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Racism in the United States

M. D. Jackson is a college psychology professor, author, family counselor, and a mother of nine adult children.

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Examining Racism in the United States

To start this article, I want to explain my perspective so that the words that follow and their intentions will be understood. I love people. We rarely hear people make that statement, but in my case it’s the truth. I love learning about people “one-on-one” and hearing about their experiences. I am not a fan of crowds or groups, however people as individuals are awesome. I came about this love of people by being raised in Northern California’s melting pot in the 1970’s and 80’s. During that time and place we didn’t have concentrations of races in our community. I went to bilingual classes where we learned Spanish as a second language and cultural studies were a weekly part of our curriculum. Racism does not exist in my heart. Having taken the psychological study of unconscious bias and come up with no social bias, I can say that it has been scientifically proven that I am not racist and I don’t have social bias. Now that you know this we can move on to the topic of racism.

Race Facts in the United States

In 2016 the US census Bureau reported the following race statistics:

White 76%

Black 13.3%

Native American 1.3%

Asian 5.7%

Pacific Islander 0.2%

Two or more races 2.6%

Hispanic 17.8%

In 2015 the FBI documented, race was reported for 5,493 known hate crime offenders. Of these offenders:

  • 48.4 percent were White.
  • 24.3 percent were Black or African American.
  • 9.1 percent were groups made up of individuals of various races (group of multiple races).
  • 6.1 percent were Hispanic or Latino.
  • 1.0 percent (53 offenders) were Asian.
  • 0.9 percent (52 offenders) were American Indian or Alaska Native.
  • 0.1 percent (4 offenders) were Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander.
  • 16.2 percent were unknown. (sic, FBI, 2017)

The FBI also reported the following victim data for hate crimes in the US:

Racial Bias 59.2%

Religious bias 19.7%

Sexual orientation 17.7%

Gender Identity Bias 1.7%

Disability bias 1.2%

Gender Bias 0.4%

  • 52.2 percent were victims of crimes motivated by their offenders’ anti-Black or African American bias.
  • 18.7 percent were victims of anti-White bias.
  • 9.3 percent were victims of anti-Hispanic or Latino bias.
  • 3.8 percent were victims of bias against a group of individuals in which more than one race was represented (anti-multiple races, group).
  • 3.3 percent were victims of anti-American Indian or Alaska Native bias.
  • 3.2 percent were victims of anti-Asian bias.
  • 1.1 percent were victims of anti-Arab bias.
  • 0.1 percent (6 individuals) were victims of anti-Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander bias.
  • 8.1 percent were victims of anti-Other Race/Ethnicity/Ancestry bias.

What are these statistics telling us? They tell us first that race is the number one factor of hate crimes. The second thing they are telling us is that more often than not these crimes are between white and black people. Black people make up around 13% of the US population so why is there such an extreme in terms of racial tension? Perspective and education are the real problem in our country. Perspective allows us to be honest about the real situations and challenges we face as people.

What’s Fair?

Perceived inequality drives racism. What is perceived inequality? Perceived inequality is when a person believes they are given less opportunity or treated unfairly based on their race. Any time race can be blamed for a failure it gives a person an out for not trying to excel. An example of this is the ongoing issues with Firefighter testing in places such as Chicago. Testing is in place to determine the best candidates, however over the years law suits have forced municipal agencies to throw tests out and create easier tests in order to give minorities a greater chance for passing these tests. The perception by minorities is that they were unfairly excluded based on a test, conversely, in society we use tests to gauge knowledge. If we reduce the effectiveness of a test to help a minority, we are reducing the workforce effectiveness within those organizations. Is it fair to expect an employer to accept a less qualified candidate based on that person’s race? No, it is not fair. Fair is expecting the same level of qualifications from any person regardless of race or gender.

When society starts making special allowances for any race, they are essence saying “your race is not smart enough to do this, so we will give you help”. That is gross social bias, intelligence is not a racial attribute. When a country gives handouts to a group of people rather than job opportunities, that is social bias. To be fair we have to expect the same level of work, decency, and social contribution from EVERYONE. That is a tough idea for a lot of people to understand. Being equal doesn’t mean someone gets their college paid for or free rent. Being equal and fairness comes from everyone working for what they have in life.

Is there racism in the job market? Yes. I have been married to a Native American for 20 years, I have seen him passed over for promotions that were given to less qualified, less intelligent white people. It happens. I myself have been discriminated against as a woman, it happens. We didn’t stop working, we didn’t use these situations to bail out of the employment pool. It takes months for even the most qualified people to find jobs. With equality comes responsibility.

Social Bias in Police Action

Let us start with the statistics on police contact brought to you by the Bureau of Justice:

  • An estimated 26.4 million persons age 16 or older indicated that their most recent contact with the police in 2011 was as a driver pulled over in a traffic stop. These drivers represented 12% of the nation's 212 million drivers.
  • A greater percentage of male drivers (12%) than female drivers (8%) were stopped by police during 2011. A higher percentage of black drivers (13%) than white (10%) and Hispanic (10%) drivers were stopped by police during 2011.
  • Stopped drivers reported speeding as the most common reason for being pulled over in 2011.
  • Approximately 80% of drivers pulled over by police in 2011 felt they had been stopped for a legitimate reason. In 2011, about 68% of black drivers believed police had a legitimate reason for stopping them compared to 84% of white and 74% of Hispanic drivers.
  • In 2011, about 3% of traffic stops led to a search of the driver, the vehicle, or both. Police were more likely to search male drivers (4%) than female drivers (2%).
  • A lower percentage of white drivers stopped by police in 2011 were searched (2%) than black (6%) or Hispanic (7%) drivers. (sic, Bureau of Justice, 2011).

I’m going to throw a thought into this mix. Both my vehicles have limo tinted windows because; I live in areas of excessive heat. Combing the car lots in our area, most of the vehicles have dark tint. When a cop pulls someone over, they cannot always see the ethnicity of the person driving, they may have clocked the car speeding, yet that tint gives the vehicle some measure of privacy. In a number of these traffic stops the police officer has no idea about the race of the driver until they are at the window.

Now some police officer statistics:

In 2013, 76 police officers were killed in the line of duty (FBI, 2017).

  • A total of 4,813 deaths were reported to the Arrest-Related Deaths program from January 2003 through December 2009.
  • Of reported arrest-related deaths, 61% (2,931) were classified as homicides by law enforcement personnel, 11% (541) were suicides, 11% (525) were due to intoxication, 6% (272) were accidental injuries, and 5% (244) were attributed to natural causes.
  • State and local law enforcement agencies employing 100 or more full-time sworn personnel accounted for 75% of the 4,813 arrest-related deaths reported during 2003-2009.
  • Among reported arrest-related deaths, 42% of persons were white, 32% were black, and 20% were Hispanic. (sic, FBI, 2017)

By their own statistics, even though black people are only 17% of the population they are pulled over almost as much as white people and they are killed at a rate almost high as white people. Why? Honestly, there is not a way to know. Any traffic infraction can bring about a traffic stop, are blacks being profiled? I don’t know but, the statistics would indicate that Black people are either worse drivers or are in some measure being profiled. Today most cop cars have plate recognition. The plate recognition system only works if the officer has clear sight of the plate. Expired registration, canceled insurance, or warrants may also be a factor in traffic stops.

What Is Racism?

Racism is the HATRED of another race of people. Many people confuse racism with social bias. Social bias is a belief about people based on physical appearance. Here is the difference between the two in statements:

Racist: I hate Mexicans they are dirty filthy people.

Social bias: All Mexicans have lots of children.

The racist statement is obviously filled with anger and is hateful. The social bias statement is simply ignorant. Do Mexicans have a lot of children? Some do, some don’t, and there are no absolutes in racial communities. My children have a very culturally diverse group of friends, the other day a friend of my sons whose parents are from China made the statement that most Chinese people are dumb. This statement seemed odd to me, and certainly not in line with the stereo type driven in American culture. It turns out that this young man had been to China and the average people there have a difficult time with simple math such as adding 5+5. This young man had encounters with people in which he had to separate his transaction to accommodate the lack of basic math skills. Now consider for a moment all the things you have ever heard about people who are oriental, have you been dealing with a known social bias? According to this young man you have, according to him anyone who is smart leaves China. So maybe our beliefs are not true at all. Having known people of almost every world culture, I can tell you religious preferences aside, we are all the same. We have more in common than we don’t have in common.

Why do we Have Racism?

Racism exists in the minds of the weak and the lazy. Yes, I said it. Racism gives people someone to blame for the bad things in society, racism gives the weak a way to feel superior without having to do any work. Consider how ignorant it is to believe you are better than someone else simply based on your ethnicity. Did you choose your ethnicity? No, none of us did. Yet, some people feel they are superior based on something they personally had no control over. When you have weak minded lazy people racism becomes the basis for their self-esteem.

Another factor in racism is concentrations of one race within an area. Any time you have a concentration of one race in area, they become too comfortable with only seeing people of their race. At some point a person of a different race will move in it becomes unsettling to the current residents. We should never have a concentration of race to the point that they do not accept other people.

In the larger cities races of people tend to self-segregate. Why? Race is a readily identifiable common ground. When you see someone and they are same race as you, you have race in common. The results of a study on race identification were released earlier this year by the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE). According to OISE, children between the ages of 6-9 months were already associating with children of their own race more often than children of another race (OISE, 2017). The ability to distinguish one thing from another is one of the first lessons a child learns. As adults we should be able to recognize that these differences are superficial. For instance I have more in common with a woman of any color who has children than one who has never had children. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have something in common with both women, it just means that my life experience is relatable more to one than the other.

Common ground is a relationship binder, when people are racist or have social bias they believe that race is the most important common ground. All of us can attest to the fact that we have known good people and bad people of every race. Using race as a common ground is a weak minded approach to relationships. Unfortunately we do not teach social responsibility in the school systems and in our homes. Maybe if we can all stop being lazy and take the time to get to know other people, this world would be a much better place.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2017 MD Jackson MSIOP


MD Jackson MSIOP (author) from Western United States on July 05, 2018:

Thank you Maddi.

Maddi Miller from Massachusettes on July 04, 2018:

Amazing article. Schools really do need to teach social responsibility and practice it themselves. You really are a great writer