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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Abeng Op Ed: Systematic Racism In America (Part 1)

Systematic Racism In America
written by Le'Bert A. Gordon; edited by @TheAbeng

Introduction
The term Systematic Racism, developed by Sociologist Joe Feagin, is both a theoretical and reality-based concept which has become a po­pular way of explaining the significance of race, both historically and socially, within today's social sciences and humanities. The de­velopment of this theory was influenced by other scholars of race, such as, Frederick Douglas, W.E.B. DuBois, Oliver Cox, Anna Julia Cooper, Kwame Ture, Frantz Fanon, and Patricia Hill Collins, among others. Systematic Racism is rooted in a foundation composed of in­tersecting, overlapping, and co-dependent racist institutions, po­licies, practices, ideas, and behaviors. 

Feagin used historical evidence and demographic statistics to create a theory which asserted that the United States was founded in racism. His theory noted that the Constitution classified black people as the property of whites, and that this legal recognition of slavery is a cornerstone of a racist social system - a system in which resources and rights are given to white people and unjustly denied to people of color. However, while Feagin developed his theory based on the history and reality of anti-black racism in the United States, it is now use­fully being applied to understanding how racism functions generally, both within the United States and around the world.














There are at least three aspects to Systematic Racism: Personal Prejudice, Ideological Racism (where culture and biology are used to rationalize and justify the superior position of a dominant culture), and Institutional Racism (where the policies and practices of institutions operate to produce systematic and continuing differences between the races of people).

Personal Prejudice
Personal Prejudice is the prejudging of a person or situation based upon less than all the facts. Basically, if your skin color is black, brown, red, or yellow, you've probably experienced the loss of respect and certain opportunities, at some point in your life, because of prejudice and bigotry. Personal prejudice is also a survival mechanism which human beings develop to keep themselves safe. For Example, if you see a person dressed like a thug walking down the street approaching you, you are naturally going to become alert, and put up your guards against that individual. Furthermore, if you are walking down the street and you encounter a pit-bull, you're automatically going to assume that it's going to attack you. This is called your Personal Prejudice. These prejudices sometimes form within us from an early age. As a child, our true nature is fundamentally good and beautiful. As we grow, we continue to be our true essence, and as such, we are worthy of love, respect, and acceptance. However, while our Personal Prejudices can sometimes inherently and negatively influence the way we think, live, and relate to others, they can also be valid as well, and therefore, be justifiable prejudices depending on the situation or circumstances.
But we should never rely on personal prejudices as our first option or go to response automatically without thoughtful foresight.

Ideological Racism
Ideological Racism is the belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. Therefore, it is a belief which has been taught or developed as cultural ideology that one race is superior to another. It is generally agreed that discrimination based on racial or ethnic origin is morally wrong and is a violation of the principle of equality. The equality principle requires that those who are equal be treated equally based on simi­larities, and that race should not be given a relevant considera­tion in that assessment (May and Sharratt 1994:317). In other words, it is only justifiable to treat people differently if there exists some factual difference between them that justifies such difference in treatment (Rachels 1994:94). However, not to be misunderstood, equality, in a political context, means equal access to public office and treatment under the law, and equal treatment extends to equality in terms of job hiring, promotion, and pay. But race refers to groups of persons who are relatively alike in their biological inheritance and are distinct from other groups (American Anthropological Asso­ciation 1997:2). 

Ethnicity, on the other hand, is a cultural pheno­menon referring to a person's identification with a particular cul­tural group (Hinman 1998:473). In a nutshell, race is socially con­structed and the notion that persons belong to a particular race was developed in the last century based on the belief that there was a biological basis for categorizing groups of people. Biologically, however, the term race has no meaning, yet society continues to give the notion meaning by using it as a social category. The notion of race gradually took hold in the United States society when the in­stitution of slavery reinforced the idea that one race could be in­ferior to another (Banks and Eberhardt 1998:58). Focusing on race can be counterproductive, especially when talking about one race receiving special privileges or preferences over another. This serves only to perpetuate the stigma of race. And although it's unfortunate, but true, that our society is not color blind, its effects clouds our thinking and actions, which if left unchecked, can become bigotry and racism.


In the United States, the law has had the effect of distributing benefits and burdens based on race, and the assignment of a person to a racial category has often, in the past, determined his or her rights and obliga­tion; e.g., the "Jim Crow" laws passed at the end of the Civil War. As such, there are "social practices" which (explicitly or implicitly) attribute merits or allocate values to members of racially-categorized groups solely because of their race (Zata and Mann 1998: 3); therefore, a color blind, raceless society is an impossible dream. As you can see, prejudice and racism are not one and the same, and only with frank discussion on the topic when appropriate and relevant will we possibly reduce its effect.


Institutional Racism
Institutional Racism can be defined as the collective failure of an organization to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their color, culture, or ethnic origin. Macpher­son voiced this opinion in his 1999 report concerning the death of Stephen Lawrence. Today, this kind of Institutional Racism has con­tinued to take place in the form of the senseless killing of minori­ties by police officers without there being any criminal consequen­tial results. They're literally getting away with murder. And des­pite the fact that communities and individuals have risen up to shine the spotlight upon this injustice, (e.g., Black Lives Matter) day after day, we hear about another Trayvon Martin, An­twon Rose, Autumn Steele, and Stephon Clark, etc. Unfortunately, this kind of racism has become an intrinsic part of our society today and is occurring more frequently with the targeting and discrimination against a certain group based upon their race.





Read More on Systematic Racism in America (Part 2)
Resources:

Mann, Coramae Richey; Zatz, Marjorie Sue. Images of Color, Images of Crime: Readings. Roxbury Publishing Company, 1998

*The Institute of Race Relations
*CNN Documentary (The System is Broken):2015
*Sociologist Joe Feagin (Systematic Racism)
*May and Sharratt 1994:317
*Rachels 1994:94
*American Anthropological Association 1997:2
*Hinman 1998;473
*Banks and Eberhardt 1998:58
*Zata and Mann 1998:3
*Macpherson 1999 Report
*Movie:  "The Big Short"

*Department of Justice Bureau of Statistics

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Abeng Op Ed: Systematic Racism In America (Part 1)

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