Racial Inequality in America
According to the site USLEGAL, racial inequality refers to the activity of discrimination of/against particular ethnic/ racial groups (usually minorities) on opportunities existent as pertaining to their overall socio-economic advancement, in addition to access to fundamental basics such as good products/ goods and services. In the United States of America the above is evident through a number of specific social arenas, worsening the already delicate situation existent in the US. Specifically, it is the skewed nature of the American criminal justice system, which as a whole, symbolically represents the power relations in America’s dynamic social strata. However, not all is lost in the universal fight against the racism and racial discrimination and eradication of it, as both the ideologies and practices of racism have received global condemnation by the United Nations through the all-important Declaration of Human Rights.
From the aforementioned, there are the negative resultant consequences of racial inequality, these espoused in contemporary racial stereotyping, the institutionalization of discrimination, in addition to existent biased socio-economic, religious and political dynamics of the contemporary global social strata. It is critical to note that the superiority-inferiority complex based on racial differentiation is among others, morally condemnable, scientifically false (proven), and socially unjust, hence, dangerous. Historically, as aforementioned, racism has been a part of historical dynamics, with ideological and political underpinnings, resulting in such atrocities as the Jewish Holocaust, the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, and other discriminative actions as espoused in historical colonial contexts (Dalton 56).
Race and the aspect of racial inequality have been powerful shaping forces (dynamics) of American history since its founding era. Its foundation, on the one side, was rooted in the universally acclaimed ideal of the Quest for Freedom as espoused by the need for religious and later both political and economic liberation, vis-à-vis the equally true historical experience of brutal domination tactics, oppression and inequality. These are the best espoused in the form of Southern slavery practices and ownership of slaves (African-Americans). Hence, the great American paradox: how could the Universal ideal of Human Rights and Freedom (equality) coexist with the savage reality of slavery and racial discrimination?
To answer the above critical question one would have not only to observe the America’s internal political system, but also a wholesome perspective of global ideologies and historical events, which especially shaped the 18th to 20th centuries era. Through an exploration of the nature of America’s racial inequality in terms of contemporary realities and historical variations, one, hence, is able to clarify what these notions of racism, and racial inequality as pertaining to the American social setting means.
Racism means not only to harm those racially discriminated/ oppressed, but also those within the existent dominant groups. As pertaining to contemporary American socio-economic and political dynamics, race and the practice of racial discrimination has not only been experienced by Black Americans, but also by other groupings considered ethnic/ racial minorities in the US such as the Native (Indian) Americans, Chinese-Americans and Mexican-Americans among others. Through an overall interaction of variant, yet interrelated experiences, events and ideals, the contemporary American society has been shaped (Bonilla-Silva 67).
One should take cognizance of the fact that a core misunderstanding exists as pertaining to contemporary racial classifications based on observable physical characteristics/ differences between the global populations. However, race is a social categorization ideal, and not a biological one, as to the prevailing practices and ideals. Social conventions generally define how existent racial classifications are translated into race categorization through the traits, overall treatment and translation in contemporary society.
A variety of factors rooted in socio-economic, religious and judicial arenas have influenced the present-day American relations, pertaining to the aspect of racial discrimination. Though, being more focused on African-Americans does not mean that other minorities do not experience prejudices, rather that the former, is a symbolic representation of the decadent racial inequalities present. A person is considered Black, if he/she possesses any African ancestry, reflecting the one-drop rule standard system, as pertaining to racial classifications after the American Civil War.
The continued plight of Black African-Americans in the US is accentuated by the reality that, as a nation, Americaviews itself as the first and leading multinational society. The status of Black Americans continues to elicit public outrage as best espoused in the myriad of debates over existent social policy issues. This is symbolized in the existent tension between the aspects of separateness and assimilation, education and social welfare, residential segregation and affirmative action/ movements (Henry 56).
In addition to this, there is a fact that, instead of a white-black racial divide, contemporary American society espouses a marked division between not only African-Americans and Whites, but also between the former and an existent constellation of other racial/ ethnic groupings as represented by immigrants from the Caribbean, Latin America, Southeastern Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. The division exists between contemporary race theorists as pertaining to the true nature of America’s segregation and discrimination based on the aspect of race.
A host of race theorists such as Patricia Williams and Derrick Bell are of the assertion that racism in America’s society is simply and truly a structural reality as it is promoted in different institutional biases, especially towards Black Americans due to their continuous oppression and an overall lack of opportunity for this group. Others, however, are of the opinion that the institutionalization of racism is no longer existent in America’s institutions, but that this is utilized as an avenue of creating Black Power, in addition to, holding White Americans liable for initial slavery and the resultant negative aspect of racial segregation.
The present nature of American politics and socio-economic arenas, though, is fundamentally impacted by among others, the May 17th, 1954, Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court Decision is still distinctly divided in terms of racial equality, freedom and opportunity prospects. The factors include the Abolition of Slavery Act, the Civil Liberties Act and the Equal Protection Clause as found in the 14th Amendment of America’s Constitution, etc. This racial segregation/ discrimination policy is traceable to the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court case, which eluded to the ideal that as long as the separate existent facilities for the segregated races were of equal standards, then such racial segregation was not in violation of the aforementioned 14th Amendment (Eliav-Feldon 34).
The aforementioned Brown v. Board of Education Case, which eventually did succeed in outlawing racial segregation, unfortunately has not had wholesome effect as a majority of Americans, especially those from the minorities, continue experiencing both direct and indirect resultant consequences of racism and racial segregation. Different causes/factors, have led to existence of contemporary racial discrimination, mainly being rooted in historical events. Such would include – the negative utility of racial minorities as strikebreakers, in 19th and 20th century industrial strikes, hence, deepening the already negative resentments towards blacks and other minorities.
Another contributing and still strongly influential factor was the Southern Strategy, which was utilized by the Republican Party under Nixon’s administration in the 1960s and 70s. Purported racial fears were intentionally utilized to cajole the white working-class into changing their allegiance to the Republican arena, from the Democrats side. It consequently ushered in America’s era of Conservative politics, which in the ultimate end, considerably also harmed white workers’ economic interests, through a weakening of trade and workers’ unions, in addition to a reduction of job security as well as a lowering the minimal wage.
Another causal factor would be the overall effect of racism’s undermining of universal aspects as pertaining to the welfare state. A paradox exists where contrary to the ideal that universal programs are applicable to all people; race, religion, socio-economic standards and political ideologies notwithstanding, the existence of American welfare programs being targeted at specific, designated groups, runs contrary to the aforementioned notion. Such targeted programs are the most often not well funded and, hence, not effective in the robust improvement of American lives, especially those in the bottom social strata (Eliav-Feldon 45).
The overall application of the 1930s New Deal strategy faced opposition from Southern Democrats, who alluded to the fact that the universal application of such policies would also benefit Black Americans, despite the scale of the South’s poverty levels. They were extremely conservative to social welfare issues espoused in their effective blockage of national universal social welfare programs. An example includes the overall exclusion of black labor (African-Americans) from the right to Union representation in the legislation, which set about the basic agenda of both Labor Law and Union’s rights.
The same was applicable in the social security arena, which excluded both agricultural labor and domestic workers (mostly African-Americans and other minorities), from representation. Though a majority of such negative aspects (New Deal exclusions) have either been reversed or eliminated, the existent American social welfare system still remains averse to present systems as experienced in the rest of the leading Western capitalist democracies.
An overlapping sequence of historical events, as partly seen in the above, defined the way racial relations are shaped up in contemporary America. From geographical displacement and genocide that ensured pertaining to early settler dealings with the indigenous populations of Indians; to the advent of Black American slavery; followed by second-class citizenship policies, rules and regulations; to issues, pertaining to non-citizen labor to the contemporary diffusion of racial discrimination, all the above contributed immensely to the presentation of American social divisions (Dalton 79).
Second-class citizenship ideals and philosophies also have influence on the socio-economic and political arenas in the US, as exemplified by situations where laws exist, prohibiting former felony convicts from voting, the utility of policing practices and tactics that are targeted at certain groupings for the enforcement of stricter law. This is, in addition to the judicial practice of systematically imposing stiffer jail sentences on specific categories of people. Furtherance is the existence of public policies, which treat specific racial categories worth than others, in terms of respect, especially symbolized in the delayed, uncoordinated and dragged-out disaster management after the unfortunate advent of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The issue of land control, especially in the era after America’s Civil War, brings out aspects of segregation as the large landowners though having lost their cheap and effective labor force (former, now free slaves), settled on the system of share-cropping, as a means of effective land use. However, because of economic vulnerability of the politically weak and the availability of landless folk, such owners took advantage and manipulated the local or state authority and policy towards their viewpoints, especially in the South.
Vagrancy laws used to prevent better Black employment opportunities were also common, though, on a downward scale as America progressed into the 21st century. Such policies have had adverse effects on the Black American community in the US, as they impeded their socio-economic forward mobility. The widespread utility of violence, especially in the period 1880-1920, against black communities in the South; by the state-backed White Ku Klux Klan, caused irreversible damage to present Southern folk relations. Lynchings were common occurrences, as the official state policy supported the violence against the blacks (Bonilla-Silva 94).
Laws or policies, which were against interracial marriages, also impacted negatively on overall social synthesis as did the segregated education system (social welfare) as aforementioned in the Brown v. Board of Education case. Furtherance was the Federal Government’s support of segregationist ideals in both the Armed Forces and the President Wilson imposed segregation of the civil service (1913). As aforementioned, landmark Federal rulings and legislation, especially on the crucial arenas of Labor rights, laws and social security (welfare) also contributed greatly towards racial discrimination.
Voting laws against black felony convicts’ rights to vote, even after serving time, continues to racially segregate Black Americans, as the latter constitute a large percentage of prison (both Federal and state) inmates. As mentioned above, police practices and activities, also contribute immensely to the racial division, as Black Americans are more often associated with criminality, alcohol and drug sale and abuse, in addition to violence, hence, a frequency of searches, arrests and on an extreme case gun violence and deaths.
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Social welfare, pertaining to medical/ health care and education arenas, also provides an avenue towards the division being due to the fact that greater value is accorded to specific citizens’ interests and well being. Racialized non-citizen labor, especially towards the Hispanic minorities, further dented existent relations as a lacking in full citizenship rights made such persons very vulnerable to different forms of exploitation, as a lack of documentation denies those avenues of protection and defense of rights (Henry 43).
Diffuse discrimination pertains to the inert (ingrown) discriminative action against persons of other specific races. At times backed by the existent State legal powers, this includes aspects of employment and advancement based on race, the renting of living space, the sale of land, the difficulty of getting bank loans and the preferential treatment of certain citizens in the overall service industry. America’s history continues to shape and influence on the race relations and it is through a number of measures that such losses can be reversed or at least halted.
The strict adherence to existent Civil Rights laws, especially the Omnibus Civil Rights Act (1964) among a host of other statues and judicial decisions, would be a start. These rights if observed would lead to a better coexistence of America’s diverse populations, the basis not being on character, but on content. Secondly, would be the revision and better enhancement of the existent Voting Rights Act. It would be a step further, as the positive counter-effects of these measures would be widespread. Thirdly, there would be a relook and, hence, recommitment to the Fair Housing Act (1968) through the stricter adherence and policy regulation. Enforcement provisions need stronger enforcement provisions, in addition to legal judicial backing.
Additionally a wider role-playing capability, as pertaining to employee and employment issues, in addition to greater funding and judicial enforcement, would go a long way in further, aiding the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in ensuring greater working rights and standards. Furtherance is the need for keeping the momentum as pertaining to aggressive policy against hate crimes and criminal activities. The federal Hate Crimes Sentencing Enhancement Act (1994) provides a stepping-stone towards the achievement of the above. Additionally, it is the Hate Crime Statistic Act (1990), which if fully implemented, will aid in the Justice Department’s intervening in suspected hate crimes.
The prosecution of past crimes, especially as pertaining to the Civil Rights era, would be a welcomed advantage as tensions would be eased through a show of a strive for Justice, and due recourse. The current wealth disparities, as best represented by existent poverty statistics/ index, continues to be a major factor not only in term of racial relations, but also in the crime rates which have resulted in a big Black American prison population. Through neighborhood desegregation, a mix of different populations will be able to interrelate and mingle freely, hence, aiding in the dismantling of racial tensions (Dalton 91).
In conclusion, from positive Supreme Court rulings on affirmative action to the resolute enforcement of anti-discriminatory rules and laws, the assimilation, integration and accordance of full citizenship status to ethnic and racial minorities will help to win the fight against racism and racial discrimination. Through traditional strategies on civil rights, in addition to, a redirection of American perspectives will a majority of ills, negative experiences and consequential results be mitigated and possibly
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Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo. Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States. Lanham, Maryland, USA.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc, 2003. Print.
Dalton, Leigh E. “The Cause of Racial Inequality in America Today: Innocent Victims or Guilty Victimizers?” May 2008. SELECTED WORKS. Electronic. 8 April 2013.
Eliav-Feldon, Miriam, Isaac, Benjamin, Ziegler, Joseph. The Origins of Racism in the West. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009. Print.
Henry, C. Michael. “The New Geography of Inequality in Urban America”. Race, Poverty, and Domestic Policy. New Haven, New York: Yale University Press, 2004. Print.