The United States of America has had a long racial history. Having built its wealth on the toil and labor of African slaves the country has passed different stages of racial dynamics. There were times when black-skinned people were equaled with objects and were barely considered humans; there were times when they were nominally given rights but in reality they were lynched and assaulted. In the 1960s, civil rights movements got an upper hand and African Americans got hope that from now on they would stop feeling inferior and being discriminated on various grounds. In the beginning of the twenty-first century, America saw for the first time as a black man was voted President. It seemed a proof of racial disparity coming to an end. However, Barak Obama became a symbol of racial equality but not a real proof because according to all statistical data African Americans have still been doing worse than whites. The favorite argument of color-blind racists is that a lower social position of the majority of African Americans means that they do not do enough and need to try harder. Meanwhile, in the situation of racial segregation African Americans are withheld from achieving success by means of institutionalized racism and people’s abstract liberalism. Society can change only if both the state and people will do their best to acknowledge the problem and take the steps to eliminate it.
That is the problem with racism that, as the majority of people realize that it should be ditched in favor of more democratic and liberal forms of co-existence, racism is alive and well but disguised as a number of other things people sometimes have troubles to even discern. It is already a common knowledge how horrific the conditions of slavery were and how badly black people were treated. In Race Rebels: Culture, Politics, and the Black Working Class, Robin D. G. Kelley tells the realities of life for African Americans in the first half of the twentieth century. Apart from simply assigning back areas of public buses for black people, racial segregation rules concerning public transport were rather vague and their interpretation was up to people. Therefore, operators and conductors thought it was their duty to ensure peace and quiet so they had black jacks and guns for these purposes. In addition to violent behavior regarding black passengers when both males and females could be hit or slapped, buses could have passed by African Americans waiting at a bus stop and there were numerous cases when drivers might have taken the fare and did not wait for black passengers to board and driven away.
Naturally nowadays there are no so obvious and humiliating cases of racial prejudice and an absence of blatant racism can be considered as historic progress. After the horrors of the Klu Klux Klan and racial segregation in public places people are well aware that the situation has changed and the society is not as barbaric as it used to be.
Additionally to brutal violence being cut, there are other positive things than have happened since the civil rights movement had had its first victories. If all accomplishments of racial discourse could be summed up, they are not few. African Americans can be seen in all areas of social life; there are many celebrities of different color and origin; even the current President of the US comes from Kenya, which is an unprecedented case in the American history. As a result, people all over the world believe that the US has already outlived its racial past and now it is truly the country of equal opportunities. Meanwhile, only in theory people are ready to become a colorblind society; in fact, the present in society racial discrimination has turned into ‘colorblind’ racism.
In Racial Formation in the United States, Michael Omi and Howard Winant give the reasons why it is not easy for society to drop all its racial prejudices and become racially colorblind. Given the history of slavery the American society finds it hard to forget about different statuses that skin color granted. But even without this aggravating component human nature has a tendency to categorization. However, in the US people not only classify people by color, race, sex, origin, etc., but also ascribe some characteristics, often negative. Therefore, despite people having ditched the obvious cases of racism when African Americans are not separated in public places, they are still not equal in many ways. Instead of blatant prohibitions to come to educational institutions, residential accommodation, and working places people of color come across implicit racism when their job applications are not examined, they are not offered good crediting conditions or good renting options, and others.
Thus, society became not colorblind but it developed a new form of discrimination – colorblind racism. Society has talked so much about racial problems that many people assumed that the changed have already occurred and if African Americans do not have these changes in their lives, it is only their fault. Now an inferior social standing of people of color is explained with “the product of market dynamics, naturally occurring phenomena, and their alleged cultural deficiencies”. Thinking so whites and even some people of color do not agree that African Americans can experience any kind of discrimination. Not experiencing it themselves due to their skin color or higher social class, people with “laissez-faire racism” simply ignore the really existing problems of African Americans without sounding racist. Another way people give away their racist views is when they explain African American’s economic and social problems by their cultural characteristics such as alleged laziness, lack of motivation, etc.
Even though the presence of racial discrimination in the modern day American is doubted by some, there are undisputed data that indicated a difference in incomes, job opportunities, and housing. Despite not having legal housing segregation, it is still present for people of color. Their class and economic status do not matter when it concerns where to live. Whites still prefer to live separately from other races. Devah Pager and Hana Shepherd report that “African Americans were as segregated from whites in 1990 as they had been at the start of the twentieth century”. Here, the explanation seems to lie within individualistic peculiarities. There are no legal reasons that would compel landowners to reject African Americans, withhold information about available property, not assist in getting money credits or refuse to fix domestic appliances other than personal prejudices. According to other researches, socioeconomic characteristics are important and discrimination usually refers to working class, rather than middle- and upper classes. Thus, in comparison to the Jim Crow period, there were obvious changes but during the last decades nothing much has changed.
Because of a lack of changes in, for example, housing discrimination, opportunities for African Americans cannot widen. The situation with housing segregation resembles a vicious circle when a negative occurrence initiates a chain of negative consequences that feed themselves and thus never stop. The poor are always more vulnerable than other segments of population. In his article “American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass,” Douglas S. Massey explains why and how poverty concentrated and segregated in inner-city areas multiplies and expands. On experimental models Massey claims that because “segregation concentrates disadvantage” the black-white disparity is increased in the places where African Americans are segregated from whites.
Another area where more work is needed is employment. According to research data, the number of employed whites is twice as big as employed African Americans, while people of color are paid less on a regular basis. Job opportunities are better for whites. Even at the stage of submitting job applications HRs tend to sift ‘black-sounding’ names and they do not even need to voice any reasons. And better qualifications do not assist in getting a job. As a result, black males are left with less prestigious and less qualified jobs, which in additional are less stable. It results in stigmatization as people who cannot find a proper job or who cannot stay in one job long enough.
In the area of employment, a vicious circle, even a few, can also be observed. When African Americans are refused job positions, they cannot gain necessary experience and eventually employers name a lack of experience as a reason to reject them. Similarly, black males can only find less qualified job even if their qualifications are high because they are limited in their choice of job offers, and they cannot go outside this vicious circle. However, racial discrimination refers largely to getting jobs. After an African American person is taken to a job, his/her wages depend more on the quality of work and are less subjected to racial discrimination.
In order to get a good job, a person is supposed to get a good education and that is where racial discrimination is also present. Inasmuch as housing segregation takes place, it inevitably affects education because children usually attend school in their neighborhoods. However, inner-city segregated areas do not have substantial funds to provide school children with adequate conditions such as highly professional teachers, updated coursebooks, clean and warm premises, healthy lunches, and other. Additionally, such poorer schools have less, or none, affiliations with higher institutions that could offer children good educational opportunities. As a result, school children feel less motivated and frustrated. Often it results in dropouts, early pregnancies, and criminal behavior.
Apart from facing racism in significant areas of life such as education, employment, and a place of living, African Americans, as well as other people of color, deal with racist attitudes on a daily basis when they go shopping, visit public places and receive various services at restaurants, hotels, hospitals, to name a few. Again, as in the previous cases, racial discrimination in consumer markets is subtle. It means that African Americans are served in a disparaging manner, made to wait, made to prepay while whites are not; in shops black-skinned people notice that security guards observe them more intently while in shops they are offered goods of worse quality. On the example of the car market, Pager and Shepherd report that their research revealed that “dealers were less flexible in their negotiations with blacks, resulting in a significant disparity in the ultimate distribution of prices”. Besides, not only individual persons experience racial discrimination in consumer markets but also whole areas. For example, supermarkets and fast food restaurants sometimes slightly increase their prices in the areas where people of color live.
If one attempts to get to the bottom of racism, a figure of the Other will be there. People have a need to create the Other who is very different from them to blame it for their troubles or to feel better about themselves in comparison. The opposition of the Self and the Other has a psychological underpinning and can cover different characteristics such as black and white, male and female, good and bad, upper and lower, etc. Often the domineering group was so powerful that it was able to ascribe not only the best features to itself but also a category of humanness. Thus, African American people during the slavery period were often denied a human status. It allowed their owners any attitudes and treatments because people were considered non-humans. These practices were substantiated with scientific and biological explanations. The whole race was deemed inferior on the basis of their allegedly lower origin or worse physical characteristics.
Therefore, racial discrimination can be refuted in the same way – through science and active explanations. People suck in the information they find around so if they receive more racially diverse positive examples and explanations it can improve the situation. Researchers inform that an emphasis on multiculturalism is able to get matters off the ground: “pro-white bias was greater for participants exposed to color-blind ideology than for those exposed to multicultural ideology”. As young people are more flexible and able to change their opinions and beliefs, it is better to direct all efforts in eliminating racism at them. Although parental example is a strong one, in any case students are able to become more tolerant of different races and ethnicities if they are exposed to other cultures, lifestyles, joint events, and other. To this effect, housing segregation should be eliminated through state programs and, probably, some incentives of landlord to have racially mixed residential environment.
Besides, people of color should stay active as only in this way they can achieve what they need. It is futile to wait until white people understand their hardships. They need to speak up, explain, and ask for changes. As a black person, Barak Obama lulls the majority into believing that there are no issues of racial discriminations. Meanwhile, it is far from it. Colorblind racism blinds liberals to think that equality is present in the American society. While indeed African Americans are nominally equal with white, in reality they lag behind in all the major aspects. Simply proclaiming equality is not enough, because equal in rights does not mean equal in opportunities. As is evident in the example with racial disparities in employment, when African Americans are denied good job offers they are forced to choose less paying jobs and as a result they are deprived of good job opportunities. Even participating on par with whites in the job application procedure, black males have less job offers even while having similar qualification with whites. Therefore, equal opportunities are still a dream for racial minorities in the United States.
Without active participation of minorities in their own fate, colorblind racism will fill in all spheres of life deeper and deeper. Scholars advice to return to “militant social movements to advance racial justice in this country”. Even if the word ‘militant’ is disputable, racial minorities definitely should take into their own hands the cause of racism elimination and demand “political inclusion, social provision, [and] even world citizenship”. These initiatives should be supported by politicians and the government through reparations and redistributions.
Additionally, affirmative action could help minorities for the time being until the government works out some strategies how to begin solving racial problems. They minorities continue to fight for affirmative action. Despite having some drawbacks such as “a violation of the norm of equal opportunity” and a seemingly discouraging effect on minorities to make an effort, it could be a powerful tool to balance the existing disparity. However, affirmative action should be immediately supported by adequate measures concerning education and housing segregation. Only combined together they can bring the necessary result. Otherwise, indeed all negative sides of positive discrimination can play up and it will be lost in vain. If affirmative action in allocating jobs for minorities will not be buttressed with positive changes in residential areas and education for minorities, then whites will be discouraged by a continued inequality and privileges to minorities, while minorities will not be doing their best and feel too relaxed to make an effort.
Racism has a long history. When America was just started as a state slavery played a pivotal role in its making. Exploiting people by people must have been a hard mental feat as a complex system of justification of it was built. Based on false obviousness, as well as Biblical references, slavery was proclaimed as inevitable from a normal way of life. Naming people of any color other than white inferior and defective, whites built up their dominance and it is still difficult for them to cast it aside. After so many a decade of struggle and horrific manifestations of racism during the Jim Crow years and racial segregation, people do not see violent racism on the streets.
Since the abolition of slavery the country has gone a long way. Anti-racial laws were ditched, voting rights were granted. However, race is still very much used as a disparaging characteristic. Racism became so much ingrained into mundane life of Americans so people no longer notice it. Even minorities sometimes play along the racial lines so some reason. For example, Bonilla-Silva and Dietrich refer to Barak Obama’s ambiguous attitude toward racism. When Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates was wrongly arrested, police officers acted without getting into the matter of the issue, probably using their stereotypical assumption about black people. Obama reacted abruptly and then tried to palliate his words and not only said that all “overreacted” but also invited all the parties to share beer in the White House. Bonilla-Silva and Dietrich believe that such measures do not solve the problems of racism but only send a signal to whites that racism is no longer important, “that most racial incidents are misunderstandings with ‘two sides’; and that if we talk things out, we can settle matters and create ‘racial harmony’”.
Therefore, racial problems should be widely discussed and people’s attention should be raised. People need to hear about what situation with racism is in the country, what measures are being taken, and what should be done. The notions of colorblind racism should be explained. Whereas for higher institutions such courses on racial discrimination and multiculturalist should be obligatory, wide public should also be involved somehow. It can be done through talk shows, documentaries, TV serials, etc. People need to understand that each should begin with himself or herself. However, given the scale of the phenomenon, racism requires large-scale measures. It is not enough to combat it on personal level. Without the state’s support people will be discouraged and frustrated. Only joint actions can make global and significant changes.