Racism is a severe disease of society, which leads to unpredictable consequences. Although this disease is rather psychological and emerges in people’s minds, many social, economic, and even political factors contribute to its emergence. This paper examines the problem of racism, describes its causes and impact on society. Besides, the present-day situation in the United States is investigated.
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Racism can be defined as a belief that an individual’s traits and abilities are somehow dependent on their racial group and biological characteristics, which is why a particular race is superior and the others are inferior.
Racism implies that some people are “less than human” by reason of their color of skin, place of birth, language, traditions, etc. (Racism, 2001, para. 1). Racism is usually characterized by prejudice, hatred, and discrimination, as well as a desire to dominate and separate the goods and privileges of one race from those of the others.
Origins of Racism
It is hard to determine, when and where racism originated. Racism is something that probably every person has witnessed, and it seems to be existing forever. The truth is that its origins lie at the very core of the humankind because we have always been afraid of something new and feared changes.
A thousand years ago, when people were hunter-gatherers, all of them lived in groups, at the same places and never moved. Naturally, each of such groups contained people of the same race. When the migration started, people faced the distinctions between each other. So, probably, racism appeared at the very moment when people found out that those different races existed. Then a belief formed centuries ago was repeatedly reinforced by historical events.
Causes of Racism
Identifying the causes of racism is not any easier. The main difficulty is that they vary widely, from psychological to social and political.
One of the primary causes is xenophobia, which can be defined as a fear of individuals who are different. Additionally, some people just need to feel superior to others and dominate. Besides, there are also such reasons as the unwillingness to share the power with others, ignorance and disregard of other cultures, traditions, and religions, etc.
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Among the external factors, one of the strongest is the upbringing. An individual’s character, values, and views begin to form in the childhood and often remain lifelong. Many people’s opinions and judgments are inherited from their parents. Hence, if a child is told that the blacks are bad, it will probably become a firm belief in the future, which will be very hard to rid of.
Education and teachers have almost the same power. The prime example here is history, which demonstrates how racism has appeared, developed and spread. Besides the fact that history is actually written by people and hence it can be revised and rewritten in many different ways, it can also be misinterpreted. If people are not able to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors, there is always a threat that those will be repeated.
One more way for racism to spread is through the mass media. In films and TV shows, especially when those are about the criminals, people of color often play the roles of negative characters while the whites are most commonly represented as the good ones. Besides, even those mass media products, which address the problem of racism, can be understood and interpreted by people in their own fashion.
The next cause of racism is the stratification of society. Although the absence of this stratification will definitely lead to disorder and even anarchy, its existence is a step towards the racial discrimination, because people begin to divide the society not only into rich and poor but also into the whites and the blacks, Christians, and Jews, etc.
The demarcation among nations has its effects as well. The majority of African countries are often called the Third-World countries or the developing ones. Although the term developing still sounds normal and even dignified, it implies that the First-World countries are better. Besides, the majority of all Third-World countries had a history of colonial rule in the past. Naturally, it does not conducive to the defeat of racism.
Additionally, even economics and politics can make a difference. The prime example is the immigration policy, which officially justifies the hostility to foreigners. In many countries, companies and firms are more likely to hire people from their own country instead of the immigrants.
Finally, it is ironical but people also have many superstitions, which imperceptibly contribute to the development of racism. For ages, people have been considering black color as evil: if a black cat crosses your path, it is a bad luck; the devil and death are associated with black; when somebody dies, people are expected to wear black clothes, etc. People tend to preserve all of those beliefs in their memory, and they usually come back to haunt when we do not even realize it.
How Racism Affects Our Society?
Although many people argue that racism is defeated nowadays, it still exists on the ground levels. And if it is present, racism poisons the society. The truth is that people of color usually have to struggle for the opportunities, which the whites have by default. First of all, it can be harder for the blacks to get well-paid jobs, so racism affects the employment rates.
According to Becker (2014), the blacks in the United States are more likely to become unemployed: approximately 14% for the blacks versus 6% for the whites (para. 7). Besides the fact that such kind of selectivity violates the rights of the blacks, it also affects the firms’ success, leads to cuts in its budget and so on, which, in its turn, has an adverse impact on economics as such.
In addition to difficulties in getting a job, people of other races can also have difficulties in finding a home. For example, when renting an apartment they more often that the whites face the rejections or less favorable conditions of the rent. As Bonilla-Silva (2013) states, the blacks and Latinos “are denied available housing from 35 to 75 percent of the time depending on the city” (p. 33). So, nearly the half of their efforts to rent or buy an apartment are met with denial (Bonilla-Silva, 2013, p. 33).
The racial discrimination has its impact on the social health. Even disregarding the direct violence against the minorities, the psychological pressure is extremely high. The need to deal with discrimination and its consequences usually affects the positive well-being and leads to high levels of stress and even stress-related health problems. At the same time, an average black person is usually less likely than the white one to get good medical care. The practice shows that the blacks do not always have adequate health insurance or even enough health services (Feagin & McKinney, 2005, p. 12).
When a successful entrepreneur was asked how it was like to be “a black person in white America today”, she replied with the following words (Feagin & McKinney, 2015, p. 6).
One step from suicide! What I’m saying is – the psychological warfare games that we have to play everyday just to survive. We have to be one way in our communities, and one way in the workplace or in the business sector. We can never be ourselves all around. I think that may be a given for all people, but us particularly…. We learn the rules of the games, and by the time we have mastered them… they change the rules of the game. The game becomes something else, because now you have learned how to play it. (Feagin & McKinney, 2015, p. 6)
How Racist America Really is?
Although racism still preserves at the ground levels, the overall picture in the United States is rather hopeful. According to Becker (2014), nearly 90% of the population approve interracial marriages, and the actual number of those marriages is steadily growing. Besides, although the unemployment rate for the black Americans is still higher that for the white ones, it has decreased compared with previous years (Becker, 2014). Finally, in comparison with other countries the US is very tolerant.
To conclude, despite the fact that the level of racial discrimination has decreased in the previous several years, it still exists. And when it does, it poisons our society, by worsening economics, people’s relations, and even their health.
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Becker, K. (2014). 10 Charts Show How ‘Racist’ America Really Is.
Bonilla-Silva, E. (2013). Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America (4th ed.). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Feagin, J. R., & McKinney, K. D. (2005). The Many Costs of Racism. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.