Rampant racism in US is killing the society
America is fighting wars on two dissimilar fronts. As the COVID-19 pandemic is racking havoc, racism, America’s other pandemic, is tightening a chokehold on the country with police shootings of innocent people. Protests across the US continue to flare up after the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, in Minneapolis. Such incidents are occurring frequently to the racism that injects fear, mistrust, disparity, injustices, and divisiveness into society. Racism happens due to a collage of factors that systematically incite injustice.
Racism is alive and thriving
A recent survey shows that about 81% of Black Americans believe that racism is a major issue in the country. The racial divide has several contributory factors including income, wealth, poverty, unemployment, education, and healthcare that are disproportionately affecting the Black population. Inherent mistrust, suppression of basic human rights and freedoms, ever-present pent-up frustrations, and the lingering feel of the historical exploitations hover over them. Suffice to say that the marginalized Blacks are still subjected to racial and social inequalities.
A study by the Pew Research Center shows that there is a great disparity in wealth between White and Black Americans as White families hold 90% of the national wealth. A few more eye-opening statistics show the inequality between White and Blacks in the US prison population: Blacks make up 13% of the American population; however, their prison population is about 40%. According to another report, Black people were killed at 5 times the rate of Whites in 2015. Also, statistics show Blacks drivers are more vulnerable to police scrutiny. After analyzing millions of alleged racial profiling traffic stops by police a study by Stanford School of Engineering found that more often Blacks were pulled over than Whites for traffic violations. Another study reports that job applicants with White-sounding names received more interviews.
Thus, racism in its many forms has been a contentious issue in the US as many inequalities threaten the fabric of society. Racism contributes to mistrust, frustrations, and apathy.
Blacks in America: A brief historical background
Race and ethnicity-based discrimination were prevalent, to a certain extent legal, in America in the early years of her history. The history is muddled with wars, riots, deaths, human sufferings, and discriminatory practices based on skin color. The troubled race relations can be traced back to the arrival of Christopher Columbus on to the shores of the Americas. Subsequently, the White European settlers killed many thousands of Native American people, and many more died from the foreign illnesses introduced by the invading settlers.
The transatlantic slave trade existed from the 16th to the 19th centuries. The Portuguese were the first to engage in the slave trade, shipping Africans to many countries in the Americas. The slaves toiled in the many tobacco, sugarcane, and cotton plantations. Many of them worked in mines, timber yards, and they built bridges and railroads.
During the 19th century slavery flourished as America went through a bloody Civil War during which American states were fighting among themselves over slavery, and states’ rights. It ended in 1865 with the election of Abraham Lincoln, the surrender of Confederate states, and the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the enslaved people in the Confederacy. A period known as the Reconstruction era followed. Despite, the lives of Black slaves continued with extreme difficulties under “Black Codes”, and “Pigs Laws”. Pigs Laws harshly penalized the Blacks even for misdemeanor offenses. Whites used lynching, torture, and inexplicable brutality on Black slaves during the height of slavery and racial segregation. The abhorrent ‘Jim Crow laws’ that enforced racial segregation in the Southern United States stayed on the books between 1877 and the mid-1960s.
Frederick Douglass is seen as the father of the American civil rights movement. The struggle continued through the 1950s and 60s with a few major milestone events that accelerated the civil rights movement. The Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955 to the 1967 Detroit Riots and a whole host of other major events kept the civil rights movement at the forefront. Many of the incidents were bloody and destructive, and many lives were sacrificed over the years including Dr. Martin Luther King’s on April 4, 1968. Despite the Civil Rights Act of 1964, discrimination and mistreatment of Blacks, and other minorities continued.
Systemic racism in the American Society
Black people in America have been experiencing racism and associated condemnations for the past 400 years. Racism is inherent in all of us, and every one of us exhibits and or experiences it in some form or other as we interact with others. Individual racism is a result of prejudiced or bigoted views or profiles formed internally consciously or otherwise. Systemic racism is institutional racism that is entrenched in policies, and practices. This type of racism is prevalent in all levels of society. It promotes racial profiling, a profile of race or individual based on certain perceived, and bigoted mindset, that is against common norms and equality. Thus, racism promotes hatred and discriminates against others.
Author and journalist Annie Murphy Paul stated the obvious facts about biases, “Psychologists once believed that only bigoted people used stereotypes. Now the study of unconscious bias is revealing the unsettling truth: We all use stereotypes, all the time, without knowing it. We have met the enemy of equality, and the enemy is us”.
Police kill Black Americans disproportionately
Statistics show that the police kill Black Americans at alarming two-and-a-half times higher rate than Whites. There is no justification for this phenomenon other than inherent bigoted views with racial overtures. It is definitely against all established norms when unconscious biases manifest and builds a profile based on racial stereotypes. The use of racial profiling is against the established norms for race relations, however; it is difficult to legislate human behavior. Stereotyping is a dangerous practice, as it is not based on facts or rational attributes. It is formed by various perceived and ill-judged attributes about a particular race.
In the US it is difficult to charge police and get a conviction even for very overt police violence. The police enjoy a provision in the law known as ‘qualified immunity’. It gives them a higher level of freedom in their operations. The doctrine protects government officials including police from lawsuits. This allows them to avoid accountability for their conduct to a certain degree.
According to the Washington Post's police tracking database, since 2015, 1,252 Black people have been shot and killed by police. Many of these shootings were unwarranted and unprovoked. People like Eric Garner, Ezell Ford, Tamir Rice, Bettie Jones, Atatiana Jefferson, Breonna Taylor, Dominique Clayton, Sandra Bland, and countless others were minding their business while they were shot and killed by police.
Peaceful protest and occasional violent clashes are happening across the US and the organizers are hoping that it will continue until a substantial change in policing policies. Civil disobedience in the form of protests is the way people express their First Amendment Right entrenched in the US Constitution.
America is still struggling with racism
Much water has flown under the bridge since the start of the slave trade, the Civil War, the civil rights movement, and the quest for equality. Centuries of maltreatment of Black Americans, suppression of their rights, and the pain and agony of living as a ‘second class citizen’ continue to linger on, and we see many examples of injustices even on this day. Despite many efforts to accept diversity and improve inclusion, and despite Affirmative Action programs, American Blacks have less access to education, healthcare, housing, and jobs.
The age-old virus, racism, is relentlessly haunting America. Centuries of injustices inflicted on the Native and Black Americans still, in some form or other, troubling the society at large and thus the endless fights for equality, justice, and inclusion continues.