There are many subtle forms of racism that exist in our society today. It’s a complex issue and is shaped by people’s upbringing and experiences. We have improved by strides in race relations over the last several decades, but there is unfortunately still a problem.
The other day I was talking from a friend who I will say was from Mexico(he is from elsewhere but I don’t want to imply a certain race is more prejudiced). Another friend, who I will say is from Thailand, approached us and was introduced to my Mexican friend. After the pleasantries he asked him where he’s from. The Thai guy said “Oh you don’t look Mexican, your skin is lighter. I would would say you look more European. Girls are gonna like you.” Then he goes on, saying (not exact wording but this meaning) “That’s a good thing that you don’t look like you’re Mexican.”
Many times you’ll hear a person talk about someone who did something wrong, perhaps being very rude at a store or cutting you off. Someone will then ask, “Where was he from? ” or “What did he look like?” These types of questions are not so innocent when you think about them.
It’s not the first time I’ve been informed about people’s predilection for light skin. And it’s apparently going on in the media also. A popular African-American singer/actress was recently exposed in an advertisement with much lighter skin than she really has. I once took a course about Mexican American literature and we learned about how in Mexico there’s a strong correlation between the color of peoples skin and their social status. In the past it was much more acute as the Spaniards had strict control of the country. I’ve pondered this issue before – it’s true that our society still ascribes a subtle stigma to dark skin color. Whose society, you may ask? Unfortunately, most of the world.
Once I was browsing through the magazine archives of my library and came upon something interesting. I was looking through old issues of “Parent” magazine, from the 1960s and early 1970s. I browsed through, looking at pictures of cute babies, of mothers and families. I browsed randomly through dozens of magazine issues and only found one story with an artists picture of African-American children. Other than that it was only white children. We are talking about a family magazine also, not the National Rifle Association or hunting magazine(which if you look through today you will probably see 99% Caucasian people).
There was also a famous study that showed that toddlers clearly had a preference for “white” dolls than “black” ones. Little wonder, though, when mostly what you find in the stores and on commercials are “white” dolls. They should just make them all a medium complexion like peach-colored or light brown. Until very recently, Disney had never had one movie with a black character. My nieces are enchanted by princesses, and it’s cute but sometimes it makes you wonder how strong of an effect it makes on kids.
I live in Louisiana, and everyone has a stereotype about us being a more racist state(but hey we did elect the first Indian-American governor). Undoubtedly, Katrina damaged our reputation and showed that segregation still exists. But Bush’s mother demonstrated that southerners don’t have a monopoly on racism when she was quoted saying that the refugees in Houston’s Astrodome were “underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them.” That’s so racist and ridiculous it’s sort of funny.
I usually do not hear people saying racist things in my daily routine. I know it exists underneath, though. Once I was at a barber shop and while I was getting my haircut there was an old man making very racist comments about blacks. He was in his 50s or 60s, and he made a few explicitly racist comments – in fact, the worst I’ve heard yet. It was disturbing and the other barbers were quiet while he went on in his tirade against blacks. That was also disturbing – the barbers did not object or condemn what he had to say, and so by keeping quiet they acquiesced. I decided against speaking out, because I thought that this old guy is probably so hard in his ways I would just be igniting a firecracker. Looking back I should have at least said something like “I can’t believe what I’m hearing” or “this is racist talk.” By being quiet I was at best careless.
Even our football team, the Saints, have fueled racism. We used to have a quarterback named Aaron Brooks, an African-American. He was a very good quarterback, but did make some dubious decisions and let down the fans a lot. This wouldn’t be such a big deal normally, because it’s a sport. But I heard it on the radio, with my own ears, how people unfairly lambasted him. They would attack his intelligence frequently. I would vicariously feel the pain of African-American callers who complained about how Aaron’s mistakes were sometimes being used to further a sinister argument. Unfortunately, in football there is still a disproportionately small number of African-America quarterbacks and coaches.
As a child I clearly remember feeling more scared of blacks than whites. Society’s effects on kids are oftentimes more telling than academic surveys. As a kid I had the idea, like most kids probably, that most criminals were black, and that black people were more likely to mug or assault you.
Living here for 21 years I can now confidently say that the vast majority of blacks are very friendly and likeable people. I once had a flat tire at school in a parking lot, and a young African-American man came out of the blue and helped me a lot – in fact he saved me at least an hour. And once a strange event happened to me: I was walking near a small airport at night because I had come to pick up my brother and I guess I may have looked suspicious. So this young African-American man drove by me in a Nissan Altima, and asked me what I was doing, but it was with the tone of a warning, like he was suspicious of me. After I explained that my young brother was training for a pilot’s license with Gulf Coast Aviation, he came out the car and cordially shook my hand, and I understood that he was just being cautious in the beginning. I think It’s more likely that rich, spoiled people of all races have more of a selfish outlook and would be less likely to lend a hand like the one who helped me with my tire.
Ironically, Louisiana is not really as racist as other areas of the U.S. I believe Alabama, Texas, and Tennessee have at least as much overt racism as Louisiana. The point is that its quite widespread and this needs to change.
The unfortunate reality is that there is lots of fuel for prejudice nowadays. The O.J. Simpson case demonstrated that, as does statistics about who commits robberies, murders, etc. Even the average SAT scores nationwide can be used to fuel racism or prejudice.
Martin Luther King Jr. opened our eyes to the hope of a better future. It’s a hopeful start that the U.S. elected its first African-American president, but from looking at the electoral maps, it’s clear not everyone is on board. Obama had a polarizing effect on voters, and a lot of rhetoric and insult thrown against him was disgusting. It’s sad that people are still being judged or evaluated based on their skin color and names. Does anyone choose their DNA? You were born as who you are. Nobody respects Michael Jackson much for changing his skin color(and messing himself up physically by the way). I’m not trying to sound corny, but every race really is beautiful. It has been observed before that very young children naturally will play with another child of any color, and they don’t discriminate. Of course there are some differences between ethnic groups, but that shouldn’t cause us to blanket a whole people with criticism. People should celebrate their diversity and recognize their fundamental humanity – that we’re all 99.9% the same underneath that very superficial layer of pigment.