didn’t realize how many times more there were racists in other areas. I now live in a much less enlightened area, and I am bombarded with comments from people I wouldn’t expect to harbor such views.

rebbel's avatar

I’m not from America, so I can’t really answer it.
I notice a similar thing here in the Netherlands.
Similar as to what @zenvelo writes.
Racism has always been around here too (unfortunately I have to say, of course).
I was totally baffled when my then friend said racist remarks about an other friend to me.
That was in the early eighties.
These days, with a right wing politician in the Netherlands being pretty popular, people seem to gotten the ‘courage’, the brazenness to openly say their vile shit.
In the workplace, in the bars, in public.
And unfortunately I can only do my small part of countering them; most of these people are so stupid, in my view, that it is very hard to reason with.
Plus I’m not the best debater.
Very frustrating, but worse, very frightening.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I’m surprised and appalled at the racism on TV and often shocked by the utter absence of it in everyday life.

RocketGuy's avatar

I was surprised – I thought America was mostly over it. I’ve lived in Calif. most of my life, so been relatively sheltered.

Muad_Dib's avatar

I was raised by racists, so I’m not surprised they are here.

I’m shocked that they are being publicly tolerated to the point where they no longer have the good sense to be ashamed to talk about it out loud.

flutherother's avatar

I lived in Alabama for a while. There were white areas and there were black areas and there was very little racial mixing. It wasn’t what I was used to and I wasn’t very comfortable with it. Some of the comments people would make in normal conversation were extremely racist but there was no trouble as the races didn’t interact much.

I was most aware of the racism one afternoon at Gulf Shores when a coloured family with two children had the nerve to sit on the beach. The tension was palpable and there was a wide circle around them as none of the white people would go near them. I walked by and was scared to smile at them in case it started something. Quite horrible.

snowberry's avatar

Saddened, but not surprised.

I have a black friend (of African descent) from Germany with a doctorate in exercise and nutrition. She lives here in the US and runs a store here. She told me there’s no racism in Germany. I was seriously surprised. Then I remember that in Germany racism may show up against Jews first, then other races. Right now I’m guessing she’s right, especially compared to how it is in the US…

kritiper's avatar

Yes. I never knew it was SO prevalent!

Mariah's avatar

2017 has fucking rocked my world.

Before Trump’s election I was sufficiently shielded from shitty political views here in liberal-ass Boston that I had sincerely started to think that racism and homophobia had become fringe views.

Underestimating the evil that still existed, I had begun infighting with people who I mostly agreed with over smaller disagreements, and I was becoming willing to criticize people for going “too far” with social justice stuff.

Sincerely sorry for that now. There’s no need to criticize someone for not subscribing to the exact same wave of feminism as me if there are still people out there who think women belong in the kitchen, for example. I get it now. I know who the enemy is.

Anyway – with racism specifically – yes, it’s shocking. I’m still relatively sheltered where I am but even so I still see it everywhere. I’m so lucky to be white.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

It’s still not ok to go to far with social justice stuff. That is frankly part of the problem. It’s creating counter movements as if PC culture was not divisive enough. What was moving quickly into the dustbin of history is coming back because it’s in the news on our campuses and adding an artificial component to what was already there. Most of what we are seeing is ideological people being ideological. Please stop fucking up my godammed country with all of this senseless division.

Mariah's avatar

Frankly I don’t give a shit if some 16 year old on tumblr wants gay people to rule the world while there are literal nazis roaming the streets. I just don’t give a shit anymore. Bigger problems.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I don’t know how to get rid of the Nazis but I do think giving them all of this attention is just making them stronger. I agree people need to chill out on the little issues and focus on the fire. I still have a hard time understanding just where the hell they are coming from. All I can come up with is that they are alienated, insecure and gullible. I can only think that getting to youth early before those seeds are sown is the best way to choke out these hate groups. What shocked me was the amount of very young angry white boys there were. This scares the hell out of me. PC culture has basically made it ok to hate white males. I’d wager a good number are just those who are too dull to see what is right and wrong and are just lashing out by going to the other extreme. 20 years ago this crap was not so stirred up.

tinyfaery's avatar

Me too, @Mariah. Me too.

janbb's avatar

I don’t have racist friends and am Unitarian so am rarely exposed to it in conversation and I am surprised by how much racism is prevalent and expressed now. I feel like Trump turned over a rock and all the creepy crawlies swarmed out. I hate what is going on. And yes, did not think we would be here again – or still – now.

As a relevant aside, i just saw the documentary “Dolores” about Dolores Huerte who co-founded the farm workers’ rights movement withCesar Chavez. It is both angering – at the treatment – and inspiring.

My DIL is Filipino and granddaughter biracial so the political is personal. And being Jewish informs my values too.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Yes, I’m amazed that I lived to see Nazis marching openly. It sickens me.

I grew up in the rural South. My family is full of racists, but they are the polite Southern type who keep it quiet. It is horrific nonetheless.

When I started school, I was in a segregated elementary school that was integrated the next year through court-ordered busing. I’m grateful for the busing.

Racism is a symptom of our species’ penchant for tribalism. We see our group as more deserving of resources than the Other who must be vanquished lest they steal our resources. It’s a simple outgrowth of living in a time of limited resources. We do not have limited resources like we used to, but the mindset continues. The rise of the nation-state in the 19th century is another outgrowth of tribalism. I pray we outgrow it quickly. It has the potential to kill us all and leave the planet uninhabitable to all save the bugs.

I would like to add that the election of a white supremacist is having some unintended consequences. We are talking more about racism than we did under an African-American President and in ways that are clearing the air more. Public monuments that lionize racists are coming down. We are also talking more openly about systemic racism and misogyny in ways that have the potential to lead to real change.

ucme's avatar

No of course not your country’s entire history is founded on racism so naturally it perpetuates to this day, works both ways however

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

“Racism is a symptom of our species’ penchant for tribalism”
That’s really all it is and it has more to do with threat perception than it does with actual beliefs of racial superiority. The instinct to lash out in defense is hard to contain but I do believe it will kill a good number of us unless we do.

Mariah's avatar

I won’t come together and hold hands and sing kumbaya with Nazis or people who support Nazis. If you think that makes me responsible for fucking up “your” country, that’s your problem.

It amazes me that you see that these extremists are made up of young, white men, and that only makes you double down on your stance that it’s the social justice folks who are fucking everything up. Maybe, just maybe, the fucking Nazis are the problem.

NomoreY_A's avatar

I am not surprised, but I truly believe that haters and racists are swimming against the tides of history. I hope that time and events will prove me right.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I’m more surprised that anyone is surprised at the amount of racism that exists in the US (or in other countries).

janbb's avatar

@Earthbound_Misfit The overt and organized expression of it and the legitimization of it by Trump is new for these times in our country – not that it wasn’t there on the fringes all along.

Zaku's avatar

I’m somewhat surprised, and extremely disappointed. White Americans of course are not all one group, and there are many who are not consciously racist and do their best, and the trend over the last few decades has been going away from racism. I am a bit surprised to find out how much racist and anti-feminist, anti-LGBTQ and other atrocious backwards sympathy and anger there is (enough to allow Trump in office, etc).

There is really a big cultural and political gap between different parts of the country, though. I did already know for decades that the West Coast is much less racist than the South, Midwest, and even the Northeast.

Lightlyseared's avatar

Given the increasingly national socialist political position in the US I’m not surprised at all.

DominicY's avatar

Part of me is surprised, yes, because of the “bubble” I grew up in. I grew up thinking of racism as something largely relegated to the past, and only existing presently in fringe groups who are shunned by most of society. That said, while I agree that racism seems to be more visible now than it was in recent years, I’m not sure that the actual number of racists is increasing; I don’t know that there’s truly been a “resurgence” in racism, in other words.

I think for a combination of reasons, racists feel more confident about expressing their views and making themselves heard and thus it may only seem as if there are more of them. But certainly things like the Charlottesville “torch” prtoest and the Dylan Roof shooting are extremely disappointing for any hope of the elimination of racism. I agree with what others have said about tribalism and how racism seems to stem from human nature itself; I don’t know if it can ever be fully “eradicated”, and I also don’t chalk up its existence to “frustrated whites” or whatever. There are plenty of people who are “frustrated” (much more so than I’ve ever been) and they’ve never turned to racism.

But I do think that if racism is suddenly worse now than it’s been before, it’s the result of things that have festered for years, not just a new spontaneous eruption of racism. Trump, the alt-right…they’re all symptoms.

JLeslie's avatar

1991 Klan march in Boca Raton. I lived there then. I did not go to the march. I remember being shocked then that they would march in Boca! Boca was over 25% Jewish at the time

2014 klan flag in Boca Raton

1990 march in Palm Beach. Talks about how the Klan likes high profile cities so they get media coverage I think this is something to really think about. Media coverage helps them. I’m not saying don’t report on it, but we have to be careful.

2014 Klan plans rally in NC to show opposition to LGBT community

I’m pretty sure there are many more in the last 25 years, but they just weren’t picked up by national media. Now, it is the story of the day for national media when it happens. All day, for days actually. I do think in the last 25 years there has been waves up heightened Klan movement and years when it has gone down, but it has always been there, and now people are more aware, because of more media coverage. Charlottesville I have to agree was an extreme, because of the numbers that turned out, and the torches, and the result of a death of a young woman, and injuries to others.

LostInParadise's avatar

Perhaps I live a sheltered life. I live near Philadelphia. Many of the people with whom I work come from various parts of Asia and there are also black Americans. I thought that the election of Obama was a watershed moment, an indication that we had turned the corner on racism. I was very much surprised by the extent of white supremacism. I am even more surprised by the extent of Antisemitism.

JLeslie's avatar

I think the election of Obama helped to heat up some of the racist people already here. It freaked them out. The media was all about “we have a black president, the first black president, just 50 years ago we never would have guessed this could happen.” Now, they are all about “Trump is a racist, he supports the neoNazis, his entire staff are white Nazis.” It’s true the media reports, but it also influences the message, and society.

Some people, and some parts of the media, called Bush a racist when Katrina happened, and he had two black people in very high positions in his administration.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@Mariah I would not want to sing kumbaya with nazis either. Here is what a nearby city did when hate groups came to rally around a confederate monument. Not only did their numbers dwarf those of the neo nazis but they stole their thunder and also completely defused the situation. That is the left I remember and miss. There were conservative groups that turned out and helped organize the kindness rally as well. The community came together to protest and did it in a peacefull way. Open confrontation and hostility only serves to feed these assholes. I still don’t see what is so progressive about actively escalating these situations. Again, like it or not you have to face the fact that divisivness is an open sore that just begs for infection. I have no problem with social justice when it makes sense. You yourself said that you were critical of being overly PC. So what is the change now? Not call out the parts of it that are baloney and cause divisiveness? Division and tribalism is the problem. Nazis are just one of the outcomes.

JLeslie's avatar

^^Your link also references a white supremacists protest in 2010. I’ll bet most people on this Q knew nothing about that one either. It would be really interesting to see a list of white supremacists rallies and marches in the last ten years. Or, even 20 years. I’ve tried to google, but can’t find anything.

Mariah's avatar

The change now is that there is a real threat, not just an annoyance. Overzealous kids on tumblr or on college campuses are an annoyance. They might bother you in a philosophical way. They might give you concern about the long-term sanctity of discourse. You might still have it in you to give a shit about that kind of thing, but I don’t. There are Nazis in the streets advocating for the genocide of non-whites, and our leaders in the Senate are trying to take my healthcare away. It is literally impossible for me to give a fuck about annoyances when that stuff is going on. I am busy. I am fighting the immediate threats. I have no energy for annoyances.

I wouldn’t expect you to understand. I didn’t, until I felt actively, personally threatened. Nobody is threatening you.

It was only my privilege, prior to Trump’s presidency, that allowed me to feel so safe as to bother getting riled up about annoyances. Now that I’m not safe anymore, I have changed, and I have realized that this is how it has been all along for many people who were never safe.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

So apparently the only part we disagree on is how to deal with the threat then. I fully support what they did in Knoxville to protest. IMO it was ideal. How would you deal with it?

Mariah's avatar

I am also in favor of having those who oppose Nazism show up in large numbers to show the Nazis that their views are not mainstream and are not welcome. Here’s what we did in Boston. We made the Nazis look like pathetic little cunts holed up in their tiny gazebo while a flood of counter-protestors surrounded the area.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

My problem with that kind of confrontation is it could have easily turned and become violent. It just takes a few instigators to make an angry mob. What I really liked about the protest I linked was it was in a completely different part of town. The hate groups and the few direct counter protesters were outnumbered by the cops and there was little chance of injury to anyone or property damage to the city. The decent people got to spend an hour or two in each others company. Simple yet effective and profound.

Mariah's avatar

And the Nazis, having faced no direct opposition, will feel free to come back to Knoxville.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Probably not to be honest. If they do their numbers will likely be small. They did not get the media attention they were wanting.

Darth_Algar's avatar

More than anything I’m surprised at the current trend of rationalizing Nazis. “Oh, they just have a difference of opinion”, “Some of them are good folks”. Back in my grandfather’s day the only good Nazi was a dead Nazi. His generation met a lot of good Nazis.

Muad_Dib's avatar

@Darth_Algar – word. The Nazis that stuffed my grandfather full of shrapnel became good Nazis in a hurry.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

There are no “good” Nazis. I don’t know where the idea of rationalizing them comes from. Trying to understand how they tick so they don’t go make more little Nazis is in no way rationalizing them if that is what you mean.

rebbel's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me I think the “good nazis” referred to here are “dead nazis”.
No rationalizing going on.

Muad_Dib's avatar

^ Exactly.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I still contend if you can get some of them to come to their senses that is a good thing too.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I was talking to a friend, who happens to be Aboriginal and is in her early 20s. She was telling me about the racist attitudes of many of her friends and how she has learned that slapping them over the head has never been successful in changing their minds. She was explaining that over the years when they make racist comments, she lets them know how things really are and she has seen many of them change their attitudes as they learn and gain genuine understanding. To the point where some of those who held racist views have attended protests and marches relating to Aboriginal rights and have marched with her recently.

The point of our discussion was that often people with racist attitudes have no real knowledge or understanding. They’re basing their hatred on bullshit they’ve been told or read in the media or that have been shared by their equally ignorant friends and relatives. I think the only way to dispel racism is through education – not just formal education, but informal meetings of minds. Our leaders play an enormous role in keeping racism in check and in changing attitudes.

Racism is present in all societies, but certain environments allow it to emerge from where it is hidden. It’s always there, but the political environment can help to keep a lid on aggressive, public displays. Our politicians and other leaders are essential to not just making racism unwelcome, but in educating people and leading by example. Sadly, in the US, Australia and many other countries, the political environment is allowing those racist tendencies that are there under the surface to bubble up and fester.

Darth_Algar's avatar


Good luck with that. Me? I have no patience for people who advocate for ideas as repugnant as what Nazis advocate.

josie's avatar

I got modded the the first time. I will try again.
Is this not like invoking the ancient conundrum “Do you still beat your children?”
This question demands accepting a possibly false premise before you answer.
In my opinion, the Mods should be ashamed.
Read this before they Mod me again and ask yourself why this response is uncomfortable to them.

DominicY's avatar

@josie Well, not exactly. The question assumes an “amount” of racism in the U.S., but the amount could be zero. It could anything from zero to a fuckton of a racism. Now maybe some would say that a word like “amount” presupposes more than zero, but I think in our loose use of many words, “amount”, “quantity”, etc. can refer to a quantity of nothing. So if you believe there’s no racism (which is factually wrong, not even up for debate bt dubs) or a negligible amount of racism, it’s still covered by this question. The “no” or “yes” depends on what you gauge the “amount” to be.

funkdaddy's avatar

@josie – I think I get what you’re trying to say, but as with your example (beating your children), all we have to assume is that at some point there has been racism in the US. If you don’t believe there’s widespread racism in the US, you just have to accept there was at some time.

That doesn’t seem like a reach. A race of people was literally enslaved, then effectively segregated based on race alone.

Not sure why you were modded, or what you said, but the question seems legit.

Muad_Dib's avatar

It’s not a possibly false premise. Racism does exist in the US. It’s intellectually dishonest to pretend otherwise.

LostInParadise's avatar

@josie , Do you not read the signs being carried by white supremacists? Did you not hear the stories of desecration of Jewish temples and cemeteries? Being Jewish, I am particularly sensitive to acts of anti-Semitism

JLeslie's avatar

Zero great answers for me, I guess because I was aware there was serious shit racism and kkk activity in the US before Trump being president. I find that interesting. I don’t care about the GA’s, I just bothered to look back at my answer after @DominicY‘s answer talking about the “amount” of racism to explain the original wording of the Q.

It reminds me of the Catholic priests raping children. I wasn’t very surprised about that either, because I knew of a case or two here and there, and since I was a young girl I was taught or shown to be weary of men in positions like coach, teacher, and clergy seems logical too.

I do feel we might be at a tipping point. Either the country continues down a path that gathers and creates more racism, and racists. More demonstrations of the racists feeling embolden to do anything they want. Or, they get a huge push back and we address it in a way that people have some sort of epiphany and shed their racism at least to the point that it isn’t creating havoc in society.

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