Still in a Race Rage
I wrote this in one of my composition classes, but it doesn't make the point any less true.
Racism, this is the word that sends a cold chill down the spine of every American. The definition of racism is the prejudice that members of one race are intrinsically superior to members of other races (Webster Dictionary 135). “America was built on diversity.” Everyone has heard that saying before. Well, with diversity comes the unknown and with the unknown comes fear. “Out of fear breeds hatred.” This is another well-known saying. Americans have suffered from the epidemic of racism for decades. It started long before the Japanese-Americans were put into internment camps, was amplified by the O.J. Simpson trial, and the 2008 presidential elections was just the icing on the cake. That cake would later be served to, and consumed by, most US citizens. America has not moved forward enough for her to be considered in a post-race era.
Why is there so much hatred and loathing when it comes to race? It is there because America became too complacent with how things used to be. For example, in history we were used to seeing a white man with a white woman or a black man with a black woman. When that order gets shaken up or added to, people get wary. When America sees a relationship in which there is a white man with a Mexican woman or a black man with a Chinese woman it gets scared. Decades ago people did not know such relationships. Now they do. Now, such relationships are common. Because of this, it is very apparent that racism still exists. The fear has no reason for existing. Now it is just plain racism. Some might say America is regressing further into racism.
During World War II many non-immigrant Americans developed a severe case of xenophobia. They especially grew leery of Japanese-Americans. Every Japanese descendant was a communist and every foreigner was out to hurt the United States. People spent years stuck inside barbed wire internment camps because their parents had migrated to America years or even decades earlier. These were not supposed to be death camps like the ones used by Hitler and his legion of followers, but giving something a different name doesn't change what it is.
Americans were thrown into concentration camps by their own people because they were of a different race. These United States citizens were forcibly removed from their homes to live in camps. It might not seem that bad at first, but these camps were surrounded by fences and armed guards that would not let them leave. This was not the action of some guy who got an urge to violate the civil liberties of over 120,000 people (Daniels 298). This was the president of the United States. He ordered these actions, and was supported by congress. In the eyes of Americans, if the United States president was a racist, the United States citizens could be too.
Racism is too dangerous to let continue. In August of 1965 “Watts [California …] exploded in a frenzy of rioting and looting. When the uprising ended, 34 were dead (Tindal and Shi 1023).” Race riots were very popular in the 1960’s. They started out as harmless sit-ins. A black man or woman would walk into a white only restaurant and refuse to leave. These harmless sit-ins would later escalate to full out riots. White police officers grew tired of removing blacks from such places and started coming up with new ways of removal. Vicious police dogs would target silent protestors or police officers would use fire hoses, with extreme water pressures, on the silent protestors.
Racism is not always between different races. In Anne Moody’s autobiography, Coming of Age in Mississippi, racism is apparent between the people of her own race. She (a black girl from Mississippi) experiences a mild, yet still present, form of racism when she meets two of her mother’s younger brothers:
"I stood dead in my tracks with my mouth wide open as the two white boys jumped when Alberta yelled Sam’s and Walter’s names. […] As we ducked under [the barbed-wire fence], I brushed against the white boy. Jerking back, I caught my hair in the barbed-wire overhead." (Moody 24)
They were the product of a biracial union. They had a white father and a black mother. “Out of fear breeds hatred.” These were her own uncles, but because they looked whiter than her she was afraid to even touch them. Moody makes other references to racism between people of the same race as well. While talking about Anne’s studies her mother once said, “Y’all can’t let Darlene and Cherie be smarter than y’all. They already think they is better than y’all ‘cause they is yellow (Moody 49).”
In regards to the Simpson trial, Jeffrey Toobin once said, “A white jury would have convicted him in almost as little time as a black jury acquitted him (The O.J. Verdict).” That statement alone shows the opinion of most of the American public in 1995. However, there were two white jury members on that jury, which means that in 1995 there were at least two white Americans that were not swept away by the race rage that was escalating in the United States. This information is not enough to say that the nation was heading towards a remedy. It was just a day without the foggy haze before heading back under the weather.
“It was about race from day one” says Marc Watts, one of the few black reporters that worked on the Simpson trial. He was right. The jury during the hearing consisted of one Hispanic person, two Caucasians, and nine African-Americans. Every American in the country was watching this trial. The side they chose, weather guilty or innocent, depended on their race. A black man wanted him to be acquitted while a white man wanted him to be convicted. There were few times that this was not the case. Kerman Maddox was not an exception. When Maddox was asked if he believed Simpson was guilty his reply was simple: “Yeah, but I like the verdict (The O.J. Verdict)!” Maddox, a black man, believed Simpson was guilty but, because they were both black, Maddox liked that the verdict was not-guilty.
The thirteen year bridge between the O.J. trial and the 2008 presidential election did nothing for the racism in America. When turning on the news today Americans can still hear about some white cop that arrested some black man for no reason. Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr. actually lived through such an event. This upstanding citizen was arrested, on his own front porch, reportedly for being a black man. He lived in a mostly white neighborhood. When neighbors saw him going into his home, because he was a black man, they called the police. The officer did not ask any questions when he confronted Mr. Gates.
"Does he [the officer] say, “I’m sorry, sir, if I frightened you before. We had a report of a burglary, and all they said was ‘two black men at this address.’ You can understand my concern when I first got to the house?” […] No, he didn’t do that either." (Bobo)
Mr. Gates was simply arrested after being told to leave the safety of his living room for the danger of the racist officer on the porch. In 1995 there was no difference. O.J. Simpson was handcuffed and brought in for questioning, then released. Other than race, there was no reason for an upstanding citizen to be treated so despicably, and race can no longer be that reason.
The election of Barack Obama was the racial event of the decade. Yes, a black man was running for president. He was not the first one. Why was he so different? Was he simply the first black man that stood a chance in the presidential election? Is it because America has somewhat moved forward in her fight against the racism plague? Maybe it is because most people were under the influence that he had moved beyond his race. Many people believe that this line of thought is what got him many white votes. That, in itself, is racist. To believe that he has moved beyond his race is to believe that there is a problem with his race that he has to move beyond. It does not matter that he won. America has not moved forward enough. A great example to prove this is the actual election of Barack Obama. The day he was elected, more than two million black registered voters, who had not voted in the 2004 election, voted in the 2008 presidential election ("Infoplease"). Why did they feel the need to vote in 2008? What made this election different then the 2004 election? One singular black man.
There is a deep rooted history of racism in America, with the white race almost always being portrayed as the most racist of them all. Obama knew intuitively that he was dealing with a stigmatized people. He knew whites were stigmatized as being prejudiced, and that they hated this situation and literally longed for ways to disprove the stigma (Williams).” Wanting a way to get rid of a stigmatism such as racism and wanting a way to get rid of it just to be able to say you are not a racist are two entirely different things. One is for your own benefit and conscience. The other is for people, such as law makers, who need to have the appearance of being above such things as racism and prejudice in order to gain more support.
In the words of Lawrence Bob, “Ain’t nothing post racial about the United States of America (Bobo).” The fact that a black man was elected president means nothing. When hearing about a black man being arrested by a white man, the public says things like: “Oh, he deserved that.” or “The cop was just a racist.” When looking at or hearing of President Barack Obama the public does not see or hear “President Obama.” It sees and hears “President Obama, the first black president.” How can America be in a post-race era when every time you turn around there is another story? Someone has been mugged, kidnapped, assaulted, raped, or even killed because of their race. Until America as a nation can cure this epidemic she will never be post-race.
How do you feel about this essay?
"African Americans by the Numbers." Infoplease. Pearson Education, Inc., n.d. Web. 14 Mar 2011. <http://www.infoplease.com/spot/bhmcensus1.html>.
The O.J. Verdict. Dir. Unknown. PBS, 2008. Film.
Bobo, Lawrence. "What Do You Call a Black Man with a Ph.D.?." 07 21 2009: Print.
Daniels, Roger. Prisoners without trial: Japanese Americans in World War II. Revised. Hill & Wang, 2004. Print.
Moody, Anne. Coming of Age in Mississippi. 4th. New York, NY: Bantam Dell, 2004. Print.
Tindal, George Brown, and David Emory Shi. “From Civil Rights to Black Power.” America: A Narrative History. Ed. Jon Durbin. W. W. Norton & Company Inc., 2009. 1022-1025. Print
Williams, Juan. "Obama's Color Line." New York Times 30 Nov 2007: OP-EDs. Print.
Webster's Dictionary and Roget's Thesaurus. Revised. USA: Kappa Books, 2004. Print.
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