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The History of Racism

QUESTION: The History of Racism – What is the state of race relations in 21st Century America?


America has had a long history of racism. Racism has infiltrated every aspect of American society and shows no sign of decreasing. This fact is more easily understood if racism is viewed for what it really is at its core: an institutional ideology. It is a misunderstanding to equate racism with the evil-minded treatment of one individual to another. Racism is more than just personal hatred. No, racism is allowed to subsist because it is fostered and maintained by institutions and government, however unwittingly. Even if individuals within groups or members of a corporate hierarchy determine that the practices of a particular institution are racist, those individuals would be hard pressed to bring about change.

When seeking to understand the state of race relations in 21st Century America, one must gain a clear picture of the nature of racism; it is the belief that one group of people with a particular biological make up is superior to other groups with a differing biological make up. Thus, these groups deemed superior are allowed to gain economic power and social dominance over the other groups considered inferior. This condition is all the more exasperating in America because of the many strides that have been made over the past decades to combat the situation. From the Montgomery Bus Boycott in December 1955, and the student sit-ins in the sixties, to the Selma March in 1965 headed by Martin Luther King and the Voting Rights Act signed by President Johnson in the same year, it had been assumed that relations were moving towards improvement. With every visible stride forward, the country has still lagged behind in genuine racial reconciliation.

In those earlier days in the 20th century, the face of racism was largely black and white. Today, the face of racism has become multi-colored and multicultural. With the high increase of diverse populations entering and maintaining communities all over the country, racism has expanded to include antagonism between peoples of many cultures.

The 21st Century has brought about many attempted changes in society. There is legislation and memoranda against discrimination in its many forms. Affirmative action has been used as an attempt to ensure individuals are given equal opportunity for employment, housing, and other types of advancement. Television shows have changed format and characters to seek political correctness. Nevertheless, society cleverly and subtly maintains its separate views of the races. Ancient barriers, though invisible, still exist owing to the unhappy truth that it is still impossible to legislate the hearts of men. There will always be those who will fight for change while others resist, seeking to maintain the status quo. These are issues of economy, power, and control not easily relinquished. Inasmuch as racism is an institutional ideology, there can still be no improvement unless many individuals work towards it.

Learn More About Racial Prejudice.

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