In a poll of white Americans last year, half of them said that they do not see racism around them, nor do they think it is a major problem in American society. If you listen to some pundits, especially those on the right and who are white, the United States is living in a post-racism world. This idea started to pop up after Barack Obama was elected President. The logic was that if a man with dark skin can be elected to the highest office in the country and made one of the most powerful men in the world, then surely America is in a state of post-racism bliss. However, as this list will show, strides have been made in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go.
10. Abortion Laws
In the United States, abortion became legal after the landmark decision of Roe v. Wade in 1973. Of course, not everyone likes the decision and since the ruling, a number of bills have been introduced trying to limit and ban abortions. What’s interesting is that the abortion rate for African American women is five times higher than for white women, meaning any bans and limitations would affect African American women the most. Another problem is the same people who want to put more restrictions on abortion, also want to limit child care support. This, of course, can put the mother and child in a hole they may never get out of.
Another notable example of how abortion bills can be racist happened in March of 2012, when the Republicans tried to introduce a wildly misguided bill that was meant to target Asian women. The bill was an attempt to stop sex selective abortions, which is a major problem in places like India and China. But stats show that problem doesn’t really exist in the United States because American society and the value system is much different. However, lawmakers saw what it did in China and India, so it was therefore presumed immigrants from those countries would be choosing boys and aborting girls, which would upset the sex ratio. In reality, that notion isn’t rooted in facts, just preconceived notions. In fact, immigrants from China and India are more likely to have girls than white people. That bill was not passed, but it speaks to how out of touch lawmakers can be when it comes to race.
9. Drug Laws
Drugs are a problem with every ethnicity, but how whites and non-whites are handled in the legal system is drastically different and it all comes down to the laws surrounding crack-cocaine. The difference between crack and cocaine is that crack is made by mixing powdered cocaine with baking soda and water. This turns the cocaine into a solid form, known as a “rock.” Then, instead of snorting it, crack is smoked. Otherwise, they are pretty much the same.
Now, let’s go back to the mid-1980s, when crack started to proliferate and it completely ravaged urban areas of the United States; especially areas with high populations of African Americans. This was, in part, caused by the CIA, because they turned a blind eye to the Contras from Nicaragua shipping drugs into the United States. The Contras were using the money to fight a war in Nicaragua and the CIA wanted the Contras to win. Once crack got into the urban areas, it sold incredibly well because it was easily available, it was cheap, highly addictive and it was being sold to down-trodden people who were poor because of the color of their skin. The interesting thing is that during this time, the use of powder cocaine rose as well, but it was predominantly used by white people. But the United States government decided to stop the crack epidemic by introducing the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which increased jail time for crack sales and distribution. The new law meant that a person could get five years for five grams of crack, but someone would only get five years if they had 500 grams of powdered cocaine. As a result, the amount of African American men in the prison system shot up and it is still a problem in 2015.
In 2010, the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 was signed by Barack Obama, which reduced the weight ratio of the law from 100:1 to 18:1. However, there is still a large disparity between the sentencing on the two forms of one drug and the bill was not retroactive.
8. Police Target Minorities
It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, but police in America stop, frisk or search minorities way more often than they stop white people. If you look at New York City, half the population is made up of people of color, but they make up 80 percent of the police stops, whereas white people only make up about eight percent of the stops.
This type of statistic isn’t just in NYC; it can also be seen in California, where black people are four times more likely to be stopped than white people. This, of course, leads to higher arrest rates or even more sadly, it has led to a number of tragic deaths such as in the cases of Eric Garner and Freddie Gray. If America truly was a post racism society it would not see such a massive gap with individuals who are stopped just for being out on the street.
7. The Bail System
As mentioned in the prior entry, stats show that minorities get stopped by the police way more often than white people. This, of course, means they get arrested a lot more often, which leads to another crinkle of discrimination in the legal system. After someone has been arrested, he or she goes to an arraignment and bail is often set. The arrested individual is then given the choice – post a certain amount of money to ensure they’ll come back to face trial or wait in jail for their trial. The problem is, what happens when someone can’t afford bail? Unfortunately, this situation happens all the time. For example, in New Jersey, 38.5 percent of people in the prison system are there because they can’t afford bail.
So these people sit in prison awaiting a trial that is supposed to happen in, say, three months, but in reality, it takes six months to a year. Meaning that someone could sit in prison for a year accused of a non-violent crime before even going to trial. This is a problem that affects people of any race who live below the poverty line, but again, people of color are proportionally worse off; they are four times more likely to stay behind bars for not being able to pay bail.
6. Political Correctness Isn’t Post-Racism
Currently, there’s a strong push for people to stop flying the Confederate flag. Opponents argue that it is a sign of racism because it represents a group of people who fought in the Civil War, in large part, to keep and expand slavery. However, supporters of the Confederate flag do not look at it this way and see it as a representation of Southern values. This is an issue that is sure to be debated for some time with neither side looking to budge. What’s interesting is how TV Land took to handling the controversy. They decided to pull reruns of the television show The Dukes of Hazzard, because the two main characters, Bo and Luke Duke, drove over ramps in a car called the General Lee that had a Confederate flag painted on the roof.
When they did, they received a lot of criticism because the show wasn’t racist. In fact, it was quite wholesome. It just featured iconography of the South. It was also a lot tamer than Huckleberry Finn or All in the Family or The Jeffersons. It could be the start of a slippery slope when a show is pulled from the air simply because an image appears in it. Shows like The Dukes of Hazzard are pieces of pop culture that represent a time and a place and sweeping them under the rug or censoring them actually makes a culture weaker.
What’s really interesting is that the debate about the use of the Confederate flag happened after the Charleston church shooting on June 17, 2015. In that case, a 21-year-old white man murdered nine African American people and injured a tenth. Authorities believe that it was a hate crime or a case of domestic terrorism that targeted African American people. In response to the hate-based massacre, TV Land pulled a tame, non-racist, 30-year-old family show that featured mostly car chases solely because they drove a car with a Confederate flag. No one was asking TV Land to remove it because they were offended, they did it on their own because they thought people might perceive it as racist. They hurried to be politically correct before they could be called racist.
5. Fear of the N-Word Is Not Post-Racism
One practice that people point to, to prove that America is post-racial, is that white people know it’s wrong and offensive to say the n-word. And that type of logic and reasoning deserves a slow sarcastic clap. Using the “n-word” or n***** isn’t exactly much better. It’s not like they invoke some other word like “Nagger” or “Nailed.” Although it is an ugly word, it can’t be completely banished, especially when talking about race because it is a major part of racism.
The anti-N-word movement is so strong that when President Barack Obama addressed this very issue on the WTF with Marc Maron podcast, he received backlash and it made national headlines. In the interview, Obama said, “It’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say n***** in public.” This started heated debates on a number of news shows, where different talking heads said it was inappropriate for him to use that word. While others said that he is the first mixed-race President of the United States and he would have a profound perspective on the word, why wouldn’t he use the actual word when he was talking about it? Also, he didn’t direct it at anyone or call someone that word. He was addressing how not being racist is more than not saying that word. The sad thing is that people focused on the fact that he said the actual word, and not why he said it. It shows it’s just easier to condemn perceived wrongdoers than engage in an honest conversation about an uncomfortable topic.
Just because it is an ugly word, doesn’t mean we can’t use it in frank conversations about racism. Saying the “n-word” only shows a change in conscious language use, but it’s a shallow gesture. Anyone who has read Harry Potter should know that.
4. Upward Mobility is Much More Difficult for Minorities
If there’s no such thing as racism, then why are the poverty rates for African Americans twice as high as they are for white people? That is a massive discrepancy, and another startling statistic is that half of the people who are born into a poor African American family will live in poverty their whole lives, whereas two-thirds of white people that are born into poverty are able to climb out of it. The problem speaks to a lack of upward mobility opportunities available to African Americans.
The problems start off with a number of failings in the school system. For example, current studies have found that schools are becoming less integrated. It is a phenomenon called “apartheid schools” and in places like New York City, a third of African American students attend these schools, while in Chicago, half of them do. The problem is that the schools with mostly black students are understaffed and underfunded “dropout factories.” Until there are more opportunities for everyone equally, America simply won’t be a post-racial society.
3. Racism in American Sports
One obvious example that shows that American society is not quite past the racism barrier is that there are still professional sports teams named after ethnic groups – mainly Native Americans. Just to name a few, there are the Cleveland Indians, Chicago Blackhawks, Atlanta Braves, Kansas City Chiefs and probably the worst named team, the Washington Redskins. As for what “redskins” means exactly is highly debated. Some people claim it simply refers to Native Americans.
On the other hand, Native Americans and many other people believe it refers to Native American scalps that white people paid money for. Whether it’s one or the other, 67 percent of Native Americans find it offensive and want the name changed. But the owner of the team, Daniel Snyder, refuses to change the name or the team’s logos because of the team’s “long, proud history.” Amazingly, a majority of Americans surveyed agreed with Snyder, with only about one-third thinking that the Redskins should change their name. If America were a post-racial society, would something like this even be an issue?
2. Depiction of Minorities in the Media
What’s interesting is that a lot of the people who say America’s a post-racism society usually work at news networks. But these news networks also have a terrible habit of depicting African American people and white people in drastically different lights. One example is how riots and protests are depicted. When white people riot, it is often after sports events where their team either wins or loses. It is needless and senseless destruction. When these riots happen, they are written off as “things got out of hand” or “They were blowing off steam.” When you look at black protests, which were happening because police were getting away with killing members of their community after years of harassment (Ferguson, as an obvious example), they are called thugs, criminals and even “wild animals” that are rioting and looting.
Another example of terrible depictions in the news is the case of football player Richard Sherman, who plays for the Seattle Seahawks. In the 2014 NFL playoffs, Sherman, who is known for having a bit of a chip on his shoulder, made a great play in the last play of the game that secured a Super Bowl berth for the Seahawks. As the game ended, Sherman sarcastically offered to shake San Francisco 49ers’ wide receiver Michael Crabtree’s hand. Crabtree pushed Sherman’s mask and the two were pulled apart. Almost immediately after making the play that got his team into the Super Bowl and the confrontation with Crabtree, Sherman was interviewed by reporter Erin Andrews. A highly emotional Sherman used the time to bad mouth Crabtree, which was not exactly sportsmanlike, and he was fined for it.
After the interview, television pundits and people on social media skewered Sherman, calling him a thug. On the Monday following the game the word “Thug” was said 625 times on American television, according to a company that creates stats based on closed captions. When asked what he thought about being called a thug, Sherman, an articulate man was the salutatorian in his high school’s graduating class and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a communications degree from Stanford, said that, “… it seems like it’s an accepted way of calling somebody the N-word now.”
1. Humans May Be Naturally Racist
While there is some debate, there have been a number of studies that indicate, on some level, that humans may be naturally prejudiced. With that being said, just because we may naturally be prejudiced, it does not give us permission to act that way. It is an urge, like any other urge, and it is just a matter of controlling it. However, it is important to point out that this is not definitive and plenty of people believe prejudism is taught. But, it is important to point out that whether it is natural or taught, the reality is everyone has their own prejudices. It is something that everyone has in common.
Because these feelings are part of us, America, or any other society, may never truly get past racism. It’s just a matter of putting our differences aside and working together the best we can. It won’t be perfect, but perfection has never really been a trait of humanity anyway.