In the US, there are well-established ideas about race, racial and ethical inequality, and the reasons for this inequality. Race as a social concept was widely promoted in the United States in the middle of the 20th century. At the same time, the concept of race as a factor determining differences between people based on biological indicators appeared in the 19th century for propaganda purposes. As a result, society has formed false ideas about the essence and reasons of this concept, which must be leveled. Given that the propaganda formation of these concepts was complex, the debunking of myths should also be thoughtful. This paper claims that a social movement for the Black people in the US is needed today to achieve racial equality.
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Black Identity and Culture
Noteworthy, there are two approaches to understanding the phenomenon of race: essentialist and social constructionist. Essentialists stick to ideas that originated in the 19th century and continued into the 20th century to continue to use and justify the use of the Black unfree labor. Many scientists have promoted ideas about biological differences between races, including the ideas of Linnaeus in Systema Naturae and “Great Chain of Being” (Omi and Winant 58-59). Later, ideas about biological, innate differences became so ingrained in the United States that society stopped asking questions about their truthfulness and legitimacy. On the contrary, it was on this flimsy foundation that the ideas of white supremacy were erected, with a system of justifications against criticism of racial discrimination and inequality.
In the 21st century, the problem of racial inequality has become so obvious that it can no longer be ignored. Camp describes a glaring injustice in how aid was provided to whites and non-whites in New Orleans who were victims of Hurricane Katrina (699). This injustice, both in saving lives by helicopters and in providing food, water, and livelihoods after the hurricane passed, has been reflected by Black authors in poetry and prose. For example, Patterson in the poem We Know This Place has drawn parallels between the horrors of natural disaster and the travel of slaves from Africa to America in the crowded holds of ships, where many died en route (Camp 696). Such painful parallels indicate the relevance of the racial inequality issue and the willingness of society to change.
After the failed hurricane bailout policy, then-President George W. Bush delivered a speech about the successful engagement between the United States and Mexico and the overriding importance of New Orleans and the Southern region. Interestingly, this fact indicates a cynical or irresponsible attitude towards the racial issue in American society (Camp 700). Therefore, the organization of a social movement for the Black people in the US to realize racial equality is a moral responsibility of contemporaries.
Transformation and Criminalization of the Racial Structure
After the adoption of a biologically based concept of innate differences between people of different races in the 19th century, the 20th century presented new ideas. In particular, the racial structure faced transformation in the 1960s due to cultural pluralism. Noteworthy, in 1970 there was a court case initiated by a Tulane University professor that led to affirming people’s prescriptions for different racial groups (Omi and Winant 57). This created the prerequisites for the subsequent development of ideas on how to weave the concept of race into the social structure. The race was initially established as a biological concept based on ideas from the Great Chain of Being and Essay on the Inequality of Races (1853-55) (Omi and Winant 59). Franz Boas then began to view race as a social concept (Omi and Winant 60). In particular, the need for a socio-historical context for race was recognized, and the historically striking division between whites and blacks in the United States became the basis for its subsequent criminalization.
It is noteworthy that in the second half of the 20th century, the term Black was used as a reference to all non-white ethnic groups, including Latin Americans. As a result, the formation of race became based on considering race as an axis of social relations. This approach was necessary to maintain the relationship of domination and subordination that had been eliminated with the abolition of slavery. The race became synonymous with identity, or self-identification, a division into racial groups, and ‘racial etiquette’ discussions.
When the post-civil rights movements appeared that could bring instability to the status quo, the policies of racial criminalization became more sophisticated. In particular, the propaganda developed several ‘stories’ that helped support the socialization of the concept of race and discourage criticism of racial inequality. Bonilla-Silva et al. give examples of such stories that sounded supposedly from the perspective of ‘common white folks.’ These were the stories “The past of the past” or “I did not own slaves,” questions about racial feelings and the consequences of slavery. Another story got the name “I did not get a job because of a black man,” as it encouraged whites to complain that Blacks allegedly unfairly occupy their places in universities and at work, without proper qualifications, but thanks to the implementation of social politician.
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“Blacks are violent,” and “I am not a racist like my dad, uncle, or friend,” where the first story justifies negative attitudes towards blacks and the second justifies the absence of discrimination of blacks from their environment. In particular, the first story represented a negative experience when someone said that Blacks were lazy or aggressive because their acquaintance was like that. The second story explained that the respondent had a good relationship with Blacks in the past, so he is not critical of considering discrimination. It is clear that propaganda deliberately sought to veil the painful reality of racial inequality, and a decision was made at the state level not to answer racial questions.
Finally, in the twenty-first century, when issues of race became self-evident, American society was faced with injustices that could not be ignored. Because of the values that were promoted by neoliberal capitalism, the southern states, where Blacks lived predominantly, began to be perceived as highly criminalized. Camp notes that criminalization was needed to justify the warfare state (702). This indicates that in the 20th-21st century, racial inequality only strengthened its position, becoming an increasingly indisputable fact of the existence of Americans.
Proposed Ways to Critique Racial Discrimination
Racial inequality as a social concept is gaining more and more weight due to the interpenetration of perceptions. Nagel notes that the construction of ethnic (and any other) identity is based on the perception of the personality by others and self-reflective perception. According to the scientist, since the identity of a human is multi-layered, work with one should consider choosing one layer of identity at a time (Nagel 5). The same may go for the work with the ethnic identity settled as the social phenomenon in the social perceptions.
Then, Weber refers to the concept of the ‘primordial position’ that determines the race as a cultural ‘given’ or ‘primordial quality,’ which is above any criticism or analysis. Moreover, it should be considered that concept of race was created artificially and for propaganda purposes, from the very beginning, including the first ideas of biological superiority. Given this fact, people could critique this propaganda and start fighting against racial discrimination.
To my mind, racial issues go beyond police brutality; hence, it is vital to raise social awareness that discrimination occurs everywhere. Additionally, humans must speak up against racism publicly – it can be done at public events. This topic should be raised in education to teach children that peace is guaranteed by equality and kind relations to any race. Petitions and political engagement are also efficient methods to critique racial discrimination since they allow for stating one’s point of view on the level of the nation.
As a result, it is necessary to develop a strategy for the social movement, which will restore the logical justice of social relations, relying on true stories about the race and rejecting artificial concepts developed and introduced by propaganda into the public consciousness. According to the scientist, the social movement in building solidarity usually features the shared goals used as the frame for the campaign and solidarity with symbols, which should be used in practice.
The alternative discourse that can be used in this social movement is the discourse of politics and one of the social relations. The discourse goes beyond and above the sentence – it means that the movement against racial biases must rely upon the social context and the speeches. By investigating the causes rooted deep in history, the movement can successfully promote an unbiased attitude towards black people. The movement can find support in nationwide campaigns and political parties striving to expand people’s rights. Nonetheless, politicians can be the main adversaries since they are not ready to aggravate the public. Finally, many whites can stand against this idea because their negative attitude was formed long ago.