The Historical Circle Of Racism In Three Recent Events

The Historical Circle of Racism in 3 Recent Events

The national news had a series of three cases in late June that struck me as eerily but beneficially timed. All of these cases had elements of racism in them. The three cases were the Paula Deen scandal, the George Zimmerman murder trial, and the United States Supreme Court's Voting Rights Act decision. I have been asking "ad nauseum" for serious national and local discussions on racism and related issues. It struck me that these three almost simultaneous events could be the vehicle for these discussions.

But what theme could thread these events together besides their racist elements? Then it hit me. The three cases encapsulate the recent history of racism in America. They encapsulate more specifically the past, present, and future of racism in the United States.

The Paula Deen flap depicts how White citizens of the old South and other areas looked down on African Americans and how they acted towards them. It also reflects the nostalgia for that bygone era.

The Zimmerman trial highlighted many of the racial profiling attitudes of White Americans as well as the dichotomy of the views that Black and White Americans have towards each other. These views and the resulting actions have proven to have a very adverse effect on African Americans and especially young Black males.

The Supreme Court's neutering of the Voting Rights Act created a strong fear that fifty years of civil rights advancements and improvements in race relations could be rolled back.

I will examine all three of these events showing how they are representative of the past, present or future of racism in the United States. Finally I will give an analysis of this critical subject and how it is synthesizing at the present time. I will also try to portray a better path for our country and how we can get there.

The Paula Deen scandal originated with a 2012 harassment lawsuit brought by a former General Manager of a restaurant that Paula co-owned with her brother. Lisa Jackson is the plaintiff and is ironically a white woman. She is suing Deen and her brother both for his sexual harassment of her but also for the harassment of the African American restaurant workers of the Deens' restaurant. An example of this harassment is the forcing of the Black workers to only use the back entrance to enter the restaurant. Racial epithets were also regularly used.

Paula Deen was required to answer questions in a deposition for this case in May of 2013. She admitted using the racial epithet "nigger' several times in her earlier life but not for several years. This revelation in and of itself did not surprise me. Her next revelation revealed her continuing deep identification with the "Jim Crow South" of her younger years.

Paula was asked by Ms. Jackson in 2007 what type of food she wanted prepared for her brother's upcoming wedding. She stated that she wanted a wedding along the lines that she saw at a restaurant with all Black waiters. It gave her the idea to have an old South antebellum style wedding with, "a bunch of little niggers wearing long sleeve white shirts, black shorts, and black bow ties, you know in the Shirley Temple days". Paula quickly stated that she nixed the idea because the media would be all over her about it.

This idea perfectly portrays the racism of the past and the nostalgia for it by many older people from that region. Her prior use of racial epithets early in life while bad are simply a reflection of those times. This much newer nostalgic mindset for that highly bigoted and poisonous era is the true evidence of her racism. Many others of her generation hold this same mindset.

The George Zimmerman trial for the murder of Trayvon Martin depicts a very accurate example of the fear that many African Americans feel today regarding the racism they face. George Zimmerman was indicted and acquitted recently of this murder on the grounds of self defense. The controversy over this case centers primarily around racial profiling and the "stand your ground" law.

Racial profiling is a policing tool used to identify and stop criminal offenders along the lines of race before they commit crimes. African Americans and other ethnic minorities are always at the top of lists targeted for this profiling. It is clearly a form of prejudice. This profiling also takes place often times in employment hiring and promotion. No one ever admits to this and most may not even realize it.

African Americans and especially young Black males have a much tougher time getting hired and retaining employment outside of menial lower paying jobs due to this profiling. Many argue that this is due to their lower educational achievements. I feel it is a result of a strong distrust of the abilities and dedication of African Americans. This leads directly to entrenched poverty, poor academic achievement, and higher crime rates. It becomes a perpetual vicious circle that feeds upon itself.

The Trayvon Martin shooting combined the "stand your ground" law with racial profiling which proved to be a lethal combination. Self defense has always been a valid and legal reaction if a person is attacked and their life is in imminent danger. These new stand your ground laws place the concept of self defense on steroids. Stand your ground was legislation championed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) to help boost sales for the gun industry who are their major benefactors. The first state to enact this law was Florida in 2005.

George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch leader, racially profiled Trayvon Martin the night he shot him. There had been a number of prior robberies allegedly made by an African American male perpetrator. This heightened Zimmerman's distrust of Trayvon. He got out of his vehicle and followed him ignoring prior directions to not do so. Trayvon confronted him and an altercation ensued. Zimmerman was carrying a gun and the stand your ground law gave him license to shoot and kill Trayvon even with his life not seriously being threatened.

This tragic event perfectly portrays the latent racism that exists today. It not only threatens the mortality of African American citizens but also their economic viability and their pursuit of happiness.

Now we turn to the future of racism embodied in the recent United States Supreme Court ruling on the Voting Rights Act. The Court effectively rendered the Voting Rights Act powerless by declaring Section 4 of the Act unconstitutional. This section sets forth the group of states and districts that were subject to the pre-clearance provisions of this Act. The choice of these states and districts was based on their discriminatory voting practices prior to 1965. This group is very similar now to what it was in 1965 though these states and districts have ways to opt out of this provision. The Court argued that the makeup of this group is outdated and must be changed.

The bottom line is that if the United States Congress does not act to create a new updated Section 4, the states will have the opportunity to change their voting laws without restrictions regardless if they are discriminatory or not. The United States Justice department will only be able to react to discriminatory voting changes instead of preemptively.

Several states have already taken these actions. United States Attorney General Eric Holder has brought a lawsuit against Texas for new voter ID laws that he feels are discriminatory. These laws are the same ones that federal judges ruled against in 2012 during the run-up to that national election.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 enfranchised millions of African American citizens to vote. This gave them the power to influence their government and it gave them considerably more leverage to prevent further discrimination against them.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 eliminated the segregation of schools, restaurants, and all public facilities. This Act in conjunction with the Voting Rights Act have been instrumental in both tearing down the discriminatory legacy of the Jim Crow South and ensuring that none of it would return in any significant form. This not only included the South but the entirety of the United States. States and districts can be opted in as well as opting out of Voting Rights Act restrictions ensuring that the entire country is precluded from discriminatory voting practices. Civil rights laws also cover the entire United States.

The gutting of the Voting Rights Act is sure to precipitate the continued passing of voter restriction laws especially in Republican controlled states. All of the voter ID laws that were passed and struck down in 2012 were designed to restrict Democratic leaning groups. Most of these fell under racial and ethnic grounds. College students were also targeted.

The future of racism in the United States lies largely in how we react to this greatly weakened Voting Rights Act. Lower levels of minority voting will lead to lower levels of their influence on governmental policies and legislation. This could easily lead to a subtle but steady ratcheting up of discriminatory laws that could re-introduce Jim Crow style conditions all over the U.S. It will also lead to an entrenched conservative government leadership that votes against their interests due to their power to gerrymander the districts.

In analyzing these three distinct episodes, we can see that they are linked in both their historical significance and what they reveal. The nearsighted and backwards looking U.S. Supreme Court Voting Rights Act ruling truly depicts a popular historical saying. Past is prologue. The nostalgic antebellum past that Paula Deen wistfully wanted to re-create in a wedding could eventually be realized in large part due to this Court ruling.

The unfettered "leaving them to their own devices" policy was the path that the North's war weary and supposedly progressive Republican party undertook towards the South after the Reconstruction period following the Civil War. The Jim Crow South quickly formed. It is unlikely to unfold as quickly or as thoroughly but discrimination creep will occur. Lack of electoral influence by certain groups leads to a lack of governmental and legislative influence for the same groups. This is political reality.

More laws and practices like "stand your ground" and "stop and frisk" will proliferate affecting African Americans and other minority groups disproportionately. This is vividly depicted in the George Zimmerman case. Minority voting will decrease while educational and employment opportunities will in turn decrease for these same groups. These conditions will be the result of the toothless Voting Rights Act and they will drive African Americans and other minorities into a new and deeper spiral of poverty.

Conservative forces, led by the Koch Brothers, fear the demographics of the growing minority population in the United States. Their growing influence poses a direct threat to their leadership in both the business world and in government. These current strategies are concentrated on lowering regulations and taxes upon themselves. The only way to achieve this without bankrupting the nation is to sharply cut social programs which benefit these minority groups as well as most Americans. The growing minority voting bloc directly threatens this hegemony.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 provided the impetus for much of the positive social change in this country. The threat of the electoral wrath upon our political leaders was and is the fuel that allows this change. The culture of Paula Deen's youth has changed dramatically but not irrevocably. Much still needs to be done to eliminate racism from the American psyche as well as our practical lives. This has been proven within the issues raised by the George Zimmerman shooting of Trayvon Martin.

A powerless Voting Rights Act will open the door for a slow return to our openly racist past. It is imperative for Congress to take up the cause of updating this critical legislation and put the teeth back into it. The national and local discussions that have been raised by these three episodes over racism have been helpful but must continue. A failure to do so will mean a disastrous stepping back for our country.

We all must urge our legislators to move quickly on renewing the Voting Rights Act. We can no longer be quiet on this issue while sweeping it under the rug. There will be a serious tear in our social fabric if nothing is done. The resulting effects will make the turbulent 1960's seem like nirvana. I urge all of my fellow citizens that care about advancing America forward on the subject of fighting racism and intolerance to keep up the pressure on our political leaders as well as our neighbors.

The convergence of these three national news stories highlights where we have come from and presages where we could be headed to. Continued national and local discussions regarding racism will help to cut the oxygen off from it and help it to shrink and hopefully die in time. Let us make sure we continue on the road towards a more tolerant and open United States.

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Comments 26 comments

Michele Travis profile image

Michele Travis 3 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

This is a very good hub. Isn't it sad, we seem to be going back in time, when it comes to all people having the same rights. No matter the color of their skin.

Why is this happening? I have no idea.

Voted up.

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HSchneider 3 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey Author

It is indeed sad that we may be falling back in time, Michelle. Chief Justice Roberts has wanted to eliminate the Voting Rights Act for 30 years going back to when he worked in the Justice Department. Hopefully our political leaders will not allow this to happen. Unfortunately they may because this aids Republicans and I fear this was planned all along. We need to stand up against this and have our voices heard and votes felt. We cannot retreat back into those racist and reactionary times. Thank you for your comments.

forbcrin profile image

forbcrin 3 years ago from Michigan

It is always amazing to me how those people find justification for living, with such mentalities...

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HSchneider 3 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey Author

Thank you for your comments, Forbcrin. Some of these mentalities are taught and some are just unfortunately learned. It is a shame. Beyond that I cannot find any justifications.

mackyi 3 years ago

Very powerful, and thought provoking hub. Thanks for sharing.

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HSchneider 3 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey Author

Thank you very much for your kind comments, Mackyi. I am glad you liked this Hub.

Verily Prime profile image

Verily Prime 3 years ago from New York

Excellent discussion of the racial issues - I have one gripe, which is that the racism many of us suffer, especially in trying to secure employment, in New York is done by many Liberals who voted for Obama... try getting a job even those of us Blacks who have walked the halls of academia, and have done well in school, and have no criminal records. I would get on the phone for a given position and speaking to the would be employer in a British accent, but as soon as I show up at the offices for the interview... the job suddenly disappears, sometimes even when there multiple positions to be had... and dollars to donuts that many of those doing the refusing voted for President Obama, or moreover, would say that they are avowed Liberals.

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HSchneider 3 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey Author

Thank you for your comments and compliment, Verily Prime. I have no doubt that some or several of the people in power you are talking about are Liberals who should act better and this situation is shameful. I would argue that this cuts across party lines and Conservatives are very guilty of this also. My last Hub took both sides to task when I looked at how inclusive or exclusive are you. Plenty of fault can be found for everyone of all political stripes. I wish you much better luck in your employment search. I was laid off in November of 2007 and I was out of work for 4 years. Not due to race since I am White. My problem was and is that I am 55 and my area of expertise in the Financial Services field is fading away. Now I work as a Supervisor in retail for quite a lot less money. Best of luck to you and thanks again for your comments.

Verily Prime profile image

Verily Prime 3 years ago from New York

Thanks Sir - I simply wanted to let your audience know that racism, in my opinon, is rampant among many of the Liberals in New York.... not in calling you the 'N' word - but in their hiring practices, especially if you are Black... seeking an upper tier job.

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HSchneider 3 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey Author

Your welcome and you are right. I wonder if part of the problem for you when you apply in academia is that they are prejudiced against your Conservative views. I bring this up because academics tend to be more Liberal than the general populace. This form of discrimination, of course, is wrong headed also because I feel we need true diversity especially in academic circles. A fair debate among people of differing views is the only way we can really learn. I do not doubt the racial aspect but I just bring up the politics as "food for thought". Thank you for your comments, Verily Prime.

dbachman profile image

dbachman 3 years ago from Cincinnati, Ohio

Great Hub! This type of mentality is carried over through centuries of racism and whatever ....ism, past and present in this country.Going all the way back to the days of our thought to be once great discoverer Christopher Columbus White America has failed.

Very sad indeed...isn't it?

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HSchneider 3 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey Author

It is very sad and you are right that this dates back centuries. We have been making slow progress against racism and we must guard against falling back. Thank you for your kind comments, dbachman.

Credence2 profile image

Credence2 3 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

Great analysis HS!

Paula Deen, I was not aware that she was running her establishment like a plantation. We all have slips of the tongue every now and then but her denigration of blacks is more than just an accident. The racial slur is supported by her behavior and as such she needs to be sternly reprimanded by the viewing public. She is not that old to be so entrenched by a period that ended pretty much by her late teens. So, I say this is less a habit than a deliberate attempt to humiliate Black folks. That is even more inexcusable.

Racial profiling is seen as a form of harassment, it is humiliating to be suspected of a crime by your mere presense, not supported by reasonable suspicion or probable cause. The New York stop and frisk policies, heralded by conservatives, says that based on the community where you live your rights can be reduced to that of second class citizenship and the Constitution may be placed on the shelf, so that the ends of reducing crime is justified by the means. This is unacceptable. Where the conservatives insist that the African american community be accomodating, heaven forbid that I mention any similar arrangement regarding firearm possession and use.

African american educational attainment:

While, I think you give us as a group too much credit, I appreciate your recognizing the negative influence the profiling has on self worth, particularly in our young. But the lack of educational attainment has as much to do with an internal culture that discredits much of this as many of our young men believe that conventional success in the American system is much like a carrot being dangled, never designed to be taken. So, we just as well do it our way, music and sports, entertainment. The problem is only an infintesimal few are successful with such an approach. This is something that many of us are aware of that has to be cleaned up from in house.

Stand your ground objections.

I think that when a firearm is involved it emboldens people to take liberties that they otherwise would not take. Zimmerman would never had dared to follow and confront Martin if he did not have a gun. This provision (Stand your ground) needs to be adjusted. A bully can promote an altercation and shoot and kill using 'self defense' plea as justification. There has to be something that allows for the consideration of provocation by the plaintiff and that applies the principle of avoiding conflict as part of using the provision.

Regarding the Voting Rights Act of 1965, I reluctantly had to support the court's decision for two reasons

Those that had the most to lose, knew that the Act was not going to be renewed indefinitely, as the standards that applied in 1965 could not possibly be the foundation for the circumstances today or in the future. We long needed a new formula. It is not fair to just pick on the "south".

Besides, Dixie has nothing on the north, 'up south', looking at what happened in Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania last year. Perhaps we need to revise the Act to cover a broader area than what was once the case. Perhaps other methods used by those trying to restrict the vote are passing through radar and we need to focus on modern techniques of disenfranchisement.

So we need to revise the evaluation factors of Section 4 and focus on the issues nationally as there is no region in the country that is beyond these problems.

The right is determined to discourage participation through the ballot by minority and young voters, attempting to do through legislation what they otherwise could not do overtly, in the face of demographics that are turning against them. This is about obtaining power and control that they do not merit from electoral majorities in the democratic process. The ballot is their achilles heel, where their money and political influence cannot change the outcome, subsequently their power may be curbed from this source. THAT is what they fear most.

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HSchneider 3 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey Author

Thank you for your comments, Credence2. I understand your point about the internal culture and I am sure it is so. My point then is that the racial profiling makes this much worse with the lack of jobs especially good ones, being given to young Black males. I know that Section 4 is outdated but my fear, and it is being realized, that states are going to go wild with voter restrictions. I have supreme doubts that a Republican House will seriously take up this job of Section 4 updating. I would like to see blanket coverage of the entire country so we could put this issue to bed. Of course, this will probably never be agreed upon. As you state, the demographics are running quickly away from the GOP. Their extreme Tea Party wing is accelerating this.

MrsBrownsParlour profile image

MrsBrownsParlour 3 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

I have been deeply troubled by those same events...and witnessing the public backlash discussions has been equally disturbing. Thank you for your reflections and attention to contemporary racism. ~Lurana

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HSchneider 3 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey Author

Thank you for your comments, Lurana. These events have disturbed me greatly also. They will only get worse if Congress does not update and pass the Voting Rights Act.

junko profile image

junko 3 years ago

Unregulated Capitalism and Capitalist control the White house and all State Houses. Racism is a by-product of Capitalism in America. Corporations promotes profits, they are considered people by law, but all peoples in reality represents profits regardless of race. Taxes supports the rich and the poor. The poor can't pay more and the rich don't want to pay anymore. So the needy is victimised by the greedy. Negros have always been discriminated against, now the 47%er's which includes all races are on food stamps and unemployed. Divide and conquer, then a house divide against itself Will fall. Capitalism will destroy Americanism

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HSchneider 3 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey Author

I agree that all of us in the 47% are being discriminated against more including African Americans. But that is not the only source of this racism against African Americans. There are also deeply imbedded historical biases going back to slavery days. These roots are hard to cut and are passed on through generations. Thank you for your comments, Junko.

junko profile image

junko 3 years ago

I realize the deeply imbedded spirit in the flesh of those who are hatefully racist. To be a true racist that practice racism against million of people you need to have money. Race Haters are tools used by Capitalist, like Union Busters. The 47%ers are too big to fail, but it started with slavery then racism now its Capitalism which don't discriminate

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HSchneider 3 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey Author

We both agree that capitalist leaders of this country manipulate us for their own gain. The Koch Brothers are the prime examples of this. They help write the laws to benefit their industries. Racists are used by many in power. No doubt. But if racism was not inbedded already in many places in our society, then they would not be able to or would even try to manipulate it. Thank you for your further comments, Junko.

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 3 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

I am reading THE NEW JIM CROW by Alexander. It is a shocking revelation that systemic racism is as bad now as it ever has been in the USA. It's time for a new abolitionist movement.

I am also reading BEHIND THE KITCHEN DOOR by Jayaraman. It is an expose' of the working conditions of American restaurant workers. There is a chapter on racism. It is common all over the US for blacks and Hispanics predominantly to do the bussing and dish washing and for whites predominantly to be the servers and managers, regardless of experience and ability, and for managers and chefs to use racial and ethnic insults. We all should take note of whether a restaurant's owners and managers are nasty or nice to employees and vote accordingly with our choices of where to eat out. We should also befriend unions of restaurant employees and urge politicians to raise the minimum wage, including and especially for tipped restaurant workers, and to crack down on wage theft.

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HSchneider 3 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey Author

Thank you for your comments, B. Leekley. They certainly elucidate the fact that racism still exists and is institutionalized in certain areas of our economy. I totally agree with your assertion about unions and the raising of the minimum wage. I have argued for that in another Hub. Racism has certainly abated in most overt ways but its ugly head still festers behind the scenes. I still certainly hold out much hope for our younger generations who show positive stances in regards to racism and other ugly "isms".

Che Rogers profile image

Che Rogers 2 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

We need more hubs speaking the ugly truth like this. We can never progress in unity until we all admit there is a problem from the top on down. To prevent civil war and bloodshed the solution is unity and compassion. Great hub!

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HSchneider 2 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey Author

Thank you very much for your comments, Che. I absolutely agree with you. Too often people want to ignore this core problem in our country because it is unpleasant and offends their delicate sensibilities. We need to continually discuss our race issues and understand what is going on. We also need to get to know one another more and understand the fears and anger that the other side feels. Learning to understand and empathize is key to wiping out racism and hatred. Sticking your head in the sand simply does not cut it.

Che Rogers profile image

Che Rogers 2 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

Segregation is what prevents us from living in diversity. I just moved from milwaukee, wi and it is the most segregated city in the nation. Which creates racial tension due to cultures not living with each other and understanding other cultures way of life. It creates not just a physical division but an emotional one also. There is a large underlying issue in america that many don't want to acknowledge and that is that those who control our government and banking systems are highly racist. The fruits of their actions have shown this from the beginning of our country till the present. The fear is that if they allow other cultures to have equal power they in turn lose their positions of power to these other cultures who out number them globally. It is why i said the true issue lies with the true minority who are in these high ranking positions. They run the media, government and religious groups that influence popular opinion. It is mind control at its finest and many are beginning to wake up to this evil system of control and oppression.

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HSchneider 2 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey Author

Segregation certainly intensifies this separateness and enhances the fear and suspicion that racism stems from. Our leaders in all areas have helped to institutionalize racism sometimes without most people recognizing the fact. The proof is in the facts on the ground. Thank you for your comments, Che.

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