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Racism In America: The Problems of Being Black in the 21st Century

Updated on March 8, 2021
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ME has spent most of his retirement from service to the United States studying, thinking, and writing about the country he served.

Why Does A Certain Section of American Society Think Racism is Dead ... It Isn't!


The title was written in 2014. After four years of Donald Trump, things have gotten much worse. The latest is this little episode involving the poet laureate to Joe Biden's inauguration.

"Amanda Gorman, the nation's first youth poet laureate, said she was "tailed" and told "you look suspicious" by a security guard as she walked home Friday night.

A security guard tailed me on my walk home tonight. He demanded if I lived there because 'you look suspicious.' I showed my keys & buzzed myself into my building. He left, no apology," Gorman wrote in a post on her verified Instagram account. "This is the reality of black girls: One day you're called an icon, the next day, a threat," she added."

Why does this keep happening in America?


FAR FROM IT! RACISM IS ALIVE AND WELL IN AMERICA AND GETTING WORSE in many ways, in my opinion. It got worse, ironically, with the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights and 1965 Voting Rights Acts; the latter law is now eviscerated by a conservative Supreme Court who got tired of waiting for a do-nothing Congress to listen to them and update the law. These laws were put in place to replace those laws created to implement the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments (Reconstruction Laws) which the Waite Supreme Court (1874 - 1988)1, 2 mostly overturned. The Fuller Court (1888 - 1910) completed the destruction with Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), the infamous "separate but equal" case.

A brief time out before I get started to define the ideologies "conservative' and 'progressive' then separate them from the Party labels of Democrat and Republican. People often confuse the two even though one, the former, are like people in relation to the latter, a house. Parties are just houses that contain people who hold certain ideologies at a given point in time. Often, it contains people who hold conservative, moderate, and liberal ideologies at the same time, just in different proportions, sometimes it is overwhelmingly just one ideology like today's Republican Party. Like houses, the people inside the can change, the house is the same, but the people are not. The platform of the Democratic Party in 1860 is diametrically opposed to the Democratic platform in 2014; the same is true of the Republican Party. In the period between 1860 and 1994, the people switched houses.

Further, I will use two ideological terms, 'conservative' and 'progressive'; both have existed forever. I won't deal with 'liberal' because it comes in too many forms, some of which look like conservativism, but isn't, to deal with here. Russell Kirk (1918 - 1994), one of the foremost Conservatives, laid out Ten Principles of conservatism. For my purposes, I will highlight those that deal with the belief in social hierarchy, that it is natural and necessary for there to a social stratification, in other words, an inegalitarian society. In part:

Kirk's Fifth Principle states:Conservatives pay attention to the principle of variety. They feel affection for ...long-established social institutions ..., as distinguished from the ...and deadening egalitarianism of radical systems. For the preservation of a healthy diversity in any civilization, there must survive orders and classes, differences in material condition, and many sorts of inequality. The only true forms of equality are equality at the Last Judgment and equality before a just court of law; all other attempts at levelling must lead, at best, to social stagnation. ...

His Sixth Principle says: "Conservatives are chastened by their principle of imperfectability.Human nature suffers irremediably from certain grave faults, .... Man being imperfect, no perfect social order ever can be created. Because of human restlessness, mankind would grow rebellious under any utopian domination, and would break out once more in violent discontent—or else expire of boredom. To seek for utopia is to end in disaster, the conservative says: we are not made for perfect things. All that we reasonably can expect is a tolerably ordered, just, and free society, in which some evils, maladjustments, and suffering will continue to lurk. By proper attention to prudent reform, we may preserve and improve this tolerable order...

Those two principles, when put into practice, naturally lead to a society of aristocrats, workers, and "others", a purposefully structured/ordered society, where, according to Edmund Burke (1729 -1797), the founder of modern conservatism, it is the duty of the educated aristocrat to plan for and organize the lives of those living below their station. Further, the next set of principles explain why Conservatives have fought, at every possible step, to stop or push back in progress made toward what others consider a more civil society.

Second, the conservative adheres to custom, convention, and continuity.It is old custom that enables people to live together peaceably; ... Continuity is the means of linking generation to generation [ed: Jefferson opposed this notion]; ... When successful revolutionaries have effaced old customs, derided old conventions, and broken the continuity of social institutions—why, presently they discover the necessity of establishing fresh customs, conventions, and continuity; but that process is painful and slow; and the new social order that eventually emerges may be much inferior to the old order ... Conservatives are champions of custom, convention, and continuity because they prefer the devil they know to the devil they don’t know...

Third, conservatives believe in what may be called the principle of prescription. ... Therefore conservatives very often emphasize the importance of prescription—that is, of things established by immemorial usage, so that the mind of man runneth not to the contrary. ... Conservatives argue that we are unlikely ... to make any brave new discoveries in morals or politics or taste. It is perilous to weigh every passing issue on the basis of private judgment and private rationality. The individual is foolish, but the species is wise, Burke declared. In politics we do well to abide by precedent and precept and even prejudice ...

The point I am getting to is that ideology moved from Party to Party. Initially, conservatism dominated the Republican Party from its inception. But by the time the Federalist Party collapsed in 1825, most Federalist had joined the Jeffersonian branch of the Republican Party and formed a more liberal/progressive faction. In 1826, the tension was too much and the Conservatives (mainly southern politicians) broke to form the Democratic Party and the remainder (northern liberal/progressives and some liberal conservatives) formed the National Republican Party which later became the Whig Party. Around 1860, the Whig Party collapsed and the pro-slavery faction ended up with the conservative Democratic Party and the anti-slavery/progressive factions created the new Republican Party, what we know as the GOP. After Lincoln was assassinated, their was more sorting out where both Parties ended up with Left, Moderate, and Right-leaning factions. The Democratic Party, however, was controlled by southern Conservatives while the Republican Party was dominated by northern progressive/liberals; this was around 1870. By 1940, a role reversal had occurred where northern progressives/liberals took control of the Democratic Party and western/northern conservatives gained control of the Republican Party. By 1993, the switch was complete where southern conservatives and social conservatives nationwide gained total dominance of the Republican Party minimizing other factions into insignificance. By 2004, most southern conservative Democrats had either been defeated or joined the Republican Party and the Democrats lost the conservative wing, but still maintain a strong moderate faction.

Again, let me point out how the ideologies, the belief systems that determine how one individual reacts to another or to a group, move around from Party to Party, not the other way around. This is important because so many people, especially those on the Right, are very insistent that it is the Democrats, not Conservatives, who promoted slavery, and of course, as you can see from the discussion above, that is foolish. It wasn't the Democrats who tried to keep the institution of slavery alive and well, for it was the Republicans before them! Common between the two, however, is both were controlled by southern Conservatives who happened to belong to first the Republican Party from 1797 - 1826 and then the Democratic Party from 1826 - 1864; two different Parties, but one ideology. That is an extremely important distinction!

1 It was also in his court where the doctrine of corporate personhood was reinforced in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company, 118 U.S. 394 (1886) where he said

"The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does."[8]

2 Waite also upheld the state's right to deny women the franchise (right to vote). Waite, did, however, sympathize with the women's rights movement and supported the admission of women to the Supreme Court bar.[6]



Bigotry is Largely Genetic

NOW I HAVEN'T RESEARCHED THIS like I do most things, but I don't feel I have to ... because I experience it. It isn't the see it in others kind of experiencing it, but feeling it in myself experience. Further, I suspect that if I have these types of personal reactions, so do many others since I am just a normal person.

There are two instances where I know I have a natural, unbidden, visceral bigotry develop internally. One is seeing two gay men holding hands or worse and the other are East Asian people, meaning folks of Pakistani or Indian descent. I do not get the same reaction from lesbians in the same intimate situations or any other race. Don't ask me why, it has been this way for as long as I can remember. And this isn't an uncomfortable feeling but more of a gut-churning feeling; I am glad other people can't see it.

Given I have these reactions, there is no doubt in my mind, other people do as well. I know some women do with respect to lesbians ... because I have asked them. Men holding hands doesn't bother them, but two women? Well ... Clearly, there is that natural bigotry in many Americans toward Blacks, given how endemic it is.

Bigotry can come about from other means as well, bad experiences with individuals from a certain group to which you develop a bigoted view or, more commonly, from your parents, family, and friends. You can never get rid of in born bigotry, but you can unlearn learned bigotry. In all cases, however, you can control your response to it.

I define Racism as "acting out" on your bigoted beliefs whether it be against another race, ethnic group, religion, or lifestyle. While bigotry in and of itself will harm other people, it is racism which does, by far, the most damage up to and including mass murder and genocide. Racism is a powerful tool for evil when manipulated by others with an agenda. What's worse is bigotry and the racism which follows will never go away, it can only be diminished and controlled.

The best defense against learned bigotry is a good offense using resources like schools and bring back universal service ... yes, that is right, the draft. Not only did the draft provide a ready, trained military in time of need, it provided a mixing bowl, forcing people from all walks of life to learn how to work as a team of face the wrath of the drill sergeant. It is no accident that with the end of the draft in the 70s, the level of racism in America began to increase again.

The other defense for in-born bigotry, the one I use, is the other powers we are given, the ability to reason, to feel empathy, and to know right from wrong. I KNOW the physical reactions I get are uncontrollable to start with, but I also know they are wrong, and unlike the psychopath, I know why they are wrong.. I also know I have the ability to control my emotions and do the right thing.

Racists, on the other hand, are like psychopaths, they don't understand why the way they feel and act toward others is wrong; they have rationalized and then brainwashed themselves into believing hurting others is a good thing for society. As I said, you can't git rid of these people, you can only contain them by punishing their bad behavior and rewarding activity that promotes social harmony. Racists need to be isolated and forced back into the holes from whence they came.

Finally, before getting on to why I really started this Hub, I want to note that the Millennial generation is helping us toward this goal. They are returning to our liberal, as in independent, individualistic, roots; they are turning away from conservatism and far Left liberalism, both hotbeds for bigotry. By looking inside themselves, they aren't so concerned with differences in others. Studies have shown the levels of bigotry and racism is decreasing with Millennial.

The Question of the Day Is:


See results

OK, Why You Are Really Reading This Hub

KIMBERLY NORWOOD IS A SUCCESSFUL LAW PROFESSOR AT Washington University of Law in the Saint Louis University of Law School. She is a 54-year old mother and lawyer and lives in an upscale neighborhood where the median income is $85.000; she is also black and lives 12 miles from Ferguson, MO, median income $36,000. Where Kimberly lives, only 3.5% of the neighborhood is black, in Ferguson, it is 70%. What comes next is a set of vignettes that are very similar to a documentary I saw some 30 years ago, that would be around 1984.

The vignettes come from a CNN article Kimberly published Aug 25, 2014. These are virtually identical the kinds of things I watched in that documentary and it puts a lie to those on the Right who deny that racism exists today.

  • "When I shop," she says, "I'm often either ignored as a waste of time or scrutinized as a potential shoplifter. In June, my daughter and I walked into the china and crystal department at a Macy's department store. I was about to speak to the salesperson directly in front of me. She walked right past me to welcome the white woman behind us. My daughter looked at me and said: "Really? Did she just ignore us?" "
  • Another story Kimberly relates is "Driving, I tend to have a bit of a lead foot -- hitting 45 in a 35 mph zone. The few times I have been stopped in my suburb, the first question I'm asked is whether I live "around here." Not one of my white friends has been asked that question when they were pulled over by a police officer."
  • "The data in Ferguson ", Kimberly explains, "are an example of the larger picture in the St. Louis County area. Police stop, search and arrest black people at a disproportionate rate, even though they are less likely to possess contraband than white people"
  • [ed.- This one particularly bothers me] She relates, "A few years ago my husband and I went on a cruise. ... At the top of a long list of things to do before we left for our trip was "e-mail chief of police." I explained to the chief that my husband and I were going on a cruise, I was a member of the community and that my two sons would be walking to school. I attached pictures of the boys, explaining that only a couple of black families lived in the neighborhood. My sons did not normally walk in the neighborhood, so they would draw attention. I offered to bring my sons to the police department so officers could meet them. The police chief and I met and all went well.
  • But I've asked myself: How many parents of white sons have thought to add to their to-do-before-leaving-town list, "Write letter to local police department, introducing sons and attaching photos, so police do not become suspicious and harass them"?


  • Another sad one is "Shortly after the Michael Brown shooting, I met with a group of my 13-year-old's black male friends to explain to them what happened in Ferguson, and what to do and how to respond if they are ever stopped by the police. My words reminded me of stories and fears my grandfather used to share with me about his encounters with police during the Jim Crow era."

These are just a few of the hundreds of thousands of ways blacks and other minorities feel the pressure from the white majority in 2014. Right now, there is a concerted effort in many conservative areas to limit black and the poor's access to the voting booth since the Robert's Court gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act..

Like many of my hubs, I will keep growing this one as I find more examples or if you provide them to me.


MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD WEALTH: Whites: $91,405; Blacks: $6,446. (Pew Research Center, 2011) WHY?

HOME OWNERSHIP: Whites: 72.9%; Blacks: 43.5%. (US Census Bureau, 2014 2nd Qtr) WHY?

MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME: Whites: $59,754; Blacks: $35,416. (Sentier Research, 2014) WHY?

UNEMPLOYMENT RATE: Whites: 5.3%; Blacks: 11.4%. (BLS, July 2014) WHY?

POVERTY RATE: Whites: 9.7%; Blacks: 27.2%. (US Census Bureau, 2012) WHY?

WHY, if Blacks have had decades of the same and equal opportunity as whites? (Some say it's been equal since emancipation!)

More Stories

FEBRUARY 2014-Dateline NEW JERSEY: HANDS UP-DON'T BEAT MY ASS! Police video cam outs New Jersey cops illegally stopping, beating, and arresting New Jersey black man. The victim was released and the cops were fired and charged. [Compliments of @LoveMyChris]

SEPTEMBER 2014-Dateline NEW YORK CITY: The Raw Story reported on 9/4/14 that:

"On Tuesday, Chaumtoli Huq filed a lawsuit in Manhattan Federal Court alleging that the New York Police Department officers who arrested her used “unreasonable and wholly unprovoked force” as she was waiting for family after a pro-Palestinian rally in July."

Huq's, a Muslim of color as well as a lawyer on leave of absence with New York City's Public Advocate Office, story is that she was waiting outside a Ruby Tuesdays restaurant while her husband escorted their two children inside to use the facilities. Officer Ryan Lathrop and one other officer approached her and, without cause, inquired what she was doing there. After she explained they grabbed her, flipped her around and shoved her against the wall. Then, without probable cause, they handcuffed her and searched her purse. Upon discovering she and her husband had different last names, Lathrop exclaimed that "in America, wifes take the last names of their husbands." She was detained for nine hours then released when she accepted an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal, What was she arrested for? Blocking the sidewalk after the pro-Palestinian protest was over. [Compliments of @LoveMyChris]

SEPTEMBER 2014-Dateline BATON ROUGE, LA: During the week when Rev. Al Sharpton was in town questioning how a young black man, handcuffed in the back of a police cruiser managed to shoot himself to death back in March 2014 (this appears to be murder as the victim had his hands cuffed behind him but was shot in the chest with a gun that wasn't there), 15-year veteran officer Michael Elsbury was resigning from the Baton Rouge police department for texting the following "non-racial" messages (the editing is mine, he spelled out the full words)

  1. He wrote that blacks are "nothing but a bunch of monkeys" and that the "only reason they have this job [ed. police?] is the n...r, the n...r in them."
  2. Later he wrote "“I wish someone would pull a Ferguson on them and take them out. I hate looking at those African monkeys at work…I enjoy arresting those thugs with their saggy pants.”

The police chief says this was an isolated incident. But judging from the attitudes I see around me in rural Florida, it is hardly "isolated". [Compliments of @LoveMyChris]

SEPTEMBER 2014-Dateline KALAMAZOO, MI: Here is a case of reverse non-discrimination, or something like that. Here we have a white guy, clearly unstable, frightening a neighborhood waving a rifle around telling police, who had been summoned, he had a right to "open carry". Police didn't kill him like their contemporaries have in other cities when the man was black, instead they tried to reason with him. The article and video is a must read and watch.

© 2014 Scott Belford


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