Racism and sexism can exist without people actually expressing particular personal behaviors that would depict them as racist or sexist persons. An important point brought out by this declaration is that people can propagate discrimination along with the race or sex perspectives without harboring intentions for discrimination or dislike for the race or sex that is on the receiving end of the unintentional behavior or policy.
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A better way to explain the phenomenon is to look at it as the prejudice that has not gone away as a result of sensitization and the creation of affirmative action programs. It has only taken on different forms of expression and its effects are just the same as they were when the problem was first identified.
Reich (1-6) provides an economic rationale for existing discrimination, saying that it will continue to thrive even as various parties seek to demolish any racist existence using ways they seem fit because it benefits the capitalist systems.
According to Reich (3), many of the proponents and antagonists of racism are merely playing their part in a bigger game that they are unaware of and the inherent nature of the capitalist system will always ensure that it is the owners of capital who end up as winners in the end.
Unfortunately, it happens that the main capital owners in American society are mainly whites. Even as people from other races become emancipated and own capital, their ratio to that of the white capitalists will still remain unbalanced for years to come.
The capitalist society thrives by promoting individualism and competitiveness among people and entities. From the onset, the question in any particular situation narrows down to an ‘us/me versus them’ situation. Thus, people will likely work towards ensuring that the gains of economic activities accrue to one of them or to themselves, rather than let ‘others’ have the spoils.
In an example put forward by Reich (2), in explaining the counter theory presented by Gary Becker, the author talks of white workers who feel deprived when asked or forced to work alongside black workers. In this case, the white workers use this reason as the basis for demanding monetary compensation for the inconvenienced.
However, in the actual counter argument that Reich (3) provides, it is actually the divisions caused by racism that fuel more divisions at the benefit of the capitalists and at the expense of white workers. The irony of this fact is that from a plain onlooker’s point of view, one would assume that white workers would gain by discriminating against blacks and other minority races.
This essay will now attempt to bring in another point of view in order to better bring out the ‘us versus them’ mentality that percolates the racism and sexism dogma. Various actions were taken by the government and infused into law by the Congress now remove systemic barriers that discriminated against blacks, such as the right to buy property in affluent white neighborhoods. Any person, irrespective of race, now has an equal employment opportunity, as long as they qualify for a particular job position.
Nevertheless, the whites will continue looking after the interests of other whites. Blacks too are expected to do the same and the consequence of such attitudes is that the whites will still be twice likely to get a job offer after an interview than blacks do (Covert para. 6).
The main reason for such an observation would be the fact that the whites are already prevalent in the job market and they hold powerful hiring positions. It is only logical that as long as they subscribe to the ‘us versus them’ mentality, they will be biased in favor of their own. In addition, if the situation was reversed, the blacks would absolutely behave in the same way too.
When looked at from an income/class perspective, the thought corroborates the idea presented by Reich on the divisiveness of racism (Reich 3). Just like white workers had a difficult time working alongside black workers in Gary Becker’s example used by Reich (3), high-income earners too will express reservations about dealing with middle and lower income earners. When given a choice, they will likely pick fellow high-income earners, judging by their lifestyle choices, neighborhoods, affiliations, and other social or economic bases.
The problem with the existing form of racism is that one cannot pinpoint an actual incident of being racism or a sexism victim and point out the accuser and then get justice in the conventional form. Being raised and educated in a society that explains the need to look out for your own justifies an individual’s action and exonerates them of personal blame (Arisaka 26).
Thus, it is hard to say a person is a sexist or a racist because the person is not blatantly discriminating and showing the discrimination. The poor white workers who are sympathetic to their misery because they are better off than the blacks are not directly being racist, but the fact remains that there is racism in that context.
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At the root of capitalism, the resources are scarce, and the benefits gained by a person come from the expenses of another person. There can only be a finite number of people enjoying the finite resources, while others work towards upsetting the balance to turn the tide and have a share of the resources.
Striving and enjoying the pursuit turns out as a vicious cycle. The working class will always have fears concerning their job security and will be naturally hostile against perceived threats. Just like the Americans will abhor the Chinese living in China for stealing their jobs because they have better labor terms of the capitalist manufacturer, so will the workers loathe the non-workers within the United States.
Anything that causes a collapse of workers’ unions works to the benefit of the owners of capital, who can then proceed to exploit labor. Black workers retaining their tag of inferiority created during the days of slavery works well to avoid the cooperation between the blacks and the whites. The same would be true for other races. A consequence of the idea is a relentless pursuit for equality among the deprived races and constant denial of equality for fear of loss of economic opportunity among the privileged races.
Society is merely making tradeoffs to ensure there is a balance in the level of racism existing, such that it does not upset the capitalist’s way of life permanently. For example, the end of slavery ushered the racist laws that limited blacks’ access to certain jobs.
The end of the racist laws ushered the race superiority battles and increased individualistic ideas, with the class being a key identifier of personal worth in the capitalist society. As earlier explained, given a majority of blacks are in the low-income bracket, they will always be viewed as inferior compared to the whites. These undertones will influence individual behavior when interacting with social and economic issues alike.
Sexism too has its roots in need to assert dominance, also championed by a capitalist society. Unfortunately, both discriminated blacks and discriminated women in the job market will not aim to abolish the capitalist social order, which is the main cause of their misery (Thomson para. 4-8). Instead, many will subscribe to the notion of electing more representatives to champion for their cause and have more affirmative action regulations.
The catch here is that more laws, regulations, and representatives to fight for the black cause or the female cause only increase the intensity of the class fight. They increase the competitive rift that exists between females and males (Thomson para. 16-19).
It causes blacks to seek more economic opportunities and to express their success as justification for their progress, which goes on to irk the whites as they fear the loss of economic opportunity and who will resolve, unconsciously or consciously, to look out for the interests of their own. Eventually, the competitive rift moves on into classes, with the lower, middle, and upper classes being in a constant flux of competitiveness for equality or dominance, depending on where one lies.
In the end, capitalist interests will support any option that does not include the abolition of the individualist and competitive ethos. As long as this situation persists, various triumphs and defeats for the blacks, whites, males, or females will merely fuel more desire for dominance, leading to more racism and sexism, while individuals call for and personally shun any apparent racist or sexist action.
Arisaka, Yoko. “Paradox of Dignity: Everyday Racism and the Failure of Multiculturalism.” Ethik und Gesellschaft. February 2010: 1-41. Print.
Covert, Bryce. Racism and Sexism Look Different Than You Think. 21 May 2014. Print.
Reich, Michael. The Economics of Racism. 1974. Print.
Thomson, Derek. “Women, Money and Bias: The Economy is Classist, Then Racist, Then Sexist.” The Atlantic. 11 April 2012. Print.