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How Racist Is America?Research Paper

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¶ … racism changed since the civil rights movement, if so has it been a positive or negative change?

According to the law, there are two types of segregation commonly practiced: that of de jure (legally enforced segregation) and de facto (not legally mandated, but that which exists in fact). De jure racial segregation is now prohibited in the U.S. However, de facto segregation still exists in many (if not most) areas of the country. While de facto segregation may no longer officially be permitted, however, de jure segregation is still in many ways just as strong as it was before the Civil Rights movement thanks in part to the growing economic inequality in America.

Racism is also often classified as both an individual and a systemic problem. According to some people, racism is purely a personal issue: "Individual racism refers to an individual's racist assumptions, beliefs or behaviours" and is "a form of racial discrimination that stems from conscious and unconscious, personal prejudice" ("Forms of Racism," 2014). However, racism, particularly racism against certain, historically-discriminated against groups cannot be simply reduced to individual preferences in terms of its impact. "Individual racism is connected to/learned from broader socio-economic histories and processes and is supported and reinforced by systemic racism" ("Forms of Racism," 2014). Systemic racism is the product of 'the system' of racism and exists in two forms, institutional racism or "racial discrimination that derives from individuals carrying out the dictates of others who are prejudiced or of a prejudiced society" such as failing to hire someone because of their race and structural racism or the "inequalities rooted in the system-wide operation of a society that excludes substantial numbers of members of particular groups from significant participation in major social institutions" such as the fact that individuals born to privilege have better access to elite schools and thus greater promotional possibilities ("Forms of Racism," 2014).

The persistence of such racial achievement gaps despite court-mandated segregation is suggested by abundant statistical evidence. "Racial minorities are more likely than white students to be suspended from school, to have less access to rigorous math and science classes, and to be taught by lower-paid teachers with less experience" according to a recent study of New York City schools (Rich 1). This suggests that teachers are more inclined to perceive the behavior of African-American students as delinquent because of race-related reasons. "Black students are suspended and expelled at three times the rate of white students" (Rich 1). Even in preschool, African-American students are suspended more than white students. Furthermore, students, because of poverty, are often forced to attend schools with more limited opportunities than their more affluent white counterparts. "A quarter of high schools with the highest percentage of black and Latino students do not offer any Algebra II courses, while a third of those schools do not have any chemistry classes. Black students are more than four times as likely as white students -- and Latino students are twice as likely -- to attend schools where one out of every five teachers does not meet all state teaching requirements" (Rich 1).

The lack of access to education is clearly feeding the demonstrable wealth gap between blacks and whites: "Perhaps no statistic better illustrates the enduring legacy of our country's shameful history of treating black people as sub-citizens, sub-Americans, and sub-humans than the wealth gap…the median white household was worth $141,900, 12.9 times more than the typical black household, which was worth just $11,000. In 2007, the ratio was 10 to one. The divide between white families and Hispanics was similar" (Weissman 1). This chiasmic gap creates an endless cycle of a lack of opportunities which further feeds the gap.

Racial disparities also exist in terms of voting issues. Several critical sections of the Voting Rights Act (which mandated federal approval for changes in local election laws, due to a past history of racial injustice) were recently ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. In affected districts: "many of the counties in which black turnout is highest -- and even higher than that of whites -- are in districts where blacks are the majority. This is because the turnout of racial minorities tends to be higher in areas where they are more numerous" (Sides 1). It was found that "Whites in VRA-covered areas were more likely to agree with statements like 'If blacks would only try harder, they could be as well off as whites' and 'Blacks have too much influence in American politics today'" indicating to many that despite the Court's ruling that the VRA was no longer needed, there was substantive evidence that inequalities persisted between blacks and whites (Sides 1).

Voter ID laws are another example of how the strides made by the Civil Rights movement have been questioned: these laws make photo IDs mandatory for prospective voters and disproportionately affect those who are too poor or who are unable to obtain driver's licenses (the most common form of ID). Furthermore, they do little to actually prevent the fraud they were ostensibly put in place to prevent. "A Frontline analysis of voting laws nationwide found that only six of the 31 states that require ID at the polls apply those standards to absentee voters, who are generally whiter and older than in-person voters. And two states with strict photo ID policies for in-person voters -- Rhode Island and Georgia -- have recently passed bills that allow anyone to mail in a ballot" (Childress 1). This is despite the fact that mail-in voting has a higher rate of fraud than voting at polls.

Although housing discrimination is officially illegal, it too persists in many areas across the country. "Blatant acts of housing discrimination faced by minority home seekers continue to decline in the U.S., yet more subtle forms of housing denial stubbornly persist" (Gonzalez 1). One example is the ways in which people of color are 'presented' homes available for sale. "Real estate agents and rental housing providers recommend and show fewer available homes and apartments to minority families, thereby increasing their costs and restricting their housing options" (Gonzalez 1). Furthermore, economic disparities resulted in de facto segregation, as minorities lacked the economic clout to move into more exclusive neighborhoods and still struggled to a greater degree in obtaining fair mortgages. "Fewer minorities today may be getting the door slammed in their faces, but we continue to see evidence of housing discrimination that can limit a family's housing, economic and educational opportunities" (Gonzalez 1). Minorities, regardless of economic status are also more often shuttled into 'subprime' loans with high or adjustable interest rates. "African-Americans receive 2.4 times as many subprime loans as lower-income whites, while upper-income African-Americans receive 3 times as many subprime loans as do whites with comparable incomes. At the same time, lower-income Hispanics receive 1.4 times as many subprime loans as do lower-income whites, while upper-income Hispanics receive 2.2 times as many" ("Subprime lenders target minorities," CNN).

Housing and educational discrimination is especially concerning because of the extent to which it impedes regular close contact between whites and African-Americans and in many ways, familiarity is the best way to break down racial divisions. "Attitudes are not simply about the way you think about a group; they are also about how you feel about a group. In America, whites have been able to change their minds about racism faster than they have been able to change their deep-seated, and often unconscious, feelings. The vast majority of white Americans know we should be non-prejudiced and egalitarian. But the emotional impact, the 'gut' impact, that race has on people still lags behind. So, to truly change attitudes at their core requires direct interracial experiences that are positive and personal, and which replace feelings of fear and anxiety with those of empathy, connection and respect for members of another group" (Mills 28). Familiarity, far from breeding contempt, often promotes friendship as can seeing positive representations of minorities in popular culture. Still, the fact that an African-American has been elected president and African-Americans have assumed roles of power in cultural and business life should also not be summarily dismissed in their significance. Although Americans are often racially polarized regarding issues such as police violence, strides have been made in opening up the possibility for the advancement of African-Americans in a wider range of social and professional spheres as a result of the Civil Rights movement.

Although Barak Obama's election has not eradicated all of the injustices in America that are still being perpetuated due to racism, there is no doubt that his rise to power has had a significantly positive impact on African-American self-perceptions. For example, "a test-taking achievement gap between black people and white people disappeared after Obama's election" in one test designed by experimental researchers in the field of psychology (Gordon 1). This was seen as a mitigation of the stereotype threat: "stereotypes can creep into the minds of test takers, making them perform worse on tests because of the threat, rather than any… [END OF PREVIEW]

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