When one talks about racism, most of our opinions are based on what happens in America; from 400 years ago until now, we find ourselves believing that racism in America has improved greatly. And we have improved, compared to the times before and after the Civil War. However, as we progress forward, we move back fifty years. Some of us in society refuse to acknowledge the arising problems that have to do with racism while others become apart of the problem. As a society, we are taught about white culture, eurocentric beauty standards, and brought up with subconscious racist mindsets that will take a lifetime to unlearn, and have for centuries, kept people of color oppressed. We are brought up with subtleties of racism, such as a child seeing their white mom lock the car door in fear when a black person walks past or seeing their white dad make a disgusted look at a Hispanic for no reason at all. It is things like this that are ingrained in our brains; racial stereotypes that we cannot help but think about each race. This is what racism has become in the 21st century, and will continue to grow unless we acknowledge the problem and help eradicate it.
Racism is defined, by Oxford Dictionary as, “Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s race is superior:” (Oxford Dictionary) Despite this coined definition, it very loosely defines racism as a whole, and forgets about institutionalized racism, internalized racism, and many other forms of racism that are often overlooked or considered as ‘just jokes’ and simple commentary (such as micro-aggressions ). Racism dates back even before 400 years ago during the enslavement of Africans and before Charles Darwin’s theory of Descent of Man. “No clear and unequivocal evidence of racism has been found in other cultures or in Europe before the Middle Ages.” George M. Fredrickson states in The Historical Origins and Development of Racism. However, some might believe that the first signs of racism appeared during the thirteenth and fourteenth century, a time in Jews were identified with the correlation of the devil and witchcraft. (Fredrickson) From there on out, many different beliefs and theories about the ‘better race’ begin to appear, Charles Darwin’s theory being one of the most infamous ones. He believed that his own white race was more advanced than other ethnic groups, often calling them “savages”, “low” and “degraded”. Thus fueling the deadliest forms of racism. Social Darwinism was a term given to such ideal during the time of European’s quest for colonizing other, weaker nations.
When we think of racism in America, however, we think of the Jim Crow Laws and the Civil Rights Movement. The Jim Crow laws were one of the main forms of racism towards black people (and other people of color) during the 1890s and didn’t ‘end’ until the 1900s (although we can say that many of the lingering effects of Jim Crow do still exist today). These ‘laws’ were regulations created by Southern states that made the segregation of African Americans and whites reality (and very much legal). The Jim Crow Laws were laws that practically restricted African Americans on their rights of freedom, this included: the right to use public facilities, schools, and to vote. But that is only the basic outlines of what the Jim Crow laws were really all about, as they were more explicit in detail of what blacks could and could not do. Some of us just have yet to fully realize these inconspicuous kinds of racism. The new Jim Crow laws are hidden under smaller kinds of discrimination; passed under things such as micro-aggressions and snide remarks that produce inferiority amongst people of color. “The unequal racial profiling, police brutality, voting restrictions, and mass imprisonment of African Americans and other people of color in the United States is a moral outrage” (Unitarian Universalist). Those who oppress people of color have found ways to continue to do so unless we take a stand and become more aware of the kinds of racism that still affect us today.
Racism comes in many forms, as stated above. It comes in forms of subtle commentaries that may seem harmless at first, micro aggressions being the coined term for such. Defined by Derald Wing Sue in the book Racial Micro aggressions in Everyday Life, “Racial micro aggressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults towards people of color.” (Sue) Racism may come in more deadlier forms, such as police brutality, but as people of color grow up, we often face more subtle racist remarks than we actually think we do. Another problem that has often reared its ugly head would be denial in the fact that racism exists. The more the denial, the more the racism. And it’s this denial that stops any progress from happening, and it isn’t just occurring now. It has for centuries, dating back to times of slavery and even after that. It the very fact that white people during the time of slavery thought of African-Americans (slaves) as property than actual human beings really show how little respect people of color are given because of their skin color. PBS American Denial’s director Llewellyn Smith and producers Christine Herbes-Sommers and Kelly Thomson offer a new answer to the question: why does a country who proclaims freedom and liberty such as America, treat people of color so terribly? By digging deeper, Desmond-Harris states that the common root the show found was “unconscious racism, also known as implicit bias. They pin the blame on a belief—so deeply entrenched that many of us aren’t ‘t aware that we hold it—that white is better than black.” We might think it started with just slavery and Jim Crow laws, but the problem is so much more deeply rooted in the very ways on how we raise our child to think in this society.
Race has always mattered, no matter the year, the era, or the period. The ideas of being ‘colorblind’ or ‘not seeing color’ only add to the problems that surround racism. Racism was alive back then and is very much prevalent now. While the textbook definition of racism serves to counter-argue that racism is now ‘dead’, or that white people experience racism as well. However, as S.E. Smith explains in the Daily Dot, “In order to be racist, you need to possess two traits. The first is privilege: A structural, institutional, and social advantage. White people occupy positions of racial privilege, even when they are disadvantaged in other ways.” (Smith) The second being power. The idea that all women make 77 cents for every dollar a male makes, however, this fact is incorrect. White women make 77 cents for every dollar a white man makes; Black, Hispanics/Latinx, and Asians women make even less than 77 cents. It’s these benefits that people often overlook to falsely claim that there is equality when racial equality is practically nonexistent. We as a society must become more aware of the certain privileges specific people hold upon others, and that by the end of the day, change is needed.
The problem still stands, however: we have an obvious race issue in America, and around the world. Whether it’s amongst our people (internalized racism and colorism) or towards other people of color, racism plays a big impact on the way our society functions. As a society, humans have been raised into thinking certain things that will take years, and maybe a lifetime to unlearn. People of color grow up believing that eurocentric beauty is what needs to be obtained to look ‘beautiful’, that white is pure while black is evil. It all ends with the fact that we are brought up to believe “white is better than black”, and it’s this kind of idea that is ingrained in our head that continues to force people of color to be oppressed for centuries. Racism is deadly, racism is one of the most prevalent problems in our society today, but with more awareness, we can combat it and make a change.