Racism and Discrimination

Published 16 Feb 2017

United States is one of the largest democracies but still this land, time and again replicates the stories of inhuman treatments and racial discriminations. Its every page of historical records speak volume of all kinds of flogging, mutilations, executions, and castrations that go along with slavery of blacks by the white communities. Blacks were brought to United States as slaves to work in their plantations and were forced to forge upon the inhuman treatments. Institution of slavery emerged from the roots of white ethnocentrism thoughts that had since centuries perpetuated the minds of whites that blacks were biological inferior to whites and were sub human. The physiological differences and the differences in the behavior between blacks and whites resulted in the superiority complex among the whites that they began to look at the blacks as sub-humans. Though by the thirteenth amendment in 1865 racism came to end but the legacy of racism and discrimination that it had left in the hearts of these two races still sprout time and again even among new generation of United States today.

Though this end of slavery made the way for reconstruction and end to the dictatorial and subjugated attitude of whites toward the blacks yet the competition between blacks and whites in the political arena led to the disentanglement of blacks and segregation. (Joseph 1995) Still, desegregation did not bring any change in the relation between whites and blacks. Though, 1960, the civil rights movement brought some changes, yet racial sigma, racial discrimination and racism kept on making their ugly appearance felt among the majority in so called Democratized America. Some historians suggested class as the main cause for the condition facing by blacks today.

Julius Wilson argues that class has become the most contributory factor in deciding the fate and status of the blacks in the United States. (Joseph 1995) Despite the fact that blacks have gained less over the years, few blacks have really gained economically. According to Wilson, middle class have shifted from the inner cities placing before the youths social vacuum through which it would have not been capable for them to look at their future resulting in creation of majority of underclass blacks who are not only jobless but are also school drop outs with number of crimes to their credit. But Hill contradicted Wilson on the point that black graduates are more jobless than their counterparts white graduates. Moreover, the white school dropouts are less jobless than the black school dropouts are. Besides, he even criticized Wilson for his failure to examine the extent to which discrepancies in education, employment and other factors may have led to the racial discrimination.

Class based oppression is also the result of the political scenario consisting of conservatives. The era of Reagan and Bush saw several privileges cut for the blacks like programs for jobs, loans for college etc., which resulted only in the increase of more discrepancies against blacks. To give racism a scientific version, Josiah C. Nott and George Robins Gliddon in their book “Types of Mankind” wrote in mid 19th century using disingenuous illustrations that Negroes place is betwwrn between Greeks and Chimpanzees. The research conducted by the psychologists at Stanford, Pennsylvania State University and the University of California-Berkeley had exposed the reality so encompassed in the minds of white youths till date. The white youths have not accepted African Americans as complete humans. For them, they are more apes than human beings. The research had taken place over duration of six years at Stanford and Penn State under Eberhardt’s supervision.

Jennifer Eberhardt is an associated professor of psychology who is also black. They scrutinized opinions of white male undergraduates through the sketches drawn on the screen and make out sketches of apes were associated with blacks rather than whites or sketches of other Asians. Though officially such characterization have been removed officially from American society yet as said by Eberhardt, “African Americans are still dehumanized; we’re still associated with apes in this country. That association can lead people to endorse the beating of black suspects by police officers, and I think it has lots of other consequences that we have yet to uncover.” (Trei 2008)

The sixth study of the paper showed that among hundreds of new stories between 1979 to 1999 in the Philadelphia Inquirer, African Americans who were found guilty of capital crimes were addressed four times more with the abusive words like barbaric, beast, brute, savage or wild and were subjected to face execution more than the white criminals. (Trei 2008) Eberhardt further said that it is not egregious but modern or subtle bias. Now it is not an old race battle rather the battle to make them fully recognize as humans.

Studies by the State of Black America 2005 showed deep disparities between African blacks and the whites in all socio, economic and political spheres of United States. The earnings of African Americans was only one tenth as compared to Whites, welfare schemes being enjoyed by blacks were three fourths to that being enjoyed by white families. In 2004, the poverty rate among African Americans was 24.7 percent; Hispanics was 21.9 % and for non-Hispanic whites, it was 8.6 per cent. (The Information Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China 2006)

Racism leaves behind deep marks of psychological impact in the minds of the people. It seemed their past had left the irremovable remarks of subjugation and discrimination on their present lives. The woes of their past when replicated in today’s generation speak volume of the acuteness of humiliation and stress they are exposed to. Studies by the Columbia University showed maximum number of black Americans face stress owing to their exposure towards racism. (Franklin 2002)

Racism also can have psychological and grave emotional impact not even on the present generation but several generations ahead. They can succumb to alcohol abuse and even suicides. (Jones 1991)
As said by James Harton on the slavery, it is quite true that in the minds of white America to be black was to be associated with slavery. Also, in every government or private department, you have to prove yourself that you are a black and if you cannot prove yourself, it is assumed you are slave.

Even for one slave to teach other slave had also been a very dangerous proposition; as the revelation of this fact means their escape from being mutilated is impossible. Historian A Nell Painter, in her “ Soul Murder and Slavery” introduced new areas in her studies on slavery. She delved on the impact that historians had on both black and white and also examined the traumatic experiences felt by children of slaves and the way their culture was developed, which was based on their ownership and domination. Her work is also mentioned in the book “Black on White: Black Writers on What it Means to Be White”, ed. by David R. Roediger.

She said that if we look at the families, there is a marked demarcation on color lines and there is a great psychological impact on them. Patricia Williams also examined that “Black slave experience was that of lost languages, cultures, tribes, kinship bonds, and even of the power to procreate in the image of oneself and not that of an alien master.” (Feagin 2000) As observed by many Afrocentric analysts, the stigma of lost identity faced by Americans belonging to African descents is also a major factor contributing towards their psychological dilemma. In their dominant and yet prejudicial environment, they are facing the burden of their lost culture and tradition, and the emotional stress they are facing is nonetheless bringing youths on the verge of breaking from their roots. Yet they are trying to take their lives on the path of cultural decolonization.

Some analysts have also tried to implore upon this aspect by bringing about the American’s adoption of the blacks through media and the America now has what is known as “rainbow culture”. (Feagin 2000) They have implored on the fact that many whites have adopted the black culture such as their music like Jazz and Rap and other means of entertainment exclusive of blacks. But in this arena too, Whites in charge of the media corporation control the way music predominantly of blacks can enter into their American society and culture. (Feagin 2000)

According to Ellis Cashmore, “Whites have converted much of black culture into a commodity, usually in the interests of white owned corporations and blacks have been permitted to excel in entertainment on the condition that they conform to white images of blacks.” (Feagin 2000) But within this paradigm, blacks achievement can be acknowledged and accepted by whites not even going near them. Cashmore says further that, “Hit a button and summon the sounds and images of the ghetto.” (Feagin 2000)

In addition to it, there is no doubt of the fact that this adoption is just eyewash especially because there is no change in the way Whites frame the laws in arena of the culture and institutions. Within this cultural arena too, blacks are discriminated as far as their legal and other rights are concerned like employment benefits, in business, politics etc. Under this rule of racism, Africans Americans are pressured to adopt in one or the other way the cultures of the dominating race.

Many studies found that Africans still feel themselves like outsiders and have to undergo through psychological warfare. In any public place and at several occasions, whites are seen adopting and showing defensive actions as if black is a thief or is going to commit any harm to them. White women will tightly grip their purses and shrug themselves away from them. Though these incidents are very minor as far as Whites point of view are concerned but develop a deep psychological impact on them. Psychologists William Jones even once said that humans wreak “fiendish punishment on each other rather than social marginalization.” (Feagin 2000)
Modern social scientists have claimed to form most profound and deep impact on the psychological and physical health of blacks. Many of them are suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome with all the elements of pains, depression and anxiety that was first seen among the military veterans in wars involving United States.

The socio-psychological researches were conducted on the performance of students. Claude Steel and his associates gave both black and white students written tests. It was found that black students achieved fewer marks as compared to white students in the test of their intellectual ability. (Feagin, 2000)

W.E.B Dubois on the African American student entering into the University to make his mark in the society profoundly steered into their hearts when he said, “One ever feels his two ness,– an American, a Negro; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn as under.” (Akbar 2002)

Within each student, there is a hope of finding their liberation and chance to prove themselves in rooms of University, but on the other hand as said by Jones and Cornell West, “It was for them sealing of the tombs of allegiance to alien minority”. (Jones, Cornell West, Na’ im Akbar, 2002). The dilemma among students has been manifested in the education itself discovered by W.E.B Dubois. He focused on this dilemma in his address at Frisk University in 1933. He echoed that the purpose of education of today is not just to prepare students in one particular role but it is a preparation for one particular class or group. The real national education implies the training of that group, which they think to be representative of the nation because of their power and prestige if though they are in minority.

Further he said that, “If a member of one of the suppressed groups receives the national education in such land, he must become a member of the privileged aristocracy or be educated for a live which he cannot follow and be compelled to live a life he does not like or which he deeply despises. This is the problem of education with which the world is so familiar, and it tends to two ends: it makes the mass of men dissatisfied with life and it makes the University culture of the cultured.” (Akbar 2002)

This statement clearly reflects the nature and extent of the choices and subjects being offered to non-European students and this is quite contradictory to the aims of the education itself. (Akbar 2002).
Black woman too are at constant threat of several psychological problems that created effect on their infants. Around 50 per cent of the women facing pre-term deliveries and 61 per cent facing low birth weight infants have faced racial discrimination. In 2001, the different pre-term rates of delivery among Black and White women were 17.5 and 10.8 per 100 live births, especially related to the gap between blacks and Whites.(A.M. J Public Health, 2004).

The difference in rates depends on the other major factors too like tobacco, alcohol, drug use and over and above the use of prenatal care, genetics and socio economic position. Women have to face double burden of gender and race discrimination.

Areas of particular concern include disadvantages faced by minority women in the labor market, trafficking of women, and race-based violence against women. Radhika Coomaraswamy, the special rapporteur on violence against women stated that, women find themselves unprotected and only very partially protected by law. They have to face rape, torture, arbitrary execution, deprivation of liberty, forced labor and forced marriage, are perpetrated against women who seek to exercise their freedom of movement.

In an arena of Black Liberation Theology in North America, James Cone would be remembered as the most important architect giving out the realistic picture on the way Blacks were being treated by White Christians. He was a minister of protestant origin and was born in Arkansas. The message on peace and brotherly attitude so intricately populated by the Christians was not to be seen in practice leaving an incredible mark on Cone’s mind. He pinpointed that White Church and White theologian had failed in their efforts to endorse biblical principles that teach people to support the poor and marginalized sections of the society and the very example of this is disintegration of churches on basis of color lines. The major issue as pointed by Cones was the Christian attitude towards Black and the failure on the part of Christian religious leaders to impart others the importance of caring for others, instead of inspiring others to follow on the path of bible, they remained confined in their social and cultural parameters. (Cline, online)

The point of religious discrimination cannot be completed without the mention of Johnstown tragedy in 1978, wherein, 900 people including women and children were forced to commit suicide by their leader Jim Jones. They were forced to drink fruit drink, which was mixed with cyanide.

Jones had shifted his group, called Peoples Temple, from California to Guyana only one year prior to the incident and his motive was to create an “agricultural utopia” in the vicinity of jungle that could be an example of freedom from any racist prejudice and would be based on the principles of communism. Jones had put the mind of his followers that he was an incarnation of Christ, but soon the news of several kinds of abuses began to emerge form the temple. Leo Ryan of California along with some of the delegates went to the village to make further enquiries on the complaints but they were all shot dead by members of people’s temple at the airstrip at Guyana. Soon afterwards Jones initiated this act of mass suicide.

This incident was a challenge for black Americans towards their church. Assemblyman Willie Brown was heard quoting as a call for the black churches in the America, “To remove us from the madness of Jonestown and bring us back to the real social issues.” (Chidester, 2003). Now the biggestr issue before the black religious community was to bring forth the social vision as postulated by the ministry of the People’s Town while keeping away from Jim Jones, the temple and the madness of Jonestown.

The most important aspect of reducing racism implies in their adoption of their own cultural and social paradigm and in affirmative actions on the part of all political social, cultural, religious groups and among themselves.


  • Akbar, N. 2002. The Psychological Dilemma of African American Academicians in Making it on Broken Promises, By Lee Jones, Cornel West. Virginia: Stylus Publishing, LLC.
  • Cline Austin, Black Power vs. White Christian, Agnosticism vs Atheism, About.com.
  • Chidester David, 2003, Salvation and Suicide, Jim Jones, The People’s Temple and Jones Town , Indian University Press.
  • Feagin J. R. 2000. Racist America: Roots, Current Realities, and Future. Routledge Publishers
  • Franklin, D. C. 2002. Racism related stress, racial identity and psychological health for Blacks in America. Electronic dissertation.
  • Jones, D.J. 1991. Prescriptions and Policies: The social well beings of Africans Americans in the 1990’s. NJ: Transaction Publishers.
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