Does racism exist in America? Let’s Find Out…

Does racism exist in America? Let’s Find Out…

Does racism exist in America?

This post will be less light-hearted and more focused on a topic that, I believe, needs to be talked about more often. Does racism exist in America? I’ll be discussing this issue in great depth, and I will be including a lot of different research sources.

For the sake of time, I will be discussing whether African Americans are subject to nationwide racism (as a response to the notion that the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement is not necessary). However, I strongly believe that all minorities living in America are under that same form of oppression. If I have time, I will be referencing additional sources – those that focus primarily on other minorities.

[Please don’t take this the wrong way – this post is going to take me hours to compile and write up, and I’m on a tight schedule. Therefore, I needed a narrower focus to get it up on time (and to also combat the idea that ‘Black Lives Matter’ is BS). I will try to add other sources if I have time. Also, this may well be the longest post I’ve ever written, so be prepared!]

Does racism exist in America? Let’s find out…

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Does racism exist in America? First, the definition of racism…

The definition of racism, according to the Oxford Dictionaries website is as follows:

Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism (hostility) directed against someone of a different race, based on the belief that one’s own race is superior. The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

Therefore, this post is going to look at whether the black community in America face prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism (hostility), based solely on their race. We are also going to look at whether the black community in America are viewed as inferior, solely for belonging to their race.

Before I begin, I have come across the argument that racism can’t be committed by individuals; on a small scale, and I would like to debunk that. I’ve also heard that racism can’t occur outside an institution (e.g. a school or police force), as racism is ‘about power and dominance’. While I agree that racism is about power and dominance, I do believe that individuals – of whatever race – can be racist. A neighbour refusing to invite another neighbour over to their BBQ, on the basis of skin colour, is a perfect example of this.

Point being: individuals CAN be racist. It CAN happen on a small scale. I’ve just given you an example. Ethnic minorities can also be racist towards white individuals and discriminate against them. There is no such thing as ‘reverse racism.’ Racism is racism. NOTE: The above definition does not limit racism as something that can only occur within an institution or something that can only be done by white individuals.

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Does racism exist in America? One argument against this…

The first argument against racism existing within America is as follows: “More white people are killed by the police in America every year in comparison to black individuals, or other ethnic minorities. Therefore, there is no racism within police institutions (inferred: or within American society as a whole).” If this is true, this argument could debunk one of the most well-known arguments for their being racism within America, against minorities.

HOWEVER…

While it is true that the US police forces have killed more white individuals, the number of black deaths that have occurred due to police force were disproportionate, in comparison.

It’s also important to note that in 2010, the number of white individuals, (223.6 million), accounted for 72 percent of all people living in the United States. The Black or African-American population, (38.9 million), represented 13 percent of the total population. This is important to understand, because the following statistics on death by lethal force were produced in 2009-2012, when the majority of the population was made up of white individuals.

The full document (published in 2016) is titled, ‘Deaths Due to Use of Lethal Force by Law Enforcement: Findings From the National Violent Death Reporting System, 17 U.S. States, 2009–2012.’ It is taken from Google Scholar; I would strongly recommend you take a read.

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Death by police force: Statistics

There were 812 legal intervention deaths identified by NVDRS in 17 participating states from 2009 to 2012, according to the above research article. “All fatalities resulting from use of lethal force by on-duty LE from 2009 to 2012 in 17 U.S. states were examined using National Violent Death Reporting System data.” Note: Fatalities resulting from the use of lethal force by law enforcement (LE) agents while on duty, are referred to as ‘legal intervention deaths.’

FACT: Victims were predominantly male (96.1%) with a mean age of 36.7 years. Although a majority were white, black victims were over-represented (32.4%) relative to the U.S. population. Blacks had 2.8 times the rate of legal intervention death compared with whites; rates among whites and Hispanics were similar.

FACT: “Most victims were reported to be armed (83%); however, black victims were more likely to be unarmed (14.8%) than white (9.4%) or Hispanic (5.8%) victims.”

FACT: “Given racial disparities in victimization identified in the full sample, additional analyses were conducted to examine differences […] for cases involving white, black, and Hispanic victims. Black victims were significantly more likely to be unarmed than white or Hispanic victims. Black victims were also significantly less likely than whites to have posed an immediate threat to LE.

However, that’s not to say that police brutality doesn’t exist outside of race…

“White victims were significantly more likely than black victims to be killed in incidents related to mental health or substance-induced disruptive behaviours, and more likely than black or Hispanic victims to be involved in potential “suicide by cop” incidents.”

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So, does racism exist in America?

Racial bias does exist within the US police force, supporting the idea that, at the very least, institutional racism exists within America. Does that mean that only minorities experience police brutality? No. However, it must be noted that the disparity between the overall treatment of races in a variety of law enforcement encounters, signifies a racial bias.

Also, this argument doesn’t take into account racial profiling and the fact that lengthier sentences are given to minorities, for the same crime. Such an argument has been discussed in length in a document titled, ‘Race & Non-Racial Characteristics in Sentencing Length and Sentencing Type Disparity,’ another source found on Google Scholar.

The author stated that they had utilised “data from the United States Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities (SISCF) 2004.” The research was conducted with a focus on investigating “the possibility that African American drug offenders receive lengthier prison sentences”. Overall, the researcher found that “African Americans are more prevalent among drug offenders as opposed to non-drug offenders; 64.5% to 51.8%. This disparity lends to the suspicion that African Americans are punished more frequently for drug offenses.” In addition to this, “African American drug offenders are sentenced more frequently to long sentences of ten or more years more often than white drug offenders; 20.7% to 15.7%.” This study was conducted on 287 prisons and a total of “14,499 completed state interviews were conducted.”

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Another argument against the existence of racism…

Many use the example of ‘black on black crime’ to counter the idea that racism exists in America. According to some, the black communities are at fault for facing hardships (which they claim are caused by ‘black on black crime’ and black ‘gang-culture’). They feel as though the black communities are simply trying to place blame for their faults onto American society. To them, racism does not exist within modern American society.

RESPONSE: While there are many problematic issues found within impoverished black communities, I think it’s important to consider the reasons behind them. Once you’re able to do that, the idea of African Americans simply ‘using American society as a scapegoat’ instead of there being a larger problem at hand, becomes much less plausible.

It is possible that this crime found within the black communities is a reflection of the extreme poverty which goes back generations (back to when there was a huge lack of racial equality). For example, forty years ago, African Americans may have found it more difficult to obtain a job due to racial discrimination, which would have led to poverty. It’s possible that this racial discrimination is continuing today. This would lead to poverty, which would result in many African Americans engaging in deviant and criminal behaviour e.g. robbery, to combat poverty.

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Supporting research…

In a research piece titled, ‘The Causes of Inner-City Poverty: Eight Hypotheses in Search of Reality’, one theorised cause of inner-city poverty (for minorities) is as follows: “Inner-city poverty results from the persistence of racial and gender discrimination in employment, which prevents the population from achieving its full potential in the labour market.” The researcher also states, “Employer preferences […] continue to result in discrimination,” and that, “The income gap between white and black males that is explained by discrimination decreased from about 35 percent in 1939 to 16 percent in 1984, rising again to 18 percent in 1989.” Finally, it states that, “the recurrent discrimination against certain racial or ethnic groups discourages them from applying for jobs in certain sectors (Waldinger, 1994; W.J. Wilson, 1996).”

Furthermore, the lower education standards received by African American individuals may lead to less of a likelihood of obtaining higher paid jobs. Once source titled, ‘How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? Black Male Students, Schools, and Learning in Enhancing the Knowledge Base to Disrupt Deficit Frameworks,’ states that, “Persistent data shows that certain student groups are more severely and disproportionately affected by school failure than others […] African American males continue to be one of the more academically and socially marginalised students in U.S. schools (Anderson 2008).”

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It’s a vicious cycle…

This continuous poverty cycle could have led to increased anger and rebellion within impoverished black communities; causing many to engage in deviant behaviour. This kind of criminal behaviour could’ve progressed into the gang culture, to enable individuals to commit larger-scale crime in organisations (again, to compensate for poverty). The gang culture, and consequently the violence that comes with it, could also have stemmed from competition within the black communities to ‘gain access to the most resources’.

Socialisation and self-fulfilling prophecy may also be the answer

If black individuals are raised in communities where gang culture and violence is the norm, from a young age, those individuals are raised to believe that violence/crime is the norm. This maintains the problem of violence and crime within black communities, as younger generations essentially continue what their parents/peers/role models have left off

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Let’s not forget the ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’

Also, there’s the idea of the ‘self-fulfilling prophecy.’ American society at large has a very biased media that often portrays young black individuals from a poorer background as ‘thugs’ and ‘criminals.’ This harmful representation is largely present within news articles but is also within films. This can result in racial profiling, racial discrimination, and dehumanisation.

Supporting evidence for this comes from, ‘Where’s the Representation?: The Impact of White Washing on Black Children’. In this source, the researcher stated, In 7 Ways Racism Affects the Lives of Black Children, an article published by the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, author Jermaine Terrell Starr revealed: …. experiments on 176 police officers (mostly white males, 37 years of age) from large cities to determine how biased they are against Black boys based on ‘prejudice and unconscious dehumanization of Black people by comparing them to apes.’ After reviewing the officers’ files, researchers determined that cops who used force against Black children dehumanized them. Force includes killings, wristlocks, takedowns, tear gas, electric shocks and striking with a blunt object (Starr).’”

In theory, if enough people tell an individual who they are and what they will amount to, that person may well become it – believing that there isn’t an alternative.

These two factors could explain the problems found within the black communities. This thereby debunks the original criticising argument of the existence of racism in the U.S.

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Just to be clear…

These explanations which can be used to counter arguments against racism existing in America are NOT a ‘get out of jail card’ for those who have committed crime/engaged in violence. This is me giving you an alternative explanation for why the black communities have high levels of crime – an explanation that a lot of people like to overlook because it’s convenient for them.

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One final important piece of research…

At the beginning of this post, I stated that if I had time I would add another research source that focused on all ethnic minorities. I’ve managed to find one (from the previous source) which supports that idea that all minorities in America are racially ‘oppressed’ within the media:

“’A 2013 study released by USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism offers statistics about diversity in Hollywood films: Examining 500 top-grossing films released in the U.S. from 2007 to 2012, the study considers some 20,000 characters and finds diversity is definitely lacking. Across 100 top-grossing films of 2012, only 10.8 percent of speaking characters are Black, 4.2 percent are Hispanic, 5 percent are Asian, and 3.6 percent are from other (or mixed race) ethnicities,’ the paper notes at the outset. ‘Just over three-quarters of all speaking characters are White (76.3 percent). These trends are relatively stable, as little deviation is observed across the five-year sample (Rizov).’ Back actors and actresses are simply not given fair chances to be positive role models in the media.”

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Conclusion

So, does racism exist in America? Based on what I’ve found, yes. It does. If you ever encounter anyone who would like to tell you otherwise, please redirect them to this article. It would be greatly appreciated. Education and raising awareness is key to combating racial oppression. Let’s all strive for equality.

Thank you so, so much for reading this far,

-Alicia.

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  • Emily

    Serious kudos for you on pulling this post together! This topic is something that still (unfortunately!) needs to be shouted about and I really love how you’ve approached the whole debate, you’re clearly one intelligent and kick-ass woman!

    Musings & More

    • Thank you for taking the time to read this! I definitely think this is something that needs to talked about a lot more than it is, too! Haha, I reallly appreciate it 😀 xx