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Race And Racism As Structures Of Inequality In American Society

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The Oxford English Dictionary defines racism as “A belief that one’s own racial or ethnic group is superior, or that other such groups represent a threat to one's cultural identity, racial integrity, or economic well-being; (also) a belief that the members of different racial or ethnic groups possess specific characteristics, abilities, or qualities, which can be compared and evaluated.” (Oxford University Press, 2008), while race is seen as a social category. (Nilsen, 2020) This leads to prejudice and discrimination towards people of other racial or ethnic groups. Race and Racism are profoundly evident structures for inequality in society. This is because, historically, people were placed into categories based on their race, and these categories determined your social standing and level of success in society.

Although it’s clear that racial categories were created using pseudoscience, we still use those categories today in our modern society. (Golash-Boza, 2016, pp. 1-13) Moreover, we as a society use these categories in a way that is harmful. Practices such as using racial slurs or committing a hate crime is still evident in modern society. “Studies consistently find that individual acts of bigotry are commonplace, even in places such as college campuses, which one might presume to be more accepting than most other places, in fact most black students state that their level of intelligence and competence is often brought into question by their white professors and peers.” (Golash-Boza, 2016, pp. 1-13) In our society racism and the perception of race as our defining component, has become normalised and part of everyday life. We can support this statement by saying that “because racism is an ingrained feature of our landscape, it looks ordinary and natural to persons in the culture.” (Rollock, 2011) Racism has become so deeply rooted in the social order that it’s often taken for granted and overlooked or viewed as natural. Historically, white supremacists have used “Racialized Disenfranchisement” and “Racialized Dispossession” to ensure the authority of white supremacists over non- white people. (Nilsen, 2020) Throughout the entire racialized history, state- sanctioned institutions have “regulated” the black population for the purpose of preserving white power and privilege. (M. Marable, 2007) This shows the inequalities black people had to suffer because of racism.

During the first two centuries of oppression of black people on the North American continent in particular, the predominant mode of black oppression was slavery. (M. Marable, 2007) Black people as an ethnic group were seen as the outsiders of society. They were regarded as property and livestock, not living human beings, with rights and needs. This emphasises the inequalities race and racism created in society. Black people were not regarded as equal to white people, and they did not have basic human rights. Even after the majority of black African Americans were enfranchised as full citizens in the 1990’s they still faced segregation and oppression from white supremacists. Although they were now technically “free” they still found themselves being as the victims of discrimination and racial prejudices forced on them by a predominantly white society. This forced black people and people of colour into unequal footing in society, because, they faced difficulties in finding work, accommodation and healthcare in addition to being labelled as a criminal based solely on the colour of their skin.

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In a white dominated society, there are unequal opportunities for work. Employers discriminate against people from African American decent and would rather hire a white worker over a black worker with the same qualifications. Although African American citizens are now considered “free”, they still do not have the opportunities white people have. We can look at the recent protests in America as an uprising against the inequalities based on race and racism in modern society. Recently people have been protesting all over America as a result of excessive police brutality towards African Americans. This is not a new concept, historically, white supremacists in positions of power have abused their power to discriminate against people of colour and other racial ethnicities. Police brutality is legally defined as a civil rights violation. Yet still we see these authoritarian figures abusing their power and using excessive and unnecessary force against especially black individuals. These actions just further the inequalities in society based on race and racism.

Between 1984 and 1994 in South Africa people were separated according to race in every aspect of their daily lives. This entrenched white- minority rule and discrimination against non- white population groups. Although Apartheid ended over 20 years ago, recovery from its blatant racial discrimination is a difficult and on- going process. South Africa’s new constitution is founded on the values of human dignity and the advancement of human rights and freedom. (Grantcraft by Candid, 2015) The white minority government in apartheid South Africa was distinctive, and it has had a lasting effect on the region it controlled for centuries. (Msimang, 2016) For example, although the average income of black households has increased by 169 percent in the last 10 years, the average white household still earns six times more than its black equivalent. (Grantcraft by Candid, 2015) Although efforts are being made to redress historical inequalities, there is still a long way to go before we are an equal and just society. BEE, has done little to change the racial structure of South African capitalism, (Nilsen, 2020) and the effects of Apartheid and its discriminatory laws can still be seen in the way the South African society is organized today. The consequences of poverty, racism and violence have resulted in psychological disorders and have placed black people on unequal footing in the South African society. As a result of Bantu education which separated learners on grounds of their race and resulted in black learners having a below standard education, there is a whole generation of black Africans who are illiterate. This has limited the work they can do greatly and has caused majority of them to still live below the breadline. Although a significant change took place, the negotiated transition from Apartheid to Democracy has not yet been able to completely restructure or end the social order that Apartheid has created. (Nilsen, 2020) A racial structure gives rise to systematic advantages of the dominant racial group and systematic disadvantages for subordinate racial groups. (Nilsen, 2020) In the face of Apartheid, the systematic advantages would be enjoyed by white people and black people and people of colour would suffer the systematic disadvantages. Today still the majority of people living in townships, people who are jobless and people in poverty are black.

In conclusion, although black people and people of colour are not being blatantly oppressed by laws, and have a right to equal opportunities, society is still unequal and prejudiced towards them. Furthermore, although efforts are being made to redress the historical inequalities, we still have a long way to go before we are a just and equal society.

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Race And Racism As Structures Of Inequality In American Society. (2022, Jun 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 3, 2023, from
“Race And Racism As Structures Of Inequality In American Society.” Edubirdie, 16 Jun. 2022,
Race And Racism As Structures Of Inequality In American Society. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 3 Dec. 2023].
Race And Racism As Structures Of Inequality In American Society [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 16 [cited 2023 Dec 3]. Available from:
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