Many minor communities are subjected to racism and discrimination but what exactly does racism refer to? Racism is the discrimination in order to add categories and show superiority among people of different phenotypic traits or believes and social standings.
To understand about racism, one first has to divulge in the nature of racism. It is usually assumed that racism has been a part of civilization since civilization started, that it is embedded into how people work and no matter what, it will always exist. One of the assumptions is that racism is derived from capitalized trade of slaves by elite white men seeking to dehumanize people for economic gain, and used racial differences to justify enslavement as righteous. It can also be assumed that even before this, some sort of segregation, or ‘proto-racism’ existed throughout native colonies as a way to define the differences between rival tribes. This could have originated with differences in beliefs and then evolved into facial differences. From this we can evaluate that racism is a practice bused to systematically oppress a race and used for segregation. Racism goes hand in hand with discrimination, with or without a recognition on the existence of labels. One such prominent one is the differentiation based on skin color: white, yellow, and black. The roots might be deep but it emerged as a major issue after one of the scientists decided to divide people according to their traits and prevent them mingling with each other do the future generations would be provided with much purer genes. Among the three major categories, individuals with darker skin are the biggest targets of racial discrimination and bully.
Brent Staples in his article ‘Just a Walk on By: Black Men and Public Spaces’ talks about the struggles he faced in on streets because of the struggles he faced. Streets that are constantly exposed to cultural diversity. Staples talks about his first encounter to racial discrimination at the age of 22 when he moved to the city for his studies. He comes across a young white lady, probably in her early twenties, on one late evening on a relatively deserted street who started to be cautious in his presence and walked faster in order to escape the black man she perceived as someone who was following her. Staples quotes: “To her, the youngish black man – a broad six feet two inches, with a beard and billowing hair, with both hands shoved in the pockets of a military jacket seemed menacingly close”. This, followed by many other similar occurrences, made him feel the tag of a mugger, a rapist or even worse being attached to him on the basis of his skin color.
Many researches have shown that men with darker skins, particularly black men, are expected to commit crimes more than white men even though this is merely a myth derived by mindset of people. Black men are more likely to be pulled over while driving, and are 30% more likely to get ticketed rather than just a warning compared to white drivers while speeding. Staples talks about similar occurrences, how being pulled over by police and being suspected for doing something illegal was a norm for him and all other black males. 90% of the time black person seen driving a fancy car get pulled over in suspicions of acquiring that far in some illegal way. It was something they had to get used to. Staples further talks about how a black journalist got hauled by police in suspicion of being a killer while he was investigating a life of a murderer in that area for his story.
Racism faced by Staples isn’t just limited to his skin color. It is also linked to his attire. When he walked around with his business suit on, he faced social discrimination much less than when we walked around in casual clothes. He also discusses about the time when he entered a jewelry shop to pass time while dressed up in his comfortable casual clothes. The female clerk got cautious and brought out a dog. Staples got the message immediately, knowing that if he stayed, she would call cops on him, he left without saying a word. This suggest that racism does have its links to a social standing of a person. People generally perceive people of higher standard of living as being superior to them or being safer or a harder target of objection and discrimination. People tend to comply to them rather than discriminating them.
Struggles of Staples and all other black men can be felt throughout the world. These struggles are also similar to the ones faced by Asians. How being as fair as you can equals your social standings and beauty. A lot of workers, particularly females, are judged on how white they are before being selected for a job. People in Asia, especially countries like India and Korea, can relate to this phenomenon on a very personal level as well. But is racism limited to the color of a person alone? Not at all.
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As a child, I was born and lived in KSA, where I spent my childhood until the 7th grade before moving to the US. Being a Pakistan expatriate, Arabs, particularly Saudis, found ways to belittle us. The roots of racism there were based on pride and feeling superiority but it caused no less of a damage to expatriates who weren’t either from a western country or an Arab country. Being one, I was constantly a target of racism in public places. I once got pulled out of the line by my arm while waiting for my turn on the cashier desk. This act was performed by a young Saudi girl in my mid-twenties and when I protested, the criticized me instead. On another occasion, a group of Arab teenagers deliberately pushed me while I was walking, due to which I almost fell but I received no apology. Instead, one of them said: “Watch where you are going you dirty expatriate!”. At times I would come across group of Arab girls looking at me with disgust even though I’m relatively fair skinned and good looking. Being cursed by locals there passing by was a normal almost all expatriates had experienced at least once and I had been through it quite regularly.
Racism has enveloped the world in many different forms. A person’s social standings also has a lot to do with how he/she would be treated in a society. And among many branches of racism, cultural racism plays a very important part. Cultural racism, sometimes also known as neo-racism, is referred to discrimination in a community solely based on cultural differences between ethnic or racial groups. This is usually based on a cast of a person or what tribe he belongs to or what religion he follows. One of the biggest examples of this is islamophobia, hatred towards Islam, a discrimination faced by Muslims in most parts of the world.
After the episodes of racism, I went through in KSA, I shifted to US due to my father’s posting. I thought things would be different there since it’s a country of freedom, where a lot of cultures interact with each other on. Daily basis, but I couldn’t have been more wrong than I was. Things got worse in US. I was constantly a target of cultural racism for being a practicing ‘Muslim brown girl’. I was looked down upon by my fellow classmates for belonging to a country that was way underdeveloped compared to US. And my religious believes help pour oil on the burning fire. I faced a strong discrimination in my school as well as my neighborhood. Kids in my school practically isolated me. I was treated as a rotten bean in a box of tasty peaches. One weekday, when I opened my locker after arriving to my school, I found out trash out of a garbage can dumped inside my locker which was tainted with negative degrading words in spray paint. Soon after that I found my stuff to be regularly missing and my fellow schoolmates trying to trip me whenever I would walk down the hall or rows of tables. I would sometimes find assorted dead insects inside my table drawer.
Walking back home was no less of a hurdle. I would be called a terrorist or a member of ISIS and taxi drivers would refuse to drive me back home, so moat of the time I was forced to walk to my house which came after 13 blocks, a whole mile away from my school. As soon as I would enter my neighborhood, I would find my neighbors glaring and throwing shades at me. Sometimes my parents would walk up in the middle of the night to the sound of either our car or our house windows glass shattering. Our car would get constantly scratched and even while driving, the police would pull us over suspecting us to either be involved in some illegal business or being an illegal immigrant.
This did not stop even after I shifted back to Pakistan. I was mostly isolated by most of my family members under the prejudice that I was a foreigner to them and my social standing was totally different for them to associate with me. Coming to Pakistan, I also came across a major discrimination based on tribal and caste differences as well as which political party people were a part of. I was constantly looked down upon whenever I stated that I supported a party that was not in power and never won elections before. One of my friends had faced countless of bullying just because she wasn’t a Syed and was relatively poor than most of the people in my neighborhood.
Throughout my experience I learned that racism in our modern society not only target those possessing darker skin shades but also those who either deviate from the norms of that society or a part of a minority. But that’s not all, I have learned throughout my experience that racism is a mean to impose power and belittle others. And even though they say that racism can be battled, from my experience I’ve learned that the roots of it are present in all of our society in variety of forms and that it has now been embedded deeply into our human nature after centuries of similar mindset making it impossible to eliminate it.