Why We Can't All Just Get Along: Racism in the Current American Political, Social, and Economic Context
by Matila Sackor
While seemingly counter-intuitive to the consistent barrage of thoughts, images, and messages associated with the nature of both racial as well as their related social allegiances in the United States, race, according to most respected academics, is both a "political as well as a social construct," with both explicit as well as implicit ideas, thoughts, and attitudes "inherited, interpreted, and then passed down" to generations for the sole purpose of imposing "division, hierarchy, exploitation, violence, resources, attitudes, limitations, and propensities" upon various socially created identities or constructions (Jones, C.P., 2000).
While thankfully our nation seems to have abandoned the overt dissemination of these socially constructed thoughts, ideas, and attitudes for the explicit purpose of relegating non-Whites to a political position of economic, social, or religious subordination, racism in this country is still, unfortunately, perpetuated through a number of other, more insidious, methods (Margles, S. & Margles, R. M., 2010). In fact, from a contemporary standpoint, institutionalized racism, or the instances of racial discrimination embodied in the more "formal, systematic communication of" racist messages, images, and policies specifically geared towards politically, socially, and economically hindering U.S. minority populations through the racially biased application of legal, administrative, and corporate mandates, is now the most utilized, as well as culturally sanctioned, form of racial discrimination in this country, systematically denying countless minority communities access to economic, social, and political equity while simultaneously obscuring any appearance of legal, administrative, or corporate impropriety (Jones, C. P., 2000).
More interpersonal forms of racial discrimination, such as the social dissemination of cultural stereotypes, hate speech, and other forms of racially motivated propaganda, characterize more individualized, and thereby highly socialized, aspects involved in the communication of racist messages, images, and forms (Margles, S. & Margles, R. M., 2010). Most often associated with the conscious harboring, communication, and eventual transmission of racist sentiment, thought, or intent, interpersonal forms of racial discrimination serve to economically, culturally, socially, and politically isolate subordinate (most often minority) populations by broadly assigning these members often undesirable, and most certainly untrue, characteristics at the expense of individual ability, capacity, or identity. However, for members of the oppressor group, or Whites in the particularly American historical construct, this interpersonal racism often manifests itself as a "blind, unconscious" rationalization of white privilege, a sort of child-like naivety that seeks to deny the continued promulgation of racist practices by citing the success of extraordinary minority individuals at the expense of the many who are still experiencing political, social, and economic challenge through virtue of their perceived racial characteristics (Lott, B. & Maluso, D, 1995).
While both forms of racial discrimination are highly salient in American cultural speech, interaction, and administration, the covert mechanisms utilized to reinforce each of these racially motivated forms of economic, social, and political subordination serve to further entrench Eurocentric dominance through virtue of their sheer insidiousness. In fact, it is through the operation of this particular racial paradigm that minority communities begin to internalize, or adopt, the racist thoughts, attitudes, behaviors, and paradigms culturally associated with their particular racial group, often resulting in the ethnic transmission of negative or even maladaptive, thoughts, perceptions, or viewpoints that serve to reinforce the adverse behaviors that are stereotypically assigned to individual ethnic groups through virtue of their supposed racial makeup (Clark, 2001). Meaningful change in America's relationship with race must, therefore, address the political, economic, social, and cultural practices that promulgate both institutional as well as interpersonal forms of racial discrimination in this country to date. Any political, economic, social, or cultural policy short of this highly urgent address will only continue to preserve superficial delusions of racial harmony in spirit of a pseudo post-racial society.
Clark, V.R. (2001). Perilous effects of racism on blacks. Ethnicity and Disease. 2001, 11 (4): 769-772. Retrieved from http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/11763300.
Jones, C. P. (2000). Levels of racism: a theoretic framework and a gardener's tale. Am J Public Health. 2000 August, 90 (8), 1212- 1215. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1446334/pdf/10936998.pdf.
Lott, B. & Maluso, D. (1995). The social psychology of interpersonal discrimination. New York, NY: Guilford Press, xv, 50-79.
Margles, S., & Margles, R. M. (2010). Inverting racism's distortions. Our Schools/Our Selves, 19(3), 137— 149. Retrieved from http://ezp.waldenulibrary.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=51372248&site=ehost-live&scope=site.