Racism isn't dead — it is hiding in the open.
|Barack Obama's presidency has exposed just how racist white America really is.|
In 2008, a black man was finally elected president of the most powerful country in the world. At the time, many people (myself included) naively asserted that this will finally put a nail in the coffin of all the negative stereotypes that have been held about black people for good. Boy, were we wrong. It's not for fault in Obama. No. Rather, his presence has exposed the raw, visceral, racist underbelly of white America that had been lurking in silence for so long. In this post, I will potently demonstrate the unpleasant reality that racism is by no means dead.
Racism in Politics
|If you are white and you think racism is dead, then please note that this is a real bumper sticker.|
Since his election, he has been playing the role of every black man since the history of slavery: Cleaning up after his white superior's mess. He inherited a massive deficit, a ruined economy and two wars. Despite his efforts to do what any reasonable President of the United States would be expected to do, (fix the economy, end the wars, close the deficit), he has been trolled by Republicans with a vicious tenacity, the likes of which have never been seen before.
While trolling democratic presidents is typical of Republicans (they laid into Bill Clinton with the fist of an angry god), something was different this time around. All of a sudden, a Tea Party movement sprung up out of nowhere claiming that they "want their country back". Even though they cite economic reasons, most of those in the movement are mostly older, extreme right, ultra-conservative, educated, wealthy white men. Somehow, that doesn't surprise me at all.
All of a sudden, more and more politicians were letting slip how they really feel about the president. While Jesse Jackson wanted to cut off Obama's balls, he never e-mailed photos of Obama and family portrayed as apes (typical of racist white Americans during the 1920's). He never questioned his American citizenship. He never questioned his college education. He never thought he was Muslim. He never thought he was a socialist. He never questioned the legitimacy of the oath he took on his inauguration. Then again, Jesse Jackson is a black man.
Even after Obama did what President Bush could not, killing the world's most wanted terrorist, passing health care reform, saving the economy from certain implosion, and a tonne of other stuff I couldn't bother to write out myself, Obama was called a liar in the middle of his address to congress, and even called out on hosting rapper Common because he wrote a track that sympathizes with a convicted cop killer. However, Bob Dylan, Bono and Bruce Springsteen have all made similar records and were invited to the white House without so much as a peep.
Need I mention that Common is black, while Bono, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen are all white? This kind of disparity cannot be ignored. Before any white folks reading this counter argue this as not an example of racial prejudice, I dare you to provide me with an example of another president where the same combination of double standards have been exercised. But don't bother though. You won't be able to find one, since no previous US president was black.
I've been watching the progress of Obama over the last 3 years, and the biggest mistake in my opinion that he's made so far, is witlessly capitulating to his pernicious, dare I even say self destructively malicious Republican counterparts who would rather sacrifice their own country's economy just to ensure that Obama only has one term in office. That's almost like suicide bombing America just to ensure a black man doesn't win a second presidential term.
...and yet they hate Muslims. Fascinating.
|Just as how they laid into the Palin family, this family will come under brutal attack during this election year. It will probably take a decidedly ugly turn for the worse when racism inevitably comes involved.|
I have never seen anything so dastardly in what is supposed to be civilized politics. Then again, I suppose that's something of an oxymoron, since politics by its very definition is largely uncivilized. Now in case you are thinking that I'm flying off the handle, the most vicious political attacks I can remember is the drudging up of Sarah Palin's family life as well as that of Dick Cheney. I think family should be off limits in politics — not that anyone cares during elections.
While attacks on a president are nothing new, racist attacks at this level certainly are. I'm not even referring to plots to assassinate the president. Many previous presidents have had assassination plots against them. But to have a black president becoming a target of so many back water, racist, red-nick hicks is a little different, especially when slavery only ended some 140 years ago and the civil rights movement is still fresh in memories of all African Americans.
But perhaps I'm looking at this the wrong way. Maybe the issue isn't that the attacks appear to be racist. Maybe the issue is simply that the president is a black man and, ultimately, if they're going to attack him about his politics, it is inescapable that some of these attacks will be racist. If there was a black Republican president in the White House (yeah right), perhaps we will see the hidden racism from the democratic side of the fence as well—but I doubt that.
With that said, the Republican candidacy doesn't look very promising and so, short of an epic Republican miracle, a second term for Obama doesn't seem improbable. I was previously one of those people who said that what we're seeing is not really racism but palpable Republican bitterness and a fickle American electorate, not unlike it was during the Clinton administration. However, there is explicit evidence that would suggest otherwise. It is not hidden anymore:
But after all of the recent furore made about the legitimacy, authenticity, candidacy and citizenship of a single president, it is hard to pass off white America's true sentiments as not having a distinctively racial tinge. As it turns out, the Tea Party is no grass roots movement founded on basic American principles. Considering all the evidence against them examined a thousand different ways, I am now certain that all they're missing is the white pointy hoods. However, we need not worry about them, as thanks to Romney, the Tea Party is mostly dead.
Racial prejudice in Pop Culture
|How many of you skipped over this title to see Underworld: Awakening? If so, really? Would its all black cast have anything to do with that? That's okay. I don't expect you to answer honestly.|
Even though the fear of Negro integration has been dispelled by intelligent white men who fought on behalf of black people to have them treated as equals, it still produces a potent amount of prejudice at the very least. There is no more conspicuous example of this than the film entertainment industry. Can you think of one movie with an all black cast that wasn't about how slavery or the civil rights era occurred that was actually a national box office block buster?
It was the fear of our ugly DNA why when white men first discovered the science of making films they portrayed every black person as a villain in movies, first as rapists and kidnappers of their white women, and then as conniving or thieving servants. Even when those roles were deprecated in the 1920's, black people couldn't play the role of a hero unless he was one who had (predictably) sacrificed himself to save the white characters, or was simply the first to die.
To this day, the token black character in many films (especially in action films) is usually the first one to be killed off. You can see this in films as recently as Stealth (2005), Star Wars Episode III (2005) and The Dark Knight, (2008). Heck even the "black" Autobot dies first in Transformers (2007). 140 years after slavery, Hollywood still doesn't favour black characters.
Black actors rarely get any lead roles in films unless they are mentoring a white character, (Legend of Bagger Vance, Training Day, The Matrix) or is a side kick to a white character (Wild Wild West, Independence Day, Die Hard 3). Spike Lee rightfully calls this the "magical Negro" phenomenon, because apparently Hollywood cannot think of many other ways to positively portray a black character without making him a minor role character like a sage or a spook.
Apparently, only white actors can play heroes. There's no such thing as a black knight coming to save a damsel in distress, since black automatically translates to most audiences as the bad guy, the evil villain, the anti-hero at best. That's why when the Batman universe was revised in the 1990's, he was given the pseudonym "The Dark Knight". The word "Black" has automatic connotations that would be inconsistent with Bruce Wayne's Caucasian ethnicity.
This is not just on Hollywood, though. This is also on viewing audiences. Studio executives notice that big budget movies starring black people (or any non white actor for that matter) tend not to gross as well as those with white actors playing the lead roles. That's probably why they refused to finance George Lucas' movie about the Tuskegee airmen, claiming that they "didn't know how to market it". That's fascinating, since movies like "Vampires Suck" and all of Adam Sandler's movies about the same character get made and released all of the time.
But that's not the only issue. Black actresses seem to have a much harder time getting any decent roles (although women tend to have a harder time landing decent roles than men, generally). Generally though, black actors will have to settle for being token characters in any big budget blockbuster. Everything from Independence Day (1996) to Avengers (2012) tends to features only one main black character. If there are any others, they are quickly killed off.
But before you accuse Hollywood producers of being racist, consider that this a demographics issue. Tyler Perry's movies will never breach the 100 million dollar domestic gross mark simply because they appeal primarily to black people (who are a minority in the United States). Such films are not hard to market because the actors are all black. They're hard to market because the majority of the people in America who go to the movies are white and audiences are not particularly interested in seeing movies that feature characters to whom they cannot relate.
This goes doubly true for race.
But that's not where the story ends. Compare any of the idiotic nonsense that Adam Sandler has ever made with any decent, well respected movie with an all black cast on IMDB, and compare their gross earnings. You will see that Adam Sandler's schlock repeatedly aces past the 100 million dollar mark, while most black movies never even make 50 million. So now you understand what Spike Lee has been saying all along. Therefore the racists aren't necessarily in Hollywood. They're the ones boycotting films starring black people. They are you and me.
Racism in Crime and Punishment
|According to 2005 Department of Justice Statistics, blacks make up the majority of US prisoners.|
It is a well documented fact that in the great white north of America, being black is almost the equivalent of a crime. Just walking down the street while being black or Latino will regularly attract the vicious, unrelenting attention of the police, who harass and incite opportunities for someone who isn't white to be arrested. It makes one wonder how much does racial profiling contribute to the fact that the vast majority of inmates in state and federal prisons are black.
In fact, what appears to be happening is that the vast number of non white incarcerations is a function of a vicious cycle. Due to the pervasive lack of socio-economic opportunities available to blacks, there is evidence to suggest that there is now a significantly higher rate of criminal activity among blacks (pages 34 & 36). What this means is that there will likely be many more legitimate arrests among blacks for drug trafficking and various other types of criminal activity.
If there is any credibility to these statistics (and there is very little reason to suggest there isn't) then it means that law enforcement officers will statistically have a better chance of making a valid arrest by simply preying on blacks (and to a lesser extent, Latinos). Technically, racial profiling for black offenders is partly the fault of black folks themselves, even though socio-economic factors are at greater fault. However, this creates a tough situation for blacks.
What I mean by this is that the constant racial profiling due to pre-existing criminal statistical probability creates frustration among the black community. This frustration feeds into higher incidences of resisting arrest, or outright altercations with law enforcement, which ultimately leads to higher degrees of arrest among blacks. Perhaps the most notorious case of this phenomenon was the recent arrest of Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. for attempting to break into his own home. The pre-eminent African American scholar had simply misplaced his keys.
...but a white neighbour assumed he was a burglar.
There are numerous scientific studies that show that all humans (irrespective of race) are equally more likely to associate criminality (among other negative assumptions) with the colour black, and instinctively by extension with black people. So if you are black and accused of a serious crime and your jury is white, you are in serious trouble. If you are white and you do not think that you would have made such an egregious mistake, I invite you to watch this:
Apropos, statistics do not illuminate another silent contributor to the higher incidence of black incarcerations. Racial profiling is a function of racial prejudice. Therefore even though there is a higher rate of crime among whites for certain types of offences (namely rape, assault, hate crimes and grand theft auto), blacks are statistically more likely to be arrested in the same circumstances, for the the same crime, and consequently more likely to get the death penalty.
That is why even though black law enforcement officers are painfully aware that members of their race are statistically more likely to commit offence, they are far more thorough about investigating allegations of offence than their white counterparts. This is despite the fact that their white colleagues are much more likely to be acquitted for accidentally killing an unarmed black man. This is why they will make such a concerted effort to not make the same mistake.
...because they won't get away with it.
The Case of Trayvon Martin
But the case that really pisses me off (and I take this one personally, especially since the black victim was practically begging for his life) is that of Treyvon Martin. Here is a young black man who on visiting his family in Florida, went down the street one night to buy candy. On his way back home, he was followed by the local neighbourhood watch captain, a white man named George Zimmerman in his car. Zimmerman phoned 911 (because apparently it's a crime to walk the streets at night while black) and reported his suspicions of Treyvon to the dispatcher.
But that's not the most upsetting thing. Zimmerman was advised by the 911 dispatcher that he should discontinue his pursuit of the young man, especially since nothing that he reported was suspicious enough to warrant the summoning of law enforcement. Zimmerman, previously arrested for aggressive behaviour, disregarded this advice and confronted the young man anyway. What follows is that Zimmerman ends up shooting Treyvon to death, amid protest.
Despite what obviously appears to be a clear case of racially profiled murder, Zimmerman is released from police custody after he claims that the shooting was in self defence. If a black man found himself in a similar situation, (the wrongful shooting death of a white child) and then claimed self defence, it is very likely that he would have already been on trial for murder.
The case is risible enough to cause the family to rally support from the community (with both black and white folks involved) to try and get the police department to reinvestigate the case and have Zimmerman arrested. It's the most heinous case of what is clearly racial injustice that still occurs in America. All of this is proof, that racism isn't dead — it is hiding in the open. If you wish to voice your support to have Zimmerman arrested, sign the family's petition here.
Racism in sport
|Luis Suarez (black top) refuses to shake the hand of Patrice Evra (red top, left) after an 8 match ban for abusing Evra using a racial slur. Suarez later apologized for the snub, although it isn't exactly repentance.|
Perhaps one of the ugliest displays of racism in the modern world (and can we even call it modern after that acknowledgement?) is in the annals of sport. Sport has the effect of unifying countries from all over the world. No sport has had as massive appeal of this nature as the sport of soccer. Yet, every time there is a major tournament, racism still rears its ugly head.
The world football governing body FIFA, has had to investigate several cases of racism and has had to even ban offending players, levelling hefty fines in the process. The most recent of such cases is perhaps that of Liverpool striker Luis Suarez who verbally abused Manchester United defender Patrice Evra. Now Suarez is Caucasian of Hispanic ethnicity hailing from Uruguay. Evra is a Black African hailing from Senegal. Yes, football bridges cultures like that.
This is why racism is such an ugly blight on this beautiful game. Not even altercations between teams rise to the same level of risible indignation as that of racism. There are very few things more euphoric than the camaraderie that sports engenders in a community (even the global community). The reason for this euphoria is that sports bridges gaps between politics, culture, religion and even race. It's one of the few times humanity shows a genuine capacity for unity.
Sports is effectively tribal warfare without the actual warfare. Therefore, the cohesiveness of the team as a tribe is more important that the individual that make up the teams that are from various other tribes themselves. In international football, (or even European club football), a team can easily comprise of players from five different countries, 8 different ethnicities and represent every race of man that nature has to offer. There's no reason why this team should be able to work together — and yet it does. That's part of the beauty inherent in the game.
This is why racism is so deadly to the appeal of the game.
Racism reduces the camaraderie of football from the higher level of playing for a team to a lower level where players become more loyal to the individuality of their tribal background. It abruptly jars the euphoric release of team identity from one of cultural indifference to that of biological peculiarity. Whenever our baser tribal instincts ruin the euphoria of team sport, it not only reignites schisms that once divided humanity, but it also impedes our ability to evolve.
Football is not the only sport that has been badly affected by racism and it's certainly not only evident between Caucasians and Blacks. You will find racism in everything from international cricket where the offenders are Indians (can you believe it? Indians!) to even Australia Rugby where the victims are of Aborigine ethnicity. There is even racial insensitivity in the National Basketball Association towards Asians, but I will discuss this peculiarity in the fourth and final post in the series as it has less to do with malicious racism, and more about something else:
There is a long standing notion in white America and perhaps even in parts of Europe that racism is not quite as potent an issue today as it was several years ago. Certainly the civil rights act has rectified many of the more overt examples of segregation and legalized racism. Certainly blacks and other minorities are doing better today than they were fifty years earlier. The US now even has a black president. This means a Latino or Asian president is possible.
However, this progress is illusory. Even though racism, racial prejudice and segregation have been outlawed, it is still widely practised, just without the same degree of conspicuousness. We know this because of the resident bitterness of blacks resident in white majority countries that doesn't exist in countries with a black majority that have also suffered racial oppression.
This is how institutionalized racism is manifested. Instead of being explicitly racist, offenders simply find non obvious ways of manifesting the same kind of prejudices without actually crossing the line. It's essentially a great way for racists to be racist without triggering any of the obvious raw spots that would make it clear that they are being racist, which makes it notoriously hard to accurately detect. The effect of this behaviour on minorities is deleterious:
A black man who outperforms his white colleagues may be overpassed for a promotion. A black actor will only have access to roles that are critically insignificant. A black entrepreneur will not have access to the same kinds of start up investment loans as his white colleagues. Black kids find themselves facing a "glass ceiling" when it comes to educational performance, while black men find themselves more often than not on the business end of a police search.
Black women will be talked about by their white boyfriend's parents as if she isn't there — this goes doubly true if they are Latino or Asian, then they just speak in another language. Black men will have their white girlfriends' white male friends get up and leave the table whenever they come around or exclude him from conversations or employ opportunistic hazing that they declare as just unusually rough horse play. Terms like "Saggin" are used (Niggas, backwards) to cleverly describe some black people's attire when they don't want to use the actual n-word.
If they are mugged and didn't get a look at the face of their mugger, white folks will simply tell the police officer that they should look for a black guy when they're not sure of their race. This consequently increases the likelihood that a random, innocent black guy who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, will then be picked up and hauled off to prison.
The constant hidden oppression that is manifested under institutionalized racism isn't enough to get an offender arrested, but is enough to drive the victim mad with the "they're going to get us" paranoia, sew divisions among minorities (especially among blacks who have now become preoccupied with just how black they really are), vaporize their self esteem, and inflict such a severe case of inferiority complex that it hasn't left black people since the abolition of slavery.
Certainly white Americans have grown tired of hearing the groaning of minorities about this perceived racism. This is because it seems like little more than black people using their skin colour as a disability claim. It is true that this does happen where many black folks in particular have used the "race card" wantonly and indiscriminately whenever they aren't favoured when in competition with someone else who is white. All this does is dilute the word's effectiveness.
What black people don't realize is that this is the perfect hiding place for actual racists. Every time someone uses the race card to begin the fight against perceived institutionalized racism when it turns out to be a false positive, it gives actual racists the opportunity to push their racial prejudices just a little bit further. Being wrong about racism only hurts one's credibility. That's how bigots use minorities' constant "cry wolf" mentality to mask an actual act of racism.
It's quite brilliant if you think about it.
With the exception of skinheads, most white people are going to deny being racist — even if they really are (and let's face it, racial tolerance is a learned trait, unlike racism, which is more instinctive). But every time a black person falsely or overzealously accuses a white person of being racist, he increases the probability that racist white persons will exploit the victim's lack of credibility to be explicitly racist, knowing that any further accusation will be disregarded.
That's how black people (and every other minority for that matter) enable racist, white bigots to get away with murder. What minorities often fail to realize is that the only way to beat implicit racists at their own game is simply to not play into it. Nobody likes a victim. Every complaint about racism in a world that no longer officially plays that game has to be carefully vetted. If you're wrong (and it happens more often than not), then you become the idiot for it.
The most powerful people in the world are white and it has been that way for thousands of years. Therefore it is not inexplicable that white racism is more recognizable. Apropos, if you are a racial minority living in their territory, you can't declare war before you know how to validate your win. That's why Sun Tzu wrote in the "Art of War" that you should "keep your friends close, and your enemies closer". For Unlike baser animals, humans have cognition. With it, our natural enemies can be rendered less dangerous if they now have no reason to fight.
Think about it.
End of Part III
Institutionalized Racism is real. However, because it is institutionalized, it becomes particularly difficult to fight because it is not explicit and is therefore much harder to validate. This is why it is important to know how to differentiate between what is racism and what is not. I cover the essential semantics of successfully detecting racism in the fourth and final part of this series.
■ E-mail: accordingtoxen[at]gmail[dot]com