Obstacle Of Racism Essay, Research Paper
The Obstacle of Racism:
Will We Ever Overcome It?
One of the major social problems that Americans have been trying to tackle for years is the obstruction of racism. Racism, which is defined as ?the point of view that racial identity is or should be important in social affairs? (Zadrozny, 276), has plagued all of America for centuries gone, and unfortunately, is still present. (The focus of racism addressed in this dissertation will focus only on racism between whites and blacks, as the inclusion of other races may be too broad for the required length stated.)
This statement begs the question of why. Why of all the hurdles this country has crossed in the past century alone, such as woman?s suffrage (or right to vote), elimination of racial segregation, The Depression, etc., is an issue that appears to be so easily rectifiable still so prevalent and growing stronger, as opposed to diminishing everyday? The definition subliminally implies that racism is solely based on a matter of opinion or in fact that it is learned through an emphasized placement of racial identity placed in society.
Which leads to the question: how or by whom did racism evolve its place in society? According to William H. Tucker, the author of The Science and Politics of Racial Research, ?science first turned its attention to the concept of race in 1735 when the great biological taxonomist Carolus Linnaeus grouped human beings into four varieties–red, yellow, white, and black? (Tucker, 9). Although categorizing skin color was Linnnaeus? primary basis, he distinguished characteristics that were specific to each. He referred to the whites as keen minded and innovative, and characterized the blacks as being lazy and careless. This assumption that moral and mental traits were directly correlated was to inform many scientific investigations over the next two hundred years, but was revised and extended in 1781 by Johann Friedrich Blumenbach.
Blumenbach was the physiologist who is often referred to as the founder of modern anthropology. He revised the Linnaeus system by adding ?esthetic judgments to personal traits as possible elements of racial classification (Tucker, 9). Blumenbach also was the first person to use the word Caucasian, a word that he derived from the slopes of Mount Caucasus where he considered the ?most beautiful race? to have originated.
During the same time this revision was occurring, many natural scientists were taking their first steps to impose a new order, not just on human beings, but on all things inclusive in nature and was rapidly reaching its peak of popularity. The concept that ?inequality was the foundation of natural order? (Tucker, 10), rooted from an Aristotelian notion. Aristotle was an influential Greek philosopher and scientist whose logic was the ?ideal? and accepted logic until British scientist Charles Darwin modified the doctrine of the changelessness of species in the 19th century. #
When Darwin, a British naturalist, finally became successful in the proposal of his theory of natural selection in his publication of The Origin of Species, which proved that humans and apes evolved from similar ancestors, ?the long argument was started? (Shipman, 36). The thought that living things had evolved by natural processes denied the special creation of humankind and seemed to place humanity on a plane with the animals; both of these ideas were serious contradictions to orthodox theological opinion.# An opinion that compels that God is the creator of man. For many, this idea was difficult to grasp as truth as opposed to fallacy concocted by Darwin, but eventually his idea became more and more accepted. The further acceptance of Darwin?s theory caused, for many people, the ?abandonment of Christianity as a religion or system of belief–but not as a body of moral precepts or thoroughly Victorian emphasis on truth-telling, honor, or rectitude? (Shipman, 39). One of these people was Thomas Henry Huxley, a British biologist, which became known for his active support of Darwin?s theory of evolution. Although as a child Huxley and the members of his family were dutiful churchgoers, as he entered his mid-teens no longer deemed himself as a follower of Christianity, nor a disregarder of Christianity, but as a believer in agnosticism. According to Huxley, agnosticism was a doctrine that the existence of God and other spiritual beings is neither certain nor impossible. # He derived this term from the Greek word agnostikos, which means ?not knowing?.
Darwin applied his theory to all human beings unlike Charles White, an English physician and surgeon, who proposed in 1799, almost 50 years before Darwin?s theory, that blacks were a completely separate species that was intermediate between whites and apes. He derived at this point from his notion, solely based on characteristics, that ?the feet of blacks, their fingers and toes, their ?gibbous? legs, their hair, their cheekbones and chin, the length of their arms, the size of their skull and sex organs, and even their body odor placed them closet than Europeans to ?brute creation? (Tucker, 10). And with this claim, he concluded that blacks also possessed an inferiority quality that by nature placed them subordinate to whites. Thus, ?slavery was viewed as an expression of the harmony between natural law and social organization? (Tucker, 12).
But about thirty years later, White?s proposal became the target for abolitionists, whom were determined to uncover the negation ?between subordination of blacks and the universal equality recognized in both the Declaration of Independence, and the society?s traditional religious teachings? (Tucker, 12). But for those who were in favor of slavery, believed that the inferiority of blacks wan an unalterable fact. This marked the basis for a campaign to institute a scientific rationale for slavery and then the explanation of the variety of forms of postbellum racial oppression. Which eventually did take a toll when Darwin?s theory assumed its position of acceptance. However, this didn?t change the fact that Social Darwinist still believed that blacks occupied a lower step on the ladder of evolution and were intellectually inferior to whites with a clearly diverse set of cognitive characteristics. In the words of a professor of the University of Virginia (1913), ?to deprive the Negro of his own racial mental characteristics, and to substitute our own in their place,? would be impossible ?because no matter how much we educate him, no matter how much we better his position in society, he will remain a Negro physically as long as he remains a Negro physically? (Tucker, 140).
However, as with anything, ?science doth giveth and it doth taketh away?, because in the 1930?s and 1940?s, a dissimilar scientific transition began to take place called ?racial science?. This was the period of time where science shifted paradigms from an evolutionary perspective of development to a focus on the cultural differences that constructed diversity among human behavior. Social Scientist used as the basis for their research the element of racial segregation and succeeded that segregation, if continued, may have jeopardized the education of some of the more intelligent. This was one the greatest stepping stones for this period of time as the so-called racial equality began to take its toll.
Nevertheless, as I said before, ?science doth giveth and doth taketh away?, for the reason that segregation, although unlawful, is still present. One may ask how so? Well it is so in essence of social science with an emphasis on sociology which refers to ?the objective study of the regularities in the conduct of persons as members of groups or societies? (Zadrozny, 320). From this perspective, it is viewed that segregation is still in existence when we look at how areas are populated. In other words, from a societal perspective, the suburbs, which are often referred to as the ?burbs? are heavily populated with affluent whites, while the urban areas, more often referred to as ghettos, slums, or ?the downs? are heavily populated with poverty-stricken blacks. This is not an implication of racism, but merely my means of expressing how crimes and racism is intertwined in this web of segregation.
My means for exhibiting the difference in the living standards of blacks and whites comes down to how racism among the culturally different groups plays an active role in how crimes are viewed. By this placement of color coding among society, blacks are deemed to take and expect responsibility or consequences for their crimes, whereas many people of both races beg to differ where whites are concerned. For example, the Rodney King incidence, which was the occurrence of obsessive police brutality by four white policemen, proved to be one of the most controversial issues of crimes involving race, or in a more pragmatic manor of speaking, racism. Or in a more recent situation the Amadou Diallo case, where a man, who was unarmed and carrying only his wallet, was gun down and shot 19 times of the 41 bullets fired at him by four white policemen, all of which were found not guilty of use of excessive force, manslaughter, and other such charges. Now if this isn?t police brutality or the dispersement of racial bias, therefore racism, what is? And according to public opinion there is ?data showing that blacks are less accepting of police in general? which is evident in the Newsweek article, ?The Long Shadow of Amadou Diallo?. This type of excessive force does not surprise me in the least, but what does surprise me is that the four men freed of this excessive force were policemen whose duty is to protect and serve. This begs the question of protect and serve who? This is a question which we may never have an answer to, but as in all things, the truth shall someday come to the light where the answer will be clear to see, if not in sight, then hopefully in mind.
My original question, was whether or not we will ever overcome the occurrences of racism, maybe not, and in my opinion, maybe never. If it were an issue that I was able to control, I?m not sure I would change a thing because I come from a school of thought that has trained me to believe that all things happen for a reason, whereas nothing is coincidental. Or in other words, I believe that we as a people, or as individuals, are merely playing an active role in what is already written and was once before played out. So as for changing or trying to obstruct racism, I would have to bow down as it occurs, and take a stand only for what I believe in. Moreover, although I believe it is wrong, I believe it must occur.
Cose, Ellis. (2000). The Long Shadow of Amadou Diallo. Newsweek US Edition: Society [Online]. Newsweek.com: http://newsweek.com/nw-srv/printed/us/so/a17032-2000mar5.htm
Shipman, Pat. The Evolution of Racism. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994. 36, 39.
Tucker, William H. The Science and Politics of Racial Research. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994. 9-10, 12, 140.
Zadrozny, John T. Dictionary of Social Science. Washington, D.C.: Public Affairs Press, 1959. 276, 320.
THIS PAPER IS ABOUT HOW RACISM ORIGINATED AND SOME OF THE REASONS WHY IT STILL EXISTS