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The Legacy of Racism

The Legacy of Racism

  • Although the United States has been a mix of races and culture from its beginning, the dominant culture does not reflect the diversity of this country
  • White people are presented as the dominant group in American culture
  • Cultural Racism is the practice of recognizing the activities and contributions of one racial group in preference to others within a multiracial society.
  • Ethnocentrism – the belief that the history and traditions of one racial or cultural group is superior to all others

The Consequences of Cultural Racism

  • Majority group individuals unconsciously regard non-white people as less important.  there is a feeling of white superiority even among children as young as 4 years old.  
  • White culture is seen as “right and normal.”  When whiteness is promoted by a steady diet of white ideology, the result is a system that thinks, acts, and teaches that “white is right.” 
  • Loss of cultural heritage of other groups – The result of only one racially homogenous group telling a country’s stories is that minorities are viewed as poor, violent, or ignorant, and those minorities’ stories are not told.
  • Colorblind racism – is an ideology that asserts that by ignoring race we will end racism.  The practice of colorblindness distorts and denies the reality of racism, thus perpetuating it.
  • Aversive Racism – well-intentioned, educated and progressive people who rationalize racial inequalities by finding excuses for inequalities demonstrate aversive racism

Individual Racism

  • Individual racism, which includes both prejudice and racist behaviors, is exhibited in patterns of behavior called frontstage and backstage
  • Backstage racism – is exhibited when someone initiates a racist comment in all white company.  One person might cheer it on, others say or do nothing, and anyone who objects is subjected to peer pressure to take it as a joke
  • Frontstage racism – is exhibited when a racist comment is made in a group which includes both whites and people of color.  In this situation, the white individuals react by acting overly nice to the minority individual present, or by avoiding contact or changing the subject
  • The constant and pervasive presence of racism in society leads to all individuals in the society internalizing it, including people of color.  
  • Sometimes people of color take these messages and form unconscious beliefs of racial inferiority called internalized racial oppression.  
  • Conversely, white people internalize unconscious beliefs o racial superiority, which is called internalized racial dominance.  
  • All of this is reinforced by the ideology of individualism.  This ideology emphasizes that we are unique individuals and that people at the top of the social hierarchy are there because of their hard work and specific talents.  Simultaneously, individuals who have not been successful are at the bottom of the hierarchy because they lack work ethic or talents.


White Talk

  • White Talk happens when you reject the idea of pervasive racism
  • Denial Rationalizations – Most people aren’t really racist.  They have good reasons for how they feel.
  • Victim – Blaming Rationalizations – Anyone can achieve success if they’re willing to work hard
  • Avoidance Rationalization – I know we have racial problems, but what can one person do about it?


Institutional Racism

  • It is damaging and far more devastating because of the broader impact that institutions have on people 
  • They are the established laws, customs, and practices that systematically reflect and produce racial inequities in American society
  • It occurs when people in power make decisions about a person or group based on their race.
  • Police officers sometimes engage in racial profiling , by singling out minority individuals and expecting them to be more likely to commit crimes than white individuals.  
  • In the job market, disproportionate numbers of people of color work in low-paying, low status jobs, and people of color tend to have significantly  higher unemployment rates compared to whites. 
  • And while housing discrimination against people of color is not as prevalent as it was 40 years ago, more subtle forms of discrimination still exist.  There is a practice called “steering” in which realtors keep files of homes for sale in white neighborhoods separate from the files of homes for sale in areas with predominant numbers of families of color.


Institutional Racism in Schools

  • Textbooks have historically had a Eurocentric bias.   This means that they favor the majority group’s narrative over others.  
  • In response to increasing numbers of students of color, some schools have implemented curricula that is more inclusive of the achievements of people of color.  However, very few of them address prejudice or discrimination.
  • Tracking is another racial issue in schools which groups students into categories and assigns them to specific, ability-related classes.  Students of color are often overrepresented in classes for slow learners.
  • On the contrary, academic outcomes for high achieving students are not compromised by inclusive, heterogenous classes, and low-achieving students often benefit by interacting with high-achieving students.  


Institutional Racism in Politics

  • People of color struggle from institutional racism in jobs, housing, and schools because success in these areas requires representative political power at the local, state, and federal levels.  
  • Institutional racism blocks opportunities for people of color to be elected to governing bodies , and people of color continue to be under-represented in politics.
  • Districting, financing and voting contribute to this inequality

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