Realities of Racism, Potential for Change by Kevin Agyakwa
Racism, a belief that one is less human than another, no longer exists politically, yet still affects people socially. As we look in detail in this particular topic, which damages our everyday societal interactions, we see that racism is not just a problem in various southern or western states, but in the colleges many of us attend today. Although many individuals believe racism is fully over, they might have something to learn. If people became more aware of current racism, maybe that could possibly spark a change that is highly needed. Some may not want to follow through with advocating for anti-racism practices, because they believe that it only involves blacks and whites, when it is actually more that that. Branching off from racism, we can see other kinds of unnecessary negative judgment; these can involve your sexual orientation, religion, race, as well as ethnicity. Negative judgment is an attitude of prejudice that can grow into a feeling of fear, mistrust, or hate, or even an action involving discrimination.
To provide some context on these elements of prejudice and its various identities, we first start off with sexual orientation. Many of you are probably saying, well, prejudice isn’t as harsh on someone who is bi-sexual, gay, lesbian, or trans-gender as compared to its other forms. Well, my friends, that’s where you guys are wrong. Little do you guys know that people who have various forms of sexual orientation are often looked down upon within the social atmosphere. In male-dominated professions such as sports, a lot of gay or lesbians are typically looked down upon and pushed into some sort of exiled state for something that is really not wicked. Simply due to the fact that it is not the norm within that particular community, people these people are shunned. “At its best, sports do not discriminate. If you are young or old, tall or short, male or female, gay or straight, all that really matters is how well you play and contribute to your team” (Ayanbadejo). Individuals like Brendon Ayanbadejo from the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens, believe that sports have the power to strongly influence how we view gays. From the standpoint of religion, whether you’re Christian or Muslim, some people will treat you differently or inhumanely over something that shouldn’t really matter. This form of prejudice was highly targeted towards many Muslim individuals simply because of 9/11. After that very tragic, event a lot of Muslim Americans were wrongly labeled as “terrorists” which is unfair because it doesn’t fully show what all Muslim Americans represent.
As we go further in detail into the topic of prejudice, we have to give a historical perspective behind the origins of racism and how it came about on a national stage. Three hundred years of racial tension, cruelty, and violence in the U.S. reached its peak in the early 1900s. Racism had reached levels that were unimaginable. A folk character named Jim Crow, originated around 1830 when a white, minstrel show performer, Thomas "Daddy" Rice blackened his face with charcoal paste or burnt cork and danced a ridiculous jig while singing the lyrics to the song, "Jump Jim Crow" ("Origin"); he became the face of what we now know as segregation. Black and whites were so separated politically that certain restrooms, restaurants, and schools to name a few were segregated. Whites received the better of those sections while blacks had to settle with the worse of the restrooms, restaurants as well as schools. With leaders and groups such as the NAACP and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. the fight for equality was on. It reached its peak during the ‘60s, a time in America of high controversy from the assassination of J.F.K and the Vietnam War. It became known as the Civil Rights Movement, a movement that would influence many other movements for creative change in their communities. During the famous Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, there were many kinds of discourse, various strategies and methods that were implemented within the movement as a whole to achieve equality, from “George Schuyler's conservatism, Malcolm X's black nationalism, Kenneth Clark's racial liberalism, and Bayard Rustin's socialism” (Burrell and Kristopher). In this particular article, the authors discussed many various ways black activists handled the Civil Rights movement. “With this approach, time, place, and the intellectuals' intended goals, articulated those ideologies for black and white Americans, and, in the process, evolved those ideologies so as to create new ideas and ways of seeing race relations, racism, civil rights, and the condition of black people in the United States” (Burrell). It gave blacks many various ways to approach racism and segregation on a professional level. Not only did it just focus on racism, but it was also the guideline for blacks to create and expand a better future for the race as a whole. Stemming from vision of notable civil rights leaders came about a famous advocacy group known as the Black Panther Party. The Black Panther Party or BPP was established in the mid-1960s during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. They were a very radical group, and “Internationally recognized for its powerful pageantry and militant rhetoric.” However, little did most individuals know that the BPP wasn’t just about Black Nationalism, and “Power to the People” they used their vision for good as well.
“Recently, however, scholars have started to counter this traditional interpretation of the Panthers by highlighting the group’s many community projects, or ‘‘survival programs’’ as they were often called, which sought to empower the Black ghetto populace clustered within America’s many urban centres. From 1966 to 1971 the BPP established a variety of social programs in the areas of human sustenance, health care, education, and criminal justice.1 These socialist-styled projects, offered free of charge to the Black community, were central to the party’s identity and ideological composition, yet their importance to the revolutionary struggle has frequently gone unnoticed.” (Kirkby)As the article states, they were seen as just a group of “glorified gang of criminals” and a lot of people don’t give credit to them for being bold and inspiring other social groups/movements in America such as the gay rights movement. It just places a reminder to us of how powerful we can be if we all just decided to unite and speak up for what’s right.
As we fast forward into today’s society, even after Obama was elected as the first black president, many people believe that racism is over or close to it. These are the same individuals who contribute to the delay of anti-racism activism. For those who don’t know, “Racism can take many forms, including individual racism, institutional or structural racism, and cultural racism” (Pedersen, Clarke, Dudgeon, & Griffiths, 2005). However, it is like we are blind to it or, we don’t have the courage to speak on it. Why, when “Everyday racism, or ‘racial micro aggressions’ are mundane or common everyday acts, including speech, through which people express racism” (Mitchell)? As an African-American male there are times when I would go to some stores and a staff member would be following me with the expectation that I was going to steal something. Some of you guys probably didn’t even know that a conservative Christian female worker was fired from Burger King for wearing a skirt which was a part of her religion, or that they were “regulating” African-American Burger King owner in places of low profit in “poor urban neighborhoods” while setting aside for white owners a more “profitable” location while paying more than white owners to lease out the store (“Federal Suit”).
Lastly, racism still continues to exist on our college campuses. Why is that? Well part of the reason is that a lot of individuals black, whites, Asians, Hispanics, etc. are reluctant to either branch out to other groups or are not willing to partake in various activities held by student organizations. One of the major reasons for this is lack of diversity. “If one of the key purposes of higher education is to prepare students for engagement in a diverse democracy," one author says, "educators and policy makers must understand the conditions under which students' academic and civic learning can be facilitated or hindered. Low representation creates a detrimental effect on campus climate" (Sandoval 2012). Maybe if we decided to just involve ourselves into trying to become diverse as a whole human race and get involved in events such as the “Making the future” presentations, then we can spark our creative minds and start the journey of long- awaited change.
Why is it important to continue to do actions? Well today other than the famous NAACP, there are also other organizations. NCBI, People’s Institute, Anti-Defamation League, which are trying to racially improve conditions so should you. On April 11, Dr. John Youngblood an Associate Professor of English and Communication whose scholarly research has addressed religion and sexual identity in the African-American community, as well as the experience of college teachers of color and Dr. Jennifer Mitchell an Associate Professor in English and Communication who has studied language diversity and participated in antiracism training workshops will be joined by students from Dr. Youngblood’s Interracial Communication course to discuss racism and anti-racism (Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Youngblood). Come to this event to learn about the power you have as individuals to change a problem that still continues to plague our society.
Ayanbadejo, Brendon. "End Homophobia in Professional Sports: Column." USA Today. Gannett, n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2013.
BURRELL, KRISTOPHER. "Where From Here? Ideological Perspectives On The Future Of The Civil Rights Movement, 1964-1966." Western Journal Of Black Studies 36.2 (2012): 137-148. Academic Search Complete. Web. 22 Mar. 2013.
"Federal Suit Accuses Burger King Of Discrimination Against Blacks." The New York Times. The New York Times, 18 Oct. 1988. Web. 22 Mar. 2013.
Kirkby, Ryan J. "'The Revolution Will Not Be Televised': Community Activism And The Black Panther Party, 1966-1971." Canadian Review Of American Studies 41.1 (2011): 25-62. Academic Search Complete. Web. 22 Mar. 2013
Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Youngblood. Abstract for “Making our Futures Together: Racism and Antiracism.” December 2012.
Mitchell, Margaret, Danielle Every, and Rob Ranzijn. "Everyday Antiracism In Interpersonal Contexts: Constraining And Facilitating Factors For 'Speaking Up' Against Racism." Journal Of Community & Applied Social Psychology 21.4 (2011): 329-341. Academic Search Complete. Web. 22 Mar. 2013.
"Origin of the Term Jim Crow." Origin of the Term Jim Crow. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2013.
Sandoval, Timothy. "Students." Discrimination Is Greater on Low-Diversity Campuses, Report Says. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2013.