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"Us & Them" Mentality

The Migration Policy Institute says “race is a pigment of our imagination.” What MPI means is race is actually an invention created to divide humankind into different groups for the purpose of keeping one on top and another on the bottom. Racism, as defined by the Vanderbilt University, is a system in which one race maintains supremacy over another race through a set institutional powers, social structures, behaviors and attitudes. Vanderbilt further describes racism as a “system of structured dis-equality where the goods, services, rewards, privileges, and benefits of the society are available to individuals according to their presumed membership in particular racial groups (Privledge,2003)”. Although any person can have prejudices about people of other races, only members of the dominant social group can exhibit racism for the reason that racism is prejudice with the institutional power to enforce it. Race and racism has deep historical roots; namely American colonialism, where European colonists assigned human worth and social status to skin tone. Acknowledging that race is an ancient arbitrary invention does not mean that it can be easily disposed of in modern day (Rumbaut,2011). The roots of racism have grown too deep over the generations and generations it has been practiced.

Racism has been a part of the American landscape since the colonization of North America. Native Americans where the first to see the destruction of their culture, race and ethnicity at the hands of the majority. Europeans saw Indians as heathens and savages and saw their land as eminent domain. Using their institutional powers, they imposed religion and culture and forced assimilation; leading to mass murder and genocide. The repercussions of Anglo-Saxon influence on Native Americans is still evident today, as they have the highest suicide rate among any group, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (Siddiqui,2017).

Groups like Native American Rights Fund are still fighting for equality and freedoms for Native Americans. The Supreme Court has made rulings as recently as 2013 that limit Native Americans abilities to vote in US elections. In 2016, ironically around the time of Thanksgiving, officials doused Native American protestors with water in subfreezing temperatures. The “water protectors” were peacefully assembling to stand against the Dakota Oil Pipeline which would have prevented emergency services from reaching the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Despite warnings from the Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council, Dakota officials continued to use water risking the possibility of causing hypothermia in the Native Americans (Hawkins,2016).

Racism continued in the colonies with the Transatlantic Slave Trade, where by Americans imported between 1525 and 1866 African people to be sold as property to colonists (Gates,2014). Although slavery was abolished in 1865, and laws prohibiting discrimination against African-Americans passed, racism against their community remains and is manifest in more subtle ways today.

According NPR African Americans report extensive experiences of discrimination across a range of situations. In the context of institutional forms of discrimination, 56% percent of African Americans say they have experienced racism when applying for a job and 56% have experienced it when it comes to being paid equally or considered for a promotion (Discrimination,2017). Washington, DC, Fair Employment Practices Commission has found that blacks face discrimination in one out of every five job interviews. Todays employers use different types of hiring methods to discriminate against minorities – recruiting from primarily white schools instead of job training programs, for example.

50% of African Americans report having experienced discrimination when interacting with police. The divide between law enforcement and African Americas is a common headline on news stations. Violence against civilians by police officer’s effects three-quarters of blacks and less than 20 percent of whites. The discrimination doesn’t stop after the arrest, blacks are 13% more likely to be offered plea deals that include jail time, then whites (Kahn,2015). These statics imply that although laws are in place to prevent racism, racism is still president even with in those systems that make the laws prohibiting it.

After the event of Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans were subject to discrimination and surveillance, many lost their homes and jobs. The worst blow was throw on February 1942, when over half of the 120,000 Japanese-Americans in US were sent to concentration camps on an Executive Order signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

In a post 9/11 America, Islamophobia is the term coined to describe hostility towards Islam and Muslim people in the United States. Islamophobia can be found in the writings of right-wing authors, on television, in radio talks and on countless blogs and websites. Wrongfully placed fear of terrorism has subjected 700,000 Muslims to interviews from the FBI in the last decade. Airport profiling from the TSA is a common occurrence and misunderstandings of ethic signs leaves those with even remote physical similarities in the same subject pool. Azeem Khan, a blogger for the Huffington Post, writes “I have fewer rights when I walk into an airport because I’m brown. I always have to feel on edge because I know I’m being looked at suspiciously, and not being I’ve done anything wrong, but because I’m one of the two million Muslims living in this country in a post 9/11 era (Khan,2013).”

We have come far sense the days of colonial expansion, but we have not come far enough. Until institutionalized oppression is completely abolished the nation cannot reach its fullest potential.

Resources

Jr., H. L. (2014, January 06). How Many Slaves Landed in the US? Retrieved December 07, 2017, from https://www.theroot.com/how-many-slaves-landed-in-the-us-1790873989

"A brief history of racism in the United States." A brief history of racism in the United States | SoundVision.com. Accessed December 07, 2017. https://www.soundvision.com/article/a-brief-history-of-racism-in-the-united-states.

"Promoting Human Rights for Native Americans - NARF." Native American Rights Fund. Accessed December 07, 2017. https://www.narf.org/our-work/promotion-human-rights/.

PDF: https://www.vanderbilt.edu/.../Understanding-Privilege-and-Oppression-Handout.doc

Hawkins, D. (2016, November 21). Police defend use of water cannons on Dakota Access protesters in freezing weather. Retrieved December 07, 2017, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/11/21/police-citing-ongoing-riot-use-water-cannons-on-dakota-access-protesters-in-freezing-weather/?utm_term=.2bfd40cfde7f

Kahn, A., & Kirk, C. (2015, August 09). Eight Charts That Show How the Justice System Is Stacked Against Black Americans. Retrieved December 07, 2017, from http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/crime/2015/08/racial_disparities_in_the_criminal_justice_system_eight_charts_illustrating.html

Law Enforcement and Violence: The Divide between Black and White Americans. (n.d.). Retrieved December 07, 2017, from http://www.apnorc.org/projects/Pages/HTML%20Reports/law-enforcement-and-violence-the-divide-between-black-and-white-americans0803-9759.aspx

Pigments of Our Imagination: The Racialization of the Hispanic-Latino Category. (2017, March 02). Retrieved December 07, 2017, from https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/pigments-our-imagination-racialization-hispanic-latino-category

Khan, A. (2013, May 19). Airport Profiling: A Familiar Story for Muslims. Retrieved December 07, 2017, from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/azeem-khan/racial-profiling-muslim_b_3303582.html


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