Why Blacks Feel Racism Still Exists When Obama Is President
Barack Obama is America’s president, yet many black people still believe racism is alive and well. This is baffling to many whites. They assert things have changed, and blacks are no longer second class citizens because their numbers are increasing in the political and corporate realm. Consequently, some whites feel racism is a relic of the past while blacks hold an opposing view.
Many blacks contend racism is very much alive, although the average racist has changed tactics. In the past, it was socially accepted to be openly hostile to blacks and other minorities. Today racism must be more subtle like rejection of resumes on the basis of one’s name, college or area of residence.
Some blacks report:
– credit card authorized signatures are viewed with greater scrutiny
– store representatives ignore or follow them
– they are viewed as a threat
They suggest this different treatment is based on color and find it an irritating reminder of racism. Famous black people have reported similar incidents. An encounter with passive-aggressive salespeople in a Beverly Hills store infuriated singer-actress Janet Jackson while an evening gown clad Vanessa Williams, actress and former Miss America, was mistaken as a waitress at a private engagement, and Denzel Washington has witnessed white ladies tighten their purse grips when he shares elevators with them.
Occasionally racism is overt, but most is covert and oftentimes reflexive and unintentional. To illustrate the differential responses that accompany unintended racism, attempt the following three exercises. Honestly evaluate your responses.
1 – You’re driving 55 miles an hour, and a reckless driver causes you to swerve to avoid an accident. Your heart is pounding from the additional adrenalin. The driver is white. What would you think or feel? After you’ve formed your response, imagine the same situation, with a black driver. Would you respond the same way? Many responses would differ. Some would use the “N” word or call the driver a black this or that. If that were to occur, why would race be injected to insult a generic bad driver?
2 – You’re with friends, and everyone is sharing personal stories. You remember a hilarious outing with your friend Chris, who is white. You say, “I was with my friend Chris.” If Chris were black, would you amend it from “my friend Chris” to “my black friend Chris?” A friend is a friend, so why do some whites feel the need to specify black?
3 – You worked late. On the way home, you stop by an ATM and withdraw money. Suddenly an armed assailant demands your money, and you comply. The assailant is white. What would you think about the situation? Now imagine the assailant is black. Would your response differ? Some whites would begin to despise blacks and judge them as thieves. With a white assailant, there would be no universal condemnation for whites.
For many blacks, the aforementioned examples reinforce their belief in the existence of racism. Whether it is deliberate or unintentional, they feel racism is experienced by blacks regardless of who occupies the White House.
“Grown-up Janet Jackson Talks About Racism, Sensuality and the Jackson Family.” Lynn Normet, Ebony September, 1993
“Oprah and the View From Outside Hermes’ Paris Door.” Robin Givhan, Washington Post, June 24, 2005
“Denzel Washington Says Despite Fame He Still Falls Victim to Racism.” Jet, November 6, 1995
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