The United States of America is the most multinational country in the world and it has been this way for centuries. This country was founded and built by the immigrants. People of various backgrounds and cultures have created the American nation, diverse and complex. Yet, this nation has been constantly undergoing internal clashes and conflicts based on racial, ethnic and cultural differences of its versatile representatives.
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Starting with the most embarrassing pages of the American history compose of slavery, and moving to the Civil War, Jim Crow’s segregation laws, followed with race bus protests and resulting in desegregation, racism have been one of the most serious social and political issues of the United States. Years later, regardless of all the effort directed at overcoming it, the problem is still there. This paper argues that racial discrimination is deeply rooted in the modern people’s minds and will not disappear completely, yet there are ways to minimize it by means of identification and elimination of stereotypes, and promotion of equality and diversity in our society.
Causes of Racism
The United States of America was founded on the slave labor of African people. White Europeans came to this country escaping the brutal class division of the European states and immediately occupying a new, superior niche in racially divided American society (Nakagawa, 2013). During the beginning of colonization of North America when slave labor was widely employed, racial division of the society was supported on spiritual level.
Religious leaders of that time maintained that the main difference between non-white and white people was that people of color had no souls and were pagans, some leader went even further and stated that Africans and the Indigenous people were not human at all (A History: The Construction of Race and Racism, n. d.). This was one of the first causes of racism in the USA. The following years of racial segregation when African American were still treated as others and had limited freedoms only strengthened the feeling of superiority of white people, while people of color were forced to believe that they generally were “worthless human beings”. As a result, racism became a two-sided phenomenon when both sides stereotyped each other as haters.
Unfortunately, hate is not just a stereotype, but a very real threat to the wellbeing of all Americans. The recent case of Charleston massacre when a 21-year old white American showed up in a church to shoot African Americans as people “taking over the country” is a sad evidence that racial hate is still active and has victims (Ellis, Payne, Perez, & Ford, 2015). To address this issue the American government enforces hate crime laws designed to impose serious penalties on the individuals who victimize others based on their race, ethnicity, and religion among other features (An Introduction to Hate Crime Laws, n. d.).
Such laws are necessary because whenever cases such as that with the Charleston massacre occur, the whole victimized community (in this situation, African Americans) is left feeling threatened and vulnerable. For example, the shooting in Charleston was likely to make African Americans all around the country fearful about attending their churches and worried that another white gun man may appear. Hate crimes are truly dangerous disruptors and social wellbeing and balance of relationships between the representatives of different communities; this is why it needs to be punished and eliminated.
Several decades ago, trying to deal with prejudice and harmful racial stereotypes, the American leaders started to promote diversity providing what they perceived as recognition to the people of color, namely, African Americans. For example, every well-known person of color started to be regarded based on their ethnicity, so the USA began to have actors and black actors, women and black women, candidates for president and black candidates, writers and black writers (Fields, n. d.). What this approach facilitated was further division of the society into blacks and whites. As a result, white privilege remained.
In fact, a simple experiment can be conducted in order to detect the presence of white privilege in the young generation. For that, a diverse class of middle school children needs to be asked to write down brief self-descriptions including all the most basic individual data such as name, age and other characteristics. The supervisor must not hint which features children are to include in the descriptions. The result will be impressive as all the children of color will state their ethnicity as a trait, while white children will not mention it in most cases. This means one thing, being white in the contemporary American society is still treated as a “norm”, automatically turning people of color into “others”.
This way, to minimize the problem of racism, the American society needs to address the very core of it – prejudice and stereotypes facilitated by lack of education, and a result of limited knowledge about particular communities. First of all, the mass media need to stop promoting negative stereotypes concerning people of color. Secondly, African Americans as well as the representatives of other ethnicities need to be positioned in a positive way, as achievers, carriers of various virtues. Thirdly, the American society needs to receive better education about the foreign cultures, and it should start in early childhood facilitating the acceptance of diversity as a given.
Besides, the people of the USA need to be educated about what is going on outside of their country in order to stop the general idea of the United States as a superior nation amongst the “underdeveloped cultures”. Finally, the belief that Americans are a white nation needs to be addressed and explained as a false statement based on political interest which occurred at the time when the United States as a country was first founded and urgently required some basic descriptions characterizing the American community as a whole when in reality it was extremely diverse ethnically, culturally, and racially.
Race is impossible to ignore, as a person’s skin color and appearance are the first thins everyone notices about them. This is why ethnic and racial differences in our society should not be treated as non-existent, but promoted and embraced as one of the most important features of the United States as a nation. Racism and internal clashes based on cultural and ethnic differences have been an issue in the United States for centuries and racial stereotypes are deeply rooted in the mentalities of both white citizens and those of color. Unfortunately, complete elimination of this problem is impossible at this stage, but its minimization can be implemented. For that, the American leaders need to enforce a number of policies and regulations concerning the education of citizens and the mass media content biases.
A History: The Construction of Race and Racism. (n. d.). Racial Equality Tools. Web.
An Introduction to Hate Crime Laws. (n. d.). ADL. Web.
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Fields, B. J. (n. d.). Slavery, Race and Ideology in the United States of America. Web.
Nakagawa, S. (2013). For racial healing, we need to get real about racism. Web.