Race and Ethnicity

Two Views on Racism: Racism Not a Problem Anymore? Don’t Be Ridiculous, It’s Still a Big Issue

By Jamelle Bouie

The Daily Beast

The RNC’s ill-worded tweet about the “end” of racism is a nice time to remember that racial bias is still real and still affects millions of Americans.

This past Sunday, to commemorate the anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott—a long-planned assault on segregation in the city initiated by Rosa Parks’ civil disobedience—the RNC wrote a tweet: “Today we remember Rosa Parks’ bold stand in ending racism.”

The reaction was swift as hundreds of Twitter users piled on the RNC with the hashtag #RacismEndedWhen, created by user @FeministaJones, mocking the idea that racism is anywhere close to over. Eventually, the RNC clarified, writing that the “[p]revious tweet should have read ‘Today we remember Rosa Parks’ bold stand and her role in fighting to end racism.’”

Still, this advances the idea that racism is a relic of the past. It isn’t. And over the last few days, there have been several stories that re-affirm the extent to which racial bias—and anti-black racism in particular—are real things that happen to real people.

To wit, just a few hours after the RNC’s ill-considered tweet, a news station in Rochester, New York noted the arrest and detainment of three African American students, who were waiting for a school bus to take them to a basketball game when police asked them to leave. They refused. “We tried to tell them that we were waiting for the bus,” said Wan’Tauhjs Weathers, one of the teenagers, to WHEC. “We weren’t catching a city bus, we were catching a yellow bus. He didn’t care. He arrested us anyways.” And, to be clear, this was even after the coach arrived to explain the situation.

It would be easy to look for reasons to blame the students, but the police report doesn’t cite bad language or disorderly conduct. Their only “crime” was standing while black.

With that said, one instance doesn’t prove anything, which is why it’s also worth noting a recent incident in Houston, Texas, where police arrested two African American dancers, both men. They hadn’t committed a crime, and weren’t in a suspicious area. But they were escorting a 13-year-old white girl to an event, which was cause enough for police to react. “They just pulled us out of the car and put our hands behind our backs like we were criminals,” said Emmanuel Hurd to news station KHOU.

The two dancers explained that the girl was their student, and Hurd offered to show officers a notarized letter stating that they had “full guardianship” while they were in the state. But police didn’t budge. They brought the two men to the station and took the girl into Child Protective Services.

Racial bias still exists, individuals still act on it, and it still works to worsen inequality.

Now, you could say that police were just reacting to the presence of a young girl with two adult men, and that race had nothing to do with their decision to make an arrest. However, given the fact of implicit bias, entrenched notions of inherent black criminality, and the long-standing discomfort with relationships between black men and white women, it’s hard to credibly argue that race was irrelevant.

Indeed, while I understand the decision to stop any two adult men traveling with a young girl, I have a hard time believing that—when presented with evidence of guardianship— police would have arrested two white men traveling with a white student.

These aren’t isolated instances, an afternoon with Google will show more than you can read. But why does it matter? Many of us who write about race and racism tend to focus on structural issues, from persistent segregation and educational disparities, to mass incarceration and the long-standing “wealth gap” between black and white families. It only takes a cursory look at socio-economic statistics to see the reality of our racial hierarchy, where—broadly speaking—whites are at the top and blacks are on the bottom.

However, it’s also important not to lose sight of how these things play out on an individual level. Yes, the overt bigotry of Bull Connor and George Wallace is a thing of the past, and most Americans see “racist” as a grave accusation of moral failure. But racial bias (and anti-black racism) still exists, individuals still act on it, and it still works to worsen inequality.

The mere fact of blackness, for example, continues to have a measurable effect on one’s ability to get a job. In one study, researchers sent 5,000 resumes to “help-wanted” ads in the Chicago area. Each applicant was similar in every way but one: Some of the names were stereotypically “white,” and some of the names were stereotypically “black.” Not only were “white-sounding” names “50 percent more likely to get called for an initial interview,” but better credentials weren’t enough to overcome the gap.

Likewise, as ProPublica’s Nikole Hannah-Jones has uncovered in a wide-ranging series on housing and racial inequality, overt discrimination in housing is still a problem. According to research conducted by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Urban Institute, black renters—compared to their whitecounterparts—learned about 11 percent fewer rental units, and black homebuyers were shown about a fifth fewer homes. In just the last few days, investigations have found widespread housing discrimination in Dallas, and lending discrimination in the Bay Area of California.

And this is all on top of the huge national disparities in arrests and incarcerations. Who goes to jail is only somewhat related to who commits crimes—it’s also a function of policing and prosecution. Two adjacent communities could have identical rates of drug use and theft, but if one community has a heavy police presence—and the other doesn’t—arrest statistics will show a heavy slant in one direction.

This, for instance, is what we see with marijuana usage. Blacks smoke pot at a similar rate to whites, with only small elevations over the last ten years. But the African American arrest rate for marijuana possession is three times the one for whites. Black communities show higher violent crime rates, but that has nothing to do with their blackness—the vast majority of African Americans are law abiding citizens—and everything to do with hyper-segregation and generational poverty.

Individual discrimination has a broad impact. Police suspicion of young black men goes a long way towards explaining high arrest rates and flawed policies like “stop and frisk.” Not being able to get a good mortgage rate on account of your race makes it harder to live in better neighborhoods with better schools, which reinforces disparities in education and income.

The simple fact is that racism—both personal, institutional, and structural—remains a force in American life. It impacts the lives of everyone, whites included, and shapes the broad material circumstances of minorities in countless negative ways. Yes, there are many—many—ways in which we’ve made progress, and we should celebrate them. But just because we don’t face the racism of the past doesn’t mean we’ve solved the problem. We haven’t.

Categories: Race and Ethnicity

10 replies »

  1. Are you kidding with this? The epidemic of black on white violence and systemic, institutionalized discrimination against whites is the real racism. Pandering to the antifa-anarchists? This is pathetic.

  2. This is just race baiter bitching about stuff. If he does not think black criminality is not real or a major problem I invite him to live in the inner city. I mean you don’t see Korean’s going around shanking or banging people.

    He mentions that blacks have access to low paying jobs, well for starters maybe its because blacks have the lowest IQ of any american demographic.

    “Black communities show higher violent crime rates, but that has nothing to do with their blackness—the vast majority of African Americans are law abiding citizens—and everything to do with hyper-segregation and generational poverty.”

    Really? And the ghetto culture of rape, violence, anti-intellectualism and sloth is not to blame. This is just sour grapes and avoiding responsibility. In many ways early China town was as lawless as the ghettos, but through internal policing and collaboration with law enforcement, China town was cleaned up. Something I doubt will see in the ghetto.

    What Mr. Bouie wants is impossible. For him the abolition of racism would mean that whites and blacks are treated as identical (i.e. fungible), well that is impossible since people even within races are different. Neither is it justice, as Aristotle said justice is: “treating equal people equally and unequal people unequally”.

    It is telling that the negro is the only imported demographic that never entered the economic mainstream. The Irish, Jews, Chinese, Koreans and Japanese, all of whom were discriminated against terribly have entered into the mainstream. In fact if the negro had only a fraction of the foresight of a Vietnamese boat-person he would have been middle class a long time ago, but instead of working the negro bitches about handouts and his own impotence. We’ll get of your ass and work.

    After my visit to Kenya, some years ago, I saw first hand black sloth. Young blacks don’t work if they don’t get paid and even when they do get paid they don’t work when people are not watching. I saw a road crew that was just lollygagging about until we drove by, and then when we left they sat down again. Its this kind of sloth that ruins communities. Again get of your ass and work. If our roof is leaking get of your ass, if your driveway is cracked get of your ass, if your house is not adequately insulate get off your ass. I mean you never saw Puritan or Amish ghetto’s even when they were dirt poor immigrants form Europe. Ghettoization is usually the sign of first wave immigrants like the Chinese in China town, but the negro has never bothered to leave that station. They can bitch all they want about oppression, but the Mennonites settlers to PA who were refugees from Catholic and Protestant persecution in Europe never sunk to the sorry state of the American Negro, and they had it far-far worse, as did the Jews. This oppression stuff is BS. Rhodesia kept a functioning economy for fifteen years under universal global sanctions Zimbabwe can’t keep a functioning economy with global bailouts. Given that throughout history people in worse conditions than the american negro have avoided the pathologeis of the ghetto the responsibility for these pathologies lies squarely with them and until they fix it they should just shut up.

    • White Poverty Exists

      “Indeed, people here are still talking about the story the New York Times ran in June declaring neighboring Clay County ‘the hardest place in America to live.’ Which was positively complimentary compared to a piece the National Review ran six months before, declaring Owsley ‘The White Ghetto.’ Reporter Kevin D. Williamson wrote that instead of contemplating their bleak reality, the people here escape it with ‘the pills and the dope, the morning beers, the endless scratch-off lotto cards, healing meetings up on the hill, the federally funded ritual of trading cases of food-stamp Pepsi for packs of Kentucky’s Best cigarettes and good old hard currency, tall piles of gas station nachos, the occasional blast of meth, Narcotics Anonymous meetings, petty crime, the draw, the recreational making and surgical unmaking of teenaged mothers, and death …’

      ‘You’ve got to understand,’ says Logsdon, ‘people shy away from reporters.’ Sure enough, a worker at the Family Dollar store doesn’t want her name used. A woman at a medical conference in Hazard warns everyone in earshot in a loud voice that a reporter is among them. So it goes during a week spent wandering this county and adjacent counties discussing something America almost never talks about: white poverty.

      You know, if you removed all references to race and the specific place, I would have figured they were talking about the Rez. Generational poverty and criminality exists. It exists in some demographics at higher rates than others. You should hear the way Progressive Liberals talk about rural whites; it’s pretty fucking harsh. I can imagine a future or alternate universe where big city progressive cry out against the moral degeneracy among trailer trash and call for the police state to stamp out their rampant criminality. Actually, I’m sure it’s happening right now, in this reality.

  3. “White Poverty Exists”

    Never claimed it didn’t. The reasons for poverty are the same, sloth and indolence.

    “You know, if you removed all references to race and the specific place, I would have figured they were talking about the Rez. ”

    Probably true, but this was in response to a racially framed debate.

    “You should hear the way Progressive Liberals talk about rural whites; it’s pretty fucking harsh.”

    You should hear me talk about trailer trash. I’m what is called an equal opportunity offender. I have as little tolerance for whining trailer trash as I do whiny Negroes.

    • My point in posting that article and pointing out Progressive Liberal disdain of rural whites in general (poor or otherwise) is pointing out that this phenomenon can and is used to perpetuate oppression at worst, and sidelining of these populations at best. Charges of moral degeneracy and criminality excuse all sorts of police state abuses against these populations. Lack of economic and political power among these populations has made them expendable in the eyes of government at nearly all levels.

      While on an individual level I agree that we are what we make of ourselves, on an aggregate level I don’t think we can deny that there are a number of factors in play that keep certain populations on the bottom and certain populations on top from one generation to the next. Yes, some of those factors are cultural and internal. But some of them are also ongoing external threats and attacks. I would say that most of those factors are extremely difficult to turn around.

      • “Charges of moral degeneracy and criminality excuse all sorts of police state abuses against these populations. Lack of economic and political power among these populations has made them expendable in the eyes of government at nearly all levels.”

        While I would not want to claim that charges of moral degeneracy and criminality can never be used to justify government oppression (for example eugenics) the aforementioned attributes are often themselves sources of government strength. Has the civil rights movement shrunk or expanded the size of government? For example Korean integration into the US did not facilitate in and of itself a growth in government power, but negro civil rights was a massive expansion of federal powers.

        The very mindset of this article is statist. We (negroes) need and want complete racial equality, it seems that it never occurred to Bouise to think that congenital differences between individuals and races will forever prevent the elimination of ‘racial inequality’. Inequality if organic is good. The only way to reduce ‘natural inequality’ is through state power. Egalitarianism is necessarily statist.

        The “it’s all the fault of the other” (state, whitey filling the blank) is the very mindset that lead to rise of the totalitarian humanism. People who take care of their internal problems first are much better at dealing with systemic societal problems than those who don’t.

        “But some of them are also ongoing external threats and attacks. I would say that most of those factors are extremely difficult to turn around.”

        This is true, but the question is (1) what problems are purley internal, (2) what problems are purely external, (3) what problems are a combination of both, (4) will solving (1) ameliorate (2) and (3), (5) is blaming all problems on (2) the right solution. You seldom see Negro leaders ask these questions. I wager that in the US for most people (1) is more important that (2) or (3). If the negro community seriously strained every muscle in an effort to solve (1) and then still ended up short via (2) then I might have time to take them seriously. Until illegitimacy rates among blacks and for that matter white trailer trash get down to 1-5%, among other things, they have no right to blame others for their own failings.

        These factors whether internal or external can be very difficult to turn around, but (1) it can be done, and (2) I see very little effort to do so. Again the Chinatown example shows that while being assaulted by discrimination on the one hand and criminality on the other, the Chinese immigrants could clean house.

        For example if like the Cherokee and the Five Civilized tribes the negro had done everything he could to clean up his act and was still shafted by the proverbial Andrew Jackson then I would concede we have a valid case.

        • I largely agree with you on the expansion of federal power due to Totalitarian Humanist policies; but I also view those policies as appeasement for upwardly mobile minorities that don’t address structural issues of racism that the state wields against lower class blacks and other minorities.

          Here’s an interesting article that compares and contrasts the experience of early Italian American gangsters and present day African American gangsters.

          The Crooked Ladder.

          The argument is made that an underdeveloped or even non existent police state in the early days of Italian American immigration and marginalization allowed crime families to gradually, over multiple generations, climb the social ladder to the point where their descendants are now respectable members of society. The African American gangster, and their non-criminal peers, are constantly harassed and imprisoned by a system that has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world. You can’t tell me that doesn’t have a severe negative impact on families and communities and that this issue doesn’t have it’s origins in the state.

          While I doubt the author of this article would agree with our views here that Totalitarian Humanism is a rising threat, he at least identifies the police state as one major culprit that I think can’t be ignored.

  4. “The African American gangster, and their non-criminal peers, are constantly harassed and imprisoned by a system that has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world. You can’t tell me that doesn’t have a severe negative impact on families and communities and that this issue doesn’t have it’s origins in the state.”

    Lets unpack this. You are making two claims here that (1) historically some immigrant groups went through a criminal phase (Italians) and then integrated. (2) that the negro population due to sever police repression is not allowing that process to complete.

    I’m all for climbing the social ladder, but I don’t think criminality is the way to do so. What dislocates families and communities are drugs, muggings, shankings, rapings, kidnappings, alcoholism etc, which are symptoms of gangsta culture. Police intervention I don’t see as the cause of criminality, but a reaction to it. Whether that reaction is excessive, inefficient or does more harm than good are all up for discussion, but I stress the reaction is a symptom.

    I do agree that government is the problem, it is socialism. The welfare dependency that many negros have on the state is deeply detrimental to thriving communities, but most the demographic that the author targets would seek to remove socialism.

    As FDR said in his 1935 State of the Union Address:

    “A large proportion of these unemployed and their dependents have been forced on the relief rolls. The burden on the Federal Government has grown with great rapidity. We have here a human as well as an economic problem. When humane considerations are concerned, Americans give them precedence. The lessons of history, confirmed by the evidence immediately before me, show conclusively that continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber. To dole our relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit. It is inimical to the dictates of a sound policy. It is in violation of the traditions of America. Work must be found for able-bodied but destitute workers.”

    If the gangsta’s don’t want to be incarcerated then don’t commit crimes. It’s that simple. One of the most harmful aspects of gangsta culture is absentee fathers, a trend that is seeping into most demographics today. That is probably, if not #1, than close to the #1 reason for the failure of the negro community. Clearly this was not always the case the negro in the 1950s, while discriminated against to a much greater degree than today, did not sink into the morass of criminality that his grandchildren and great grandchildren have today. The very fact that the negro household community was so intact during Jim Crow and Segregation America shows that the police state is not the root cause of their failings, for if state oppression was the cause why were the negro communities better of under Jim Crow and Segregation?

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