Around 57 years ago the Martin Luther delivered a famous speech which became known as “I have a dream” during a meeting of 250,000 people including black and white at Lincoln Memorial in Washington in August 1963 while millions watched him on televisions. His words were “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out these truths that all the men are created equal. I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaveholders will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”.
Racism is part of American society and its roots can be traced back to slavery period when millions of humans were brought from Africa. Racism has always survived in the American society and it didn’t come to an end even after the civil rights movement in 1960s by which was led by famous Martin Luther King. Racism was openly seen in the era of segregation and it was the time white and the black people couldn’t use the same facilities provided for the public, they can’t go to the same restaurants, can’t use same public transport, can’t go to same schools etc.
The Civil Rights Movement which led to the abolition of segregation and officially made the African American as equal citizens of USA, however the Racism remained part of the society and it evolved in all years after. It would be very difficult to understand or explain the modern form of racism in USA as it existence cannot be easily observed as compared the segregation or slavery period. Many American citizens were hopeful that with the election of 44th (later on also became 45th) President of USA Barack Obama, the racism may come to an end. During one of his speech he mentioned that he also faced racism in childhood.
What is Race
Division of people into groups on the basis of physical or social qualities is known as race. It is what you see, then you develop associations with the help of that vision, without race humans may be lost in the oceans of humanity. There common attributes to signify the groups of humans on basis of race are,
- Color of skin and hair
- Complexion of face (Cheeks, ears, lips, nose etc)
- Shape of Skull
- Color of eyes (Black, brown, blue etc)
- The Type of Eyelid
What is Racism
Racism is a faith that a specific race is superior or inferior to another, the traits of a person are determined by his/her inborn biological characteristics.
Racism in USA
There are three types of racism in modern day American society which can be divided as individual, institutional and cultural. The behavior towards any inferior group in a society is an individual racism. The unequal opportunities of jobs, unequal policies, difference in housing etc. is institutional racism while cultural racism evolves around the beliefs that some particular group or culture of majority is more valuable than that of others. The forms of modern day racism also result in several economic and daily life issues for the African Americans and also the Americans of different color other than white. When they don’t get equal educational opportunities, equal job opportunities they are left behind in the race of life and hence they are limited to the lower or lower middle class of the society. There is a significant difference in earnings and households of African Americans and even at comparable levels of income the gaps are still there.
The racism by the police against the African Americans can be traced back to the slavery and it is one of the oldest of form of racism in the American society. A black American kid Tamir Rice aged 12 was killed in a park, Rekia Boyd shot at a party, according to an estimate around 300 black Americans are killed by police in a year, however the exact figure cannot be obtained. Very recently a Black American George Floyd died in the state of Minnesota in police custody, outrage erupted in the society, protests around the country which led to the arrest of the police officer. Huge rallies were conducted in different parts of USA, Americans recorded their protest against Racism and its modern-day forms. People demanding free and fair case against the police officer involved in the killing. The killing of Black American George Floyd sparked the anger among the Americans, the violent clashes show the anger among people due to the continuous racist policies and racist behavior of white Americans towards others.
Types of Racism in USA
Racism can be divided into three types, individual racism in which a member trying to create a discrimination or support inequalities among groups members. The second form is institutional racism in which a specific group is marginalized, they don’t get equal opportunities etc. The third form is of cultural racism in which a specific race considers itself as more sacred or superior that others.
Individual Racism is when a person thinks or believes that he/she is superior than others because of color, their background etc. In USA the white Americans believe that they are superior that the Americans of other colors and this racism is reflected in every day field. The black Americans or from different colors face racism issues in their daily routine and this superiority thinking is tracked back to the time of slavery when Africans were brought to USA.
It involved the use of policies to benefit certain group of class of people in a society. In USA there are discriminatory policies in most of its institutions, before the Civil Movement against the racism, there were different schools, transport, restaurants etc for the non-white Americans in USA and they had to face open racism in the society. They were not being given the equal opportunities of jobs, a white American was preferred if he/she applied for any job.
When dominating group exerts power or tries to formulate the cultural values for the society this is called Cultural Racism. This includes the priority of own culture and its implementation of the minority groups, like the minority groups are forced from different ways and means to adopt the cultural values of the majority group or the group which is in power and feel superiority over others.
Johan Galtung’s CAB Model
Johan Galthung’s conflict triangle or CAB model explains all the facets which have a role to play in any conflict.
There are three different factors like (A) Attitude/Assumptions, (B) Behavior, (C) Context/Contradiction, when they combine together it results in a violent conflict.
It’s the latent stage of any conflict where people face racism, discriminatory issues, people may not feel at this stage it as a conflict but they do recognize that there are problems like this in a society and racist behaviors are being adopted by those who feel superior or consider others as inferiors.
This is also part of latent stage, in this people think that they are being marginalized or becoming victims of structural violence. They believe that there is inequality in the society and they are not getting the equal economic opportunities or they are being kept away from the opportunities by design. This also includes the feelings of people that distribution of opportunities by governing body are unequal and certain community is getting more benefits.
The two categories of (A) Attitude and (C) Context/Contradiction when joined together they transform the conflict from latent stage to manifest stage and as a result of that we see violence in the society, people start rebel against the authorities, they use violent means to portray their anger against the discriminatory behavior they have been facing in latent stage of conflict.
The killing of a African American in a state of USA has sparked anger and people came out on roads to record the protest, in some areas there were violent clashes with the police and LEAs. People have burnt the public properties, government forced to impose curfew in some areas. The killing of a man was just a trigger point, however the black or people other than White Americans are victims of racism in every part of life, they face racism in schools, institutions, restaurants and many other public places. The ex-President of USA Mr. Barack Obama also mentioned in one of his speech that he faced racism in his childhood. Racism is deeply rooted in the American society which may not go away easily, the superiority complex which is in the minds of white people has taken deep roots over there and its centuries old issue which may not fully go away even after adopting several policies to address this issue. The racism at institutional level may be addressed by change in policies but the racism at individual level may not be wiped off.
Qasim Mehmood is an Islamabad-based research analyst. He completed his MPhil from National Defense University, Islamabad and focuses on research areas including Ethnic Conflict, US foreign policy, International relations of South and Southeast Asia, Regional integration, and Developments in Indo Pacific.