Racism Essay, Research Paper
As a child, Ray Charles attended a blind school. The teachers divided the class between the blacks and the whites, even though they could not see each other. This was done to teach the students that even though there was no difference between them, other people would relate to them based on the color of their skin. The society that existed back in Charles’ still exists today in many different aspects, ranging from racism against religions, color, and gender. Racism is a problem that plagues our nation today.
People fall into categories of groups usually based upon ethnicity and race. Sociologists study the behavior of individuals in different groups. The minority group is referred to as the group which they are being discriminated upon. The majority group is considered to be doing all the discriminating. People associate the majority as the group with the greatest number of people. The minority is associated as being the small group. A good example of how this is not correct is the pre-Civil War era. Blacks easily outnumbered the plantation owners. The majority in this case was the blacks, even though they were still discriminated upon. “The majority uses minority groups for a lot of the’dirty work’ — those jobs that are undesirable to most people, yet are necessary to keep the society going.” (Stewart 8-11)
The way a majority group relates to a minority group is affected by any of thier prejudices. As noted by Stewart, “Prejudice is the belief that you can know people because of their race or the country their ancestors were from. Sometimes prejudice causes us to believe we know what someone is like because of his or her sex or religion. Prejudice allows you to think you know somebody without knowing him or her at all!” (11-12)
A persons’ prejudices against a group of people are thought of or determined by their ideas about the group. These images and ideas about the group are called stereotypes. Stewart describes a stereotype as, “… a mental picture we carry around with us to help us deal with people on a day-to-day basis.” (13) Stereotypes dealing with minorities are usually negative. The stereotypes of the group help strengthen the majorities’ beliefs that they are superior and the minority is inferior. (Stewart 13)
There are various stereotypes for various minorities. Blacks are usually thought of as being lazy or dishonest to the majority group. To men, woman are thought of as too emotional and too weak to handle responsibilities and situations. People who have Polish ancestry are sometimes pictured as being ignorant and slow-witted. With all the stereotypes of today, it seems that there is no end to the many different ways majorities refer to and categorize minorities. (Stewart 14)
Certain use of words can hurt different people. If you were talking with a group of other people and someone used a negative stereotype, that person may be offended if it applies to them or someone they know. If a white person used the ‘N’ word to associate to African Americans, or if a man calls a woman a ‘babe.’ The person being offended can speak up by letting the other know they do not want to hear the language used around them. People should be very well aware that words hurt. If you know you have said something wrong, it is best to say that you are sorry right away instead of causing the person pain further on. By apologizing, it will help be more excusable. “Don’t use negative words if you don’t belong to that group.” (Bowman-Kruhm 112)
Over the past generations, the meanings of words in some contexts have changed. By changing the way a word is pronounced, or by accompanying a gesture with it, the meaning of the word might vastly change. The word bad, for example, literally means “not-good,” however when it is pronounced slightly different as “ba-ad,” it really means “good.” The reason for this change in language was that the slaves had created an ambiguous language that was meant to be completely misunderstood by the plantation owner, so they could somewhat speak in private. (McKissak 46)
According to McKissak, “No racial name has been more devastating or confusing to a whole race of people than nigger.” (44) The word “nigger” has been used in context by poets, about its’ pain, and has been somewhat commonly used by comedians to laugh it out. To some people, being called a ‘nigger’ will anger them and cause them to go into a violent rage. However, to others, refering to another person as a ‘nigger’ will commonly be used as a friendly reference to a friend. The word Nigger comes from the latter niger, which really means “black.” When Africans were captured, they were referred to as nigers. Post-Civil War times, the word ‘nigger’ has been used to be more powerful as an insult to anger a person, like it does to many today. “White supremacists would not accept being equal to black people.” (McKissak 44)
Perhaps the most major concerns of racism is from the cause and effect of name calling and put-downs. Names or name calling are used like weapons to spark an argument against a person and put them in anger. A slur is directed towards a specific ethnic group in order to make the person feel anger, embarrassment, guilt, hostility, pain, or shame. McKissak notes that in an interview, “Students admitted that they had used racial slurs when angered.” Most of these students said that they had made racial jokes and used ethnic names, but they did not use them for the intent of hurting the other person. “It’s kind of the way we talk”, the students say. (McKissak 40)
Racism does not only exist between ethnic groups, it also exists between differences in gender. In the past years, men and women have entered job fields from which they had long been excluded from. Men who hold jobs that are mostly populated by women, such as a nursing job or a secretarial job, may encounter some prejudices. They may be verbally harassed by others for holding such a job. Sometimes to the extent people assume that the person is gay based on the work that they do. (McKissak 40)
The past history of the economy also deals with racism. “Economic greed has been cited as the primary source of American bigotry toward people of color.” (McKissak 16) Many fortunes were made in the slave trade business. Africans had been brought into the early American colonies, put into labor, and were given no wages. “Mexican, Native American, and Asian workers, though not formally enslaved, were also exploited for economic gain.” (McKissak 16) Justification was necessary for slavery to continue in a nation that was founded on principles of freedom and justice. “Racism provided a ready answer.” (McKissak 16)
To make a persons’ prejudices clear to another person or group, they will often use acts of discrimination against them. Using discrimination will reassure the person that their prejudices are known and the person is kept at a distance. Acts of discrimination only need begin with one person. It does not matter how many people are involved in the act itself. It still only takes a single being to start. (Bowman-Kruhm 15)
In existance, racism is a problem that plagues our nation today. A majority is a group that discriminates against a minority, and it is not based upon numbers. Stereotypes are images thought of by people to describe the minority and are usually always negative. From these negative stereotypes, when used can incite anger and possibly violence among others. The stereotypical use of words among certain people have a unique history behind them and therefore should not be made fun of. Racism not only exists between different colored people, but also between different genders and ethnicities.
Bowman-Kruhm, Mary and Claudine Wirths. Coping with Discrimination and Prejudice. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, 1998.
McKissak, Patricia and Fredrick. Taking a Stand Against Racism and Racial Discrimination. New York: Franklin Watts, 1990.
Stewart, Gail B. The Facts About Discrimination. New York: Crestwood House, 1989.