Racism is the belief that members of different races possess characteristics and abilities specific to that race, so as to distinguish one race as inferior or superior to another – leading those feeling superior to discriminate based upon the belief that membership in their race makes them superior. Slavery is the most prominent, vile example of this kind of discrimination in which whites believed that blacks were inferior – chattel – because of the color of their skin. And for nearly 250 years, whites believed that blacks could be owned and sold as property in America. This belief and the continued mistreatment of blacks in America are a structural embarrassment for our nation.
Republican elected officials and their cabal, overwhelmingly white and male, often wish to deny the existence of racial privilege and are often perpetrators of racist language and imagery. The Republican-dominated Supreme Court gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act with Chief Justice Roberts writing – “Our Country has Changed.”
Notwithstanding Roberts’ comment and the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished slavery 150 years ago – racism is alive and well in this country. As Salon wrote last month: “President Obama has been a cottage industry for racist imagery and racist memorabilia…The language and images are hard to take – a black man with enormous lips eating a watermelon…Broken English and racial slurs.”
In a study published in the November issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, L. Taylor Phillips and Brian S. Lowery point out “that progress on racial equality is limited by the fact that many whites deny the existence of inequities.”
“Despite this reality [the prevalence of racism], policy makers and power brokers continue to debate whether racial privilege even exists and whether to address such inequity…One reason for this inaction might be an unwillingness among Whites to acknowledge racial privilege — acknowledgment that may be difficult given that Whites are motivated to believe that meritocratic systems and personal virtues determine life outcomes…However, claiming personal life hardships may help Whites manage the threatening possibility that they benefit from privilege.”
We are a country of immigrants – a wonderfully diverse mixture of races and cultures, opinions and beliefs – which makes our nation great. In an attempt to rectify the mistakes of our past, we have adopted policies such as ‘affirmative action’ – a policy program that attempts to put into practice procedures that insure all who are qualified receive equal opportunity for advancement. Since, historically, people of color and other minorities have not participated equally, these programs attempt to rectify the structural inequality these less-privileged groups face – and so affirmative action programs have not been without controversy.
In fact, SCOTUS has upheld particular state bans on affirmative action and has recently agreed to hear a case, Fisher v. University of Texas in which a white student has claimed reverse discrimination. In fact, Justice Antonin Scalia this week during oral arguments has been castigated in the press for saying:
“There are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a less — a slower-track school where they do well.”
“Reverse discrimination” is the bogus claim that programs that favor minorities discriminate against the majority white population because they offer opportunities to less-qualified people based upon race and not qualifications. According to a recent article in The Huffington Post, “4 ‘Reverse Racism’ Myths That Need To Stop” reverse racism “is a card often pulled by white people when people of color call out racism and discrimination, or create spaces for themselves that white people aren’t a part of.”
“Researchers observed that whites who read self-affirming statements before completing the survey claimed less hardships, and they found that self-affirmations could actually reverse the denial of white privilege.” Needless-to-say, if reading a self-affirming statement is all that it takes to make people acknowledge their lack of self-esteem and recognize their beneficial position in life favor, then how bad is their plight? Clearly, no self-affirming statement is going to resolve the structural anguish of 250 years of slavery and 400 years of racism, hate, and resentment.
In fact, we are now dealing with claims of reverse racism by the historically privileged white class. We live in a society plagued by racial division and fueled by the intellectual dishonesty of the GOP, overwhelmingly the party of the white privileged. A party which has tried its best to disrupt policies of our president for no other reason than he is a black man. A party fueled by the racism and xenophobia of its candidates for the presidency, and the pundits of its media arm, Fox News – all predominantly white. They egregiously deny problems by talking past them – by referring to the attack on the AME Church in South Carolina, in which nine people were senselessly murder, an “attack on religious liberty” – not the racially motivated act of terrorist and hate crime that it was.
Consider that the Republican Party, one of our two great political parties, continues to lose its way by using racism as a tool to divide us for its political gain rather than work to bring us together as a nation.
Featured image via Framepool