Defining Racism

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     According to Webster’s Dictionary, Racism can be defined in three ways that all relate to one another. Today, we will specifically be discussing this aspect of the definitions, “a belief that ‘race’ is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and these racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” Many believe that America has moved past discriminatory practices that allow certain races to benefit socially, economically, and politically based on their white skin tone. Unfortunately, we have not moved past systemic racism and discrimination and these practices have even extended into a social class. This means that even though white people may find themselves as the default in all social spheres when you break it down further in terms of class, those who are middle to lower class find themselves experiencing similar discrimination as their minority peers who occupy any class. Ultimately, these same white people might not think there is still racism because they do not have the power to enforce discrimination and they do not immediately benefit from it either.

How Can White People Experience Effects of Racism?

    Any race can experience the negative effects of racial discrimination. To further explain this point, we turn to discriminatory housing practices. It is essentially a legal form of racial discrimination because, in part, it is not based on race explicitly but class. These can be redlining neighborhoods that targeted mostly poor minorities, but lower-income white people can get swept in with these policies. These policies were first started with the explicit intention to target minorities during the Great Depression. Redlining was used in the housing industry by companies issuing mortgages. The purpose was to keep minority populations from receiving home loans that would allow them access to better neighborhoods or to improve their current homes.

The Call Is Coming from Inside the House

   According to the Kerner Commission, which was created during the mid-1960s, it was found that white racism was the key to the civil unrest growing between white people and minority people. This Presidentially appointed panel wrote “White Society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.” The Kerner Commission was kind enough to offer suggestions to these conditions to truly bring equality to all communities instead of creating two wholly different realities. Unfortunately, a study done in 2018 by Milton Eisenhower Foundation found that conditions since the Kerner Report have worsened. They report that for a decade after, there was a steady improvement, then it slowed, until it eventually stopped, and ultimately started reversing. It is not an obvious process that one would see immediately, but rather a build-up of a lack of resources that affect younger generations.

Does This Upset You?

   These conversations are difficult to have because it forces us to look at our own biases and how we have been complicit in the systems that harm minorities and poor people of all races. Ultimately, your intention matters but not more than the impact it has on others. Things like microaggressions or treating the minorities in your life as the exception to what you believe is very harmful to not only their community but them as well.

Further Reading