Racism Reality In American Society

Perspective is key; it allots insight into those things that need to be further explored. I understand that no one person has spent every single second with me, save for me. And that is how it works for everyone–the human experience. The first moments of my life, all I knew was how to cry, and that feels unreal compared to what I know and experience now. And certainly no one can understand how I view things, because they have not had the same life experiences as me, and even if many were shared, the perspective was not. Framing comes into play due to this. When people try to make sense of ideas or events, they view situations with their own bias of experience. Frames are put in place, and the ideologies of those we grew up with become our own (although not true for everyone), until we are essentially allowed to make decisions for ourselves; at which point, it is already too late. When I converse with others about—well, anything, differences are automatically noticed, and I do not often have the same thoughts as them, this is because my frame is different than theirs. The “color-blind” frame argues that people do not think about race when they try making sense of things. And that is because for them, race is not salient. If someone does not tend to consider race when making sense of a situation it could apply to, then it means that person has never been oppressed due to his or her race, and that race has never been posed as a problem for him or her. These people think that racism does not exist as a large problem anymore, and if it does come up, it’s just a rare case. As a person of color, I have been told that racism is not too big of a problem anymore. And who am I to say no, it does exist, when it’s not in huge acts, but in a lot of small acts. That just makes me the annoying person who is always trying to play the race card. I feel as if incidents like the one here at GVSU where there was a case of discrimination reported on the news would be considered one of those “few and far between” cases. However, if I was the person telling me racism does not exist, I would be white, upper class, not really having to deal with many people of color, with more privileges than I could dream of. How am I supposed to know that racism exists? While the usage of framing is a completely natural and human method of interpretation, it can be destructive and anti-progressive. It is important to remember though, that just because people some people don’t see or understand issues with racism, classism, sexism, sexuality, gender, etc. , that they are not automatically a bad person. There are many good-hearted people in the world with good intentions; they just have not been exposed to these topics yet. We have all been ignorant to many of the controversial ideas we have discussed at one point or another, until there was a strong enough presence to help us to understand and learn more. The opportunity to learn is a blessing, because there are still some who never are challenged otherwise to open their minds.

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The issues outlined in Loot or Find: Fact or Frame? are centrally around Hurricane Katrina, and how the government was not doing much to help the people. A good friend of mine lived in Florida at age 11 when she and her family experienced Hurricane Katrina. She remembers having bitter feelings about the hurricane, because New Orleans was getting a lot of attention for it, and from her experience, she did not understand why. The year previous, Hurricane Ivan hit where she lived, and then proceeded to cause a lot of damage. Their family lost a lot of their things and so did several of her neighbors and friends. So, why was Katrina so much more important? Why wasn’t the government helping victims of the hurricane, because after Ivan hit, they were helped immediately. Her and her family were lucky enough to have a safe and comfortable space to evacuate, with plenty of food and water, when some people were absolutely not able to for Hurricane Katrina. At that age she did not understand how race could be factored into this situation at all. She thought that people in New Orleans were getting so much help because no one would ever stop talking about it, and they needed to just “get over it”, because they rebuilt quickly after Ivan. People still consider Hurricane Katrina as one of the big disasters today, and after I read “The New Jim Crow” by Michele Alexander, and heard my friend’s experience, I now understand why everything happened the way it did. I was ignorant to the brutality that our political system possessed. The ethical issues posed for the aftermath was that the government was rather slow in providing aid to those who could not get out. As a result of that, there was a plethora of people who were stuck in New Orleans, who lost everything they owned, with no one helping them. This turned New Orleans into an unsafe place full of debris, sexual assault, and death. It disturbs me that the whole city was left to suffer on its own for a while before the government decided to intervene while everyone just watched, happy that they were not in that position. But why was this happening? Might it be suggested that New Orleans is a city containing a significant number of people of color? Maybe no one wanted to help them, because you certainly cannot waste resources on a bunch of people who are definitely criminal.

They want your help, because they are too lazy to help themselves. This is what everyone was thinking as the Red Cross was denied access to the city to help the helpless. This is what everyone was thinking when cases of sexual assault were being ignored. This is what everyone was thinking when images were being published in the media with implications of black criminality, and implications of whites doing the right thing, when they were doing the same thing. This is what everyone was thinking as the government maintained its focuses on violence against property and violence against rescuers, as if they were dealing with a bunch of animals…and in what way is this okay? It is not okay. The media wrongly hyperbolized the violence situation in New Orleans. The victims of the hurricane ended up becoming criminalized. The government was worried about the safety of the rescuers, which is understandable, but what about the safety of the victims? Even if the rescuers were hurt, the number of helpers is still less than the number of people who need to be helped. Causes of Prejudice from Vincent Parillo considers the psychology and the sociology of prejudice, which can be used to explain (not justify) the actions of the oppressors. The psychology of prejudice exists on three levels, a cognitive, emotional, and action-oriented. The cognitive level of prejudice is ones beliefs about a group. Under the emotional level, there are actual feelings associated. Under the action-orientation level of prejudice, those feelings one might have about a particular group lend aid to how they treat them. All three levels can be positive or negative, although most think of prejudices to be strictly negative. How the aftermath was handled from Hurricane Katrina displays the three levels of (negative) prejudice associated with blacks that were prominently in the area at the time. The cognitive beliefs about blacks in this situation exposed a lack of worth for people that are considered to be lazy and undeserving.

The emotional feelings aroused were of fear and distrust when the government was pending aid due to worries of safety for the rescuers. Although, when the help finally came, there was no resistance from the victims, even though it was heavily expected. And the action-orientation showed a complete lack of disrespect for black people when assistance was withheld, and I remember that northern Florida did not receive that same treatment after Hurricane Ivan. Media and government both justified themselves in this case by placing their concern on the white people and their safety, at the same time placing their distrust on blacks with the frame of criminality and undermining their value. The socialization of prejudice has a piece in the puzzle, too. As a child, you only exist as a part of the family structure, which implies that you spend much of your time with them. The ideas and perceptions of ones parents can seep into the brains of their children, which includes good and bad. Children do not know any better, because the parents, the ones who are being trusted to raise a child and teach it right and wrong, are the ones doing this. So maybe, this child will grow up with prejudiced feelings towards different groups. Undoing these ideas believed to be true is hard, because they have been unconsciously slipped into the minds of children for years, and prejudices become okay. They are a social norm and it is easy to get away with because calling someone out tends to backfire, with claims that the oppressed party needs to calm down, they’re being way too serious. The civil rights movements and Brown vs. Board of Education did not dislodge the system of racism that everyone exists in. The negative feelings towards black people have not gone away, and I know this for certain because I have experienced them personally. Having lived in white communities for the larger part of my life, I understand how undesirable it is to be black, little snippets of conversations which include prejudices in which people are just “joking” allow me to laugh about it with them in that moment, but because I hate playing the race card, I just wallow in frustration in secret. The whole system of inequality is meant for people to be kept in their places. The privileged must remain privileged, and the oppressed must remain oppressed.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who do not believe this is the reality of the human experience. Mostly because it is not theirs. “For many, white privilege was being able to walk into a store and find that the main displays of shampoo and panty hose were catered toward your hair type and skin tone. It was being able to turn on the television and see people of your race widely represented. It was being able to move through life without being racially profiled or unfairly stereotyped. All very true. But it is much more broad than that. Those interpretations overshadow the origins of white privilege, as well as its present-day ability to influence systemic decisions. They overshadow the fact that white privilege is both a legacy and a cause of racism. And they overshadow the words of many people of color, who for decades recognized white privilege as the result of conscious acts and refused to separate it from historic inequities. (Collins, 2018). Michelle Alexander talks in her essay “The New Jim Crow” about the Criminal Justice System, the War on Drugs, and the mass incarceration of black people. She explains how the system works to trap Black Americans by rounding them up, arresting them and denying them legal representation, and once out of the prison environment, they have to face “invisible punishment”. This invisible punishment is the aftermath of being incarcerated. These men are not able to find a job anymore because no one wants to hire someone who was jailed, and they are denied housing or education as well. This makes them wind back up in jail. Roundups end up being legal because race is allowed to be a reason for a policeman to stop, search, and interrogate someone at random. Obviously policemen will not do this to white people, even though whites are just as likely to use drugs as anyone else is, because many policemen are white, and if there were mass roundups of white people, that would just offset the racial hierarchy already put in place. Since many Black Americans are poor, they end up living in ghettos where they get rounded up and searched routinely. This ensures that there are less and less black people who will have a successful future, because if all of them are in jail, there is no hope from that point on.

The Justice Approach of Ethics states that all equals should be treated equally. The United States Constitution states that, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” and if all men are created equal, then why are they being treated unequally? While drugs are illegal, why is it that policemen routinely go into only black ghettos to do their roundups, and not white communities too? To practice this is to suggest that POC are lower than whites, because there are people are going out of their way to ensure that black people don’t succeed. The execution of the War on Drugs should be treated with fairness towards all people, not one that gives a destiny of failure to blacks. The negative stigma and framing towards those of other races needs to stop, because it is just maintaining the racial hierarchy that people secretly believe to be true.

15 April 2020

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