Even though I am not a racist person by nature, I know that racism does exist in our world. It exists in our country. Even though there is no racism out in the open, but I know that many people still hold some racial thoughts against the various races that live in America. Racism was not considered a big problem a few decades ago, where people were openly racist against the people around them. But now, things are much better. The whole community as well as the local government is trying its best to alleviate such racial aggravations from our town. Racial discrimination and prejudice does not really exist in our community openly, but some reminiscence of prejudice still remain. An important thing to understand about racism is that even though it is a negative thing, it is a vital thing in our society as it allows us to 'see' the various differences between the people within our society. Not everyone is the same, and there are certain characteristics that can be attributed to the various races and classes of people. The most common of them is that of stereotyping.
Stereotyping is a phenomenon that occurs very frequently almost everywhere. This is when many of the people in our community tend to attach certain specific roles to the African Americans. There might not be outright racism against them, but many people tend to stereotype them as being thieves, criminals, or lazy. Perhaps this is because of the content in the media that is rampant in our society. The concerns of scholars and students of mass media and its artifacts have long been concerned with the notions pertaining to stereotyping. Barker (1989) appropriately states that “the search for 'stereotypes' in the media has become a small industry in its own right.” In addition, this industry has been much focused. Kitch (1997) also points out that a lot of the research on stereotyping borders on social activism, “naming stereotypes to call for a change in the real world” (p. 478). Such studies are mostly framed in order to provide the general public a view of the people of a certain culture in the way that a certain other group likes portrayed. It is mostly a more powerful group that takes control over the portrayal and thus perpetuates its own ideas upon the public of the other smaller, weaker, and thus the minority group; and these can have very harmful and potentially detrimental effects on the latter.
The previous generation believed that it was important to have racial differentiation amongst the people in a society. They argue that that the representation of the people in the world according to their respective classification is commendable and that it helps the world become a better place by clearly describing and defining the different kinds of human beings that exist in this world. This is a debatable issue since who is to be considered the authority in deciding the place of other humans? Also, certain biases also tend to creep in to a view of one group of people when they view the other group as being their rivals or even contemporaries. The groups who is power sometimes has no concern for those who do not have any power, at the same time, there are those who do have their concerns for the powerless. Thus it is important to understand the scholars' viewpoint by which they attempt to perceive, explain, and comprehend the effects of stereotyping that occurs so frequently today. Many of the peoples and the cultures of the world have been stereotyped today and this has caused a great deal of problems in the representations of the minority groups that reside in the US today. Why is it that everybody thinks that the black people are mostly criminals?
But I believe that the African Americans also have a role to play in determining their particular stereotype. James Baldwin wrote in 1953: “People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them” (pg 61). He said this specifically to infer upon the position of the black people all over the word. Baldwin felt a sense of alienation from his experiences in the world, for both his own self and the African culture as a whole. This presented the writer with a specific and unique sense of recognition that this was a problem was differently posed for the Black writer and the White writer. Baldwin had a peculiar African American sense of alienation, something similar to the concept of “double-consciousness” as depicted by W. E. B. Du Bois in the Souls of Black Folk. This means that to Baldwin, the American Negro holds “no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at oneself through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his twoness - an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two irreconciled strivings” (Du Bois 1903).
I have realized that stereotyping occurs both ways. For example, African American are also being stereotyped for positive aspects, such as being more muscular and being better at sports. They are considered to be 'naturally talented' and it is automatically expected of them to perform extraordinarily in a game. Denham and Billings (2002) conducted a research in which they gathered all the older opinions of previous researchers and what they had to say on the issue and it revealed that most of the people do not think that African American athletes can be intellectual and are capable of leading a team. This is a stereotype that many people in my town have and it depicts that they are biased in their opinion. Similarly, the white athletes are not considered to be as 'athletic' as the African Americans and all this has led to a kind of racism that has surfaced, maybe involuntarily, in my town. The authors conducted an experiment in which the comments by the commentators were recorded regarding the different players on their performance that was divided into fields such as intelligence, physical athleticism, speed etc. The data was collected and statistical tests were run on it and the results were checked against the hypothesis. The results of the experiment revealed that they hypothesis was true and the white athletes were more praised for their leadership and thinking capabilities while the African American ones were praised more for their physical efforts.
I think that it is important for everybody in my community, including the leaders, the private sector, the public sector, the government, and all the citizens, to really understand what is meant by race and racism. Different people will have differing personalities, there is no other way around it. But that does not mean that such differences be allowed to form hatred amongst the people. Carson and Friedman recently published a reader, Shared Differences, and this reveals many important realizations about how it is important to educate people about different cultures and their role in the world. America is a multicultural society and the citizens of US need to be aware of all the different kinds of people living here and their different norms and values. The reader starts off with the text in support of this statement by saying: “A teacher's inclusion of multicultural pedagogy and an active engagement with diverse ethnic, racial, and national issues is critical to America's social well-being... We must put our beliefs into practice, aware that the defining characteristics and enabling understanding of ethnic, racial, and national groups can and ought to be taught. Teachers must acknowledge uniqueness and difference as they also applaud similarity, for the strength of small communities and also society at large derives from celebrating our diversity.” (Carson 1995)
Many researchers and teachers today are expanding on such ideas. They want to increase multicultural awareness in schools and in media so that people of the world can live more harmoniously together. Such ideas are being used in order to facilitate strategies for sharing, understanding, and enjoying the reproduced cultural multiplicities and differences, especially of the minorities. People tend to regard the minorities as being hedonistic and self-indulgent and tend to avoid contact with them for fears that have been instilled by their portrayals in the media. This is wrong and it is here that the need arises for understanding the importance of analyzing and rationalizing the cultural contexts within our society. This is sometimes referred to as the political economy of culture, where the people place certain groups into their respective places within the cultures and the sub-cultures.
Thus, I believe that it is important for everybody to understand the implications behind racism and how it can make many problems in the society. Looking at my town, I feel that most of the racist ideas have been passed from previous generations and they were inculcated as part of the whole shameful slavery era that was so common in the old America. Other than that, the ideas behind stereotyping etc have come to us through the various media. The media culture of today does tend to support many capitalists value and tends to undermine the minority interests and shows a strong effort that exists between different races, classes, gender, and social groups. So, we all must learn to understand the media better and to filter out what the right information about the other communities are. This can be done by having more interaction with them and not having a predetermined racial bias against them.
Baldwin, James, (1985). The Price of the Ticket. Collected Nonfiction: 1948-1985. New York: St. Martin's, 61.
Barker, M. (1989). Comics: Ideology, Power and Politics. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press; 206.
Carson, Diane, & Lester D. Friedman. (1995). Shared Differences. Multicultural Media & Practical Pedagogy. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press; 115
Denham, Bryan E & Billings, Andrew C. (2002). “Differential Accounts of Race in Broadcast Commentary of 2000 NCAA Men's and Women's Final Four Basketball Tournaments.” Sociology of Sport Journal, 19, 315-332
Du Bois, William E. B. (1903, 1995). The Souls of Black Folk. 1903. New York: Signet; 215
Kitch, C. (1997). “Changing theoretical perspectives on women's media images: The emergence of patterns in a new area of historical scholarship.” Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 74; 477-489.