Social Progress & Racism

One of the most frequently mentioned topics in today’s American culture is racism. For most of us, not a day goes by without hearing of someone being called out as racist. In addition, some claim that America is a country where racism is systemic and institutionalized. Why is it that almost 50 years after the Civil Rights gains of the 1960s, America is still grappling with the idea of racism? And in addition, why is the racist tag applied so frequently? 

Obviously…the term racism can mean different things to different people. In line with this, the use of the term can mean different things in different eras of history. For instance, the use of the racist term meant something different in the era before the Civil Rights gains of the 1960s. When one looks back at the Jim Crow practices common before the 1960s, one can definitely see that many of the legal protections that African-Americans have now, didn’t exist. And yes, from a legal standpoint, some can say that life for blacks during the post Civil Rights era is easier. However, if things have improved for blacks on a legal level, then what accounts for the fact that claims of racism are so high in today’s world?

There are many reasons why claims of racism still exist. To some, these claims exist because there’s a justifiable perception that people of color still do not receive the respect they deserve. To these people there’s still much work to be done to address systemic racism in all of its forms ranging from subtle to the more obvious. In addition and from another angle, some claim the racist tag is applied loosely nowadays as a political tool to create division and call out white people. These people claim that some issues now being called racist fall more in line with preferences. They claim politicians and activists are creating racial hypersensitivity to exploit fear.

For many of us, the concept of social progress is real and tangible. In line with this, many of us hope to envision a future where racism of any kind, whether it’s aimed at blacks, other minorities, and even whites, is seen as a concept of a bygone era. To further the cause of social progress it’s important to help America live up to its pledge to create a society where equal opportunity for all races is respected. In addition, it’d also behoove us to be careful of applying the racist tag to both situations and individuals too freely. After all, the negative effects of racism are shown not only with actual racist practices, it’s also shown by unjustly accusing people of racism when that may not be their intent.




11 thoughts on “Social Progress & Racism

  1. Thanks for this interesting article. Whilst in your context white and black are used as an illustration, the globe similarly faces the same issue between various different colors and races. In some places reversed racism becomes the legislated norm. It has become increasingly difficult for a parent to explain rationally why being born of one race could mean the child must be doubly prepared and equipped to compete to survive from young under the all encompassing reversed discrimination. Some dream of finding a place on earth where their race is not an issue, but I have not yet found such an ideal haven to suggest to any young person. The fixed mindset of each people group seems very hard to change by human efforts. Is there any reason for the great divide between us and them? How to accept and respect each other as one human race? Are social/commercial private groups and /or private employers not free to have personal preferences or assess and select or promote applicants based on merits and standards possibly subjectively set by them? Who is to interpret and ensure objectivity in implementation? Does it really bring a better future for everyone? Tough questions for policy makers. Worse, the discrimination issue is not restricted to racism. There is a whole spectrum of differences that divide one group and another. Thanks again for your thoughts provoking article. I look forward to reading more.

    1. Thx for stopping by again + your thoughtful comment Crosslife Spaces!

      Yes, racism globally transcends the white-black divide currently in America. Unfortunately, racism + discrimination have been with humanity since the dawn of civilization. When one looks around the world + to history as a guide, we find often that places that balance assimilation with cultural tradition, do best with integration.

      And yes, from what I’ve studied + heard, a certain form of reverse racism has arisen in other countries. As you say, the us vs them divide seems inherent to human nature. And like you say, the divide may actually be increasing.

      As for how to raise one’s child in light of racism, that’s a difficult issue. As a guide, I think of how Martin Luther King inspired not only America, but the world to try + look beyond race + look at the quality of one’s character. If we can use wise people like Dr. King as a guide, we should cope better with the negativity of racism.

      Your points about regulating business + commercial + private groups in relation to racism are well taken. As you say, these are tough questions for policy-makers. Many have said what works best is to have a certain basic level of standards for non-discrimination. Some have said that some current problems in America can be traced to trying to micro-manage human relations so that discrimination or subjective preferential treatment doesn’t happen at all. Some say that micro-managing creates unreachable expectations. As with many things…coping with racism is a question of balance.

      Thx for the dialogue Crosslife Spaces + I look forward to talking with you again!

  2. Thanks for your response. I agree with a number of points you raised. For example, places that balance assimilation with cultural tradition, do best with integration. In comparatively more cosmopolitan places with multi-national global corporations, I have experienced that kind of balanced and non-intrusive integration, albeit superficially at best, with all contributing participants maintaining a respectful focus on the common goal for all stakeholders based on a pre-agreed covenant/contract and this requires an effective check and balance system. An individual can choose to continue to integrate socially or reserves own personal space with his or her chosen community while off duty.

    Yes, ideally, each individual and group should try + look beyond race + look at the quality of one’s character as Dr. Martin Luther King had inspired this world. That is why established organizations with long-term perspective increasingly invest significant amount of time and money on not just job training but character building. Having a balanced corporate culture and the ability to practice it consistently requires more than vision, passion, system and SOP. The calibre and character of the leaders matter.

    The possibly adversed/unwanted effects of a centralized power trying to micro-manage human relations has been prophetically written and warned in classics. It is foreboding for human individuals who are born free to see the increasing materialization of such prophecies in the world.

    On the subject of integration: A mixed-race young person has regretted having parents of two races which “combined-product” cannot be accepted kindly and civilly by either one of the races -due to the young person’s speaking the language of one race with perfect accent but having a skin color and features closer to those of another race. The unwanted outcome is treated rudely and harshly by travelers from both races. To ward off this racial discrimination from both sides, the young person resorts to claiming nationality of a remote third race whenever any one of the two races ask of race origin.

  3. Fascinating points Crosslife Spaces!

    In light of the fact corporations often get negative press, you bring up a welcome point about how some multi-national global corporations do a good job with integration. I’ve noted this on occasion also. And yes, although the corporate attempt at integration may seem somewhat superficial at first glance, it often seems effective at maintaining a balance so assimilation is accomplished non-intrusively. And yes…as you note, the corporate setup does seem to allow stakeholders to feel they have a common goal.

    In addition, your idea about character-building is well taken too. As you say, if this is done in a general way, the individual will then still be able to feel they have a life of their own outside the workplace. If an individual starts to feel their personal life is being micro-managed by work, problems arise.

    I agree with you about centralized power. If there’s anything that can potentially diminish human freedom, its a misuse of centralized power. And as you say, much classical art has maintained that an abuse of centralized power is problematic + potentially tyrannical. Although centralized power has its positive points, it definitely needs a strong counter-balance.

    I totally understand your point about the child who is the product of different races. In this case, the hybrid created between the two races can present a challenge for the child in terms of identity. Although this scenario has occurred for centuries, its easy to understand that the child of two different races may actually turn to a third race in terms of identity.

    Till next time… 🙂

  4. Perry, I agree we all hope for a world where informed decisions that are made based on realistic appraisals of demonstrable facts. I appreciate how you point out how racism is used as a political tool by the indiscriminate and power hungry. You importantly point out that racism is not a preference. Racism has its roots in our evolutionary biology and is normal neophobia. By nature, we are all egocentric and ethnocentric. Fear of, other than ourselves or tribe, are normal for survival. Racism is not simple apprehension regarding dissimilar peoples. Racism is hatred and mistrust used for malign political purposes.
    Consider the events surrounding the recent anti-hate bill to pass in Congress. They revolve around a single freshmen congressional representative, llan Omar.
    “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” – Rep. Ilhan Omar.
    Taken on it’s face, the statement could be about allegiance to any foreign country.
    In context of her previous tweets, in 2012 she tweeted, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” And as recently as last month, “It’s all about the Benjamins (money) baby”.
    Ilhan Omar is an unabashed supporter of Palestinian rights. llhan Omar is a Somali American. Ilhan Omar is a practicing Muslim.
    Who is calling who a racist?
    Whether you follow Middle-East politics or not, It should be fair to call out blind loyalty, to anything.
    We are evolving and reasoning animals. All of our morals and ethics are necessarily relative to the circumstances we are in; doubly so in politics. Strawman claims of racism have been made by “both sides” for political purposes. Regardless of circumstance or context, you can spot these politically motivated ad-hominem attacks by the superlatives used.
    Racism is prejudicial bigotry based on the ill-informed belief of racial superiority.
    Ilhan Omar’s comments do not appear to stoop to that level. She never claims moral or racial superiority. Nor does she appear to categorically demean or villainize another race but is quite clearly calling out certain behavior.
    We are hearing a cacophony cries from those who feel, they do have the moral authority to paint Omar’s comments as anti-Semitic. This troubles me, especially in light of an air travel ban, mischaracterizations of people from South America and the fact llhan Omar has endured blatant hate speech directed toward her and has faced repeated death threats. To be sure, those are circumstances to be considered and not a blank check granting her or anyone else so maligned, to engage in hate speech themselves. We should however, weigh all the evidence, including the hyperbole of rich powerful groups, before passing judgment.
    Thanks as always for picking the hot topics.

  5. Hey Tom…thx for stopping by again + the thought-provoking comment!

    As you allude to, dealing with racism is indeed a question of balance. And yes, the idea of racism is deep-seated in humankind’s evolutionary makeup. Although having preferences for certain things can be tagged by some as racist, most of us know that’s not the case.

    To give an example that shows that having preferences is accepted, one of the strongest traits of America is the idea that its a melting pot of many different cultures. This melting pot concept implies that although many cultures are melted together into a basic American unity, there still remains enough of a separatist element for each culture to maintain its own identity.

    Hence…as many of us know, there are many major cities that have certain areas that maintain a consistent cultural element. The many “Chinatowns” + “Little Italys” that are present in America are testament to this concept.

    Regarding the Omar situation + the controversy surrounding her, a component to it is the fact that Israel has fought in about 15 major conflicts with its Arab neighbors since its formation in the 40’s. Some of these conflicts have been regarded as major wars involving many casualties. Therefore, many of Israel’s supporters are understanding of the fact that some Israelis are cautious about supporting the idea of a Palestinian state. Yes… Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has a right to her opinions + many of us are very idealistic about a Palestinian state + see it as a hopeful sign that Jew + Arab can once again live in peace in the Middle East. However, by saying what she did about Israel Omar appears to be somewhat echoing the desire by some to defeat Israel. Hence…this is part of the reason for the controversy.

    As you say Tom, racism is something that needs to be acknowledged + dealt with on all sides for mankind to progress. On the bright side, there have been periods historically when strongly different cultures have been able to live side by side in relative peace. The key to this seems to be when there is a sense of unity revolving around the ability to respect differences. Put simply…unity seems to work best when a certain amount of separatism is respected to maintain cultural identity. This is the tricky part… 🙂

    Thx for dialoguing Tom! I try to pick topics that are both timely + long-standing. Likewise, I try to allow for civil debate + appreciate when others such as yourself take part in these discussions. Till next time…

    1. The first things we need to look at when we try to make determinations about topics as ignitable and emotional as racism is who is making what claim and what that person has to gain by getting everybody all worked up.

      Just as we need to take the topic of climate change and return it to the scientists, we need to look at racism through an impartial lens. Take the money out of the argument and take away arguments by people who have the most to gain from them – on both sides.

      If there were a way to look at political questions like this and take the politics out of it, that is what is needed.

      1. Nice to hear from you again luv4all1959!

        Yeah…the politicization of the racist term is so intense. So many of us often hear the word used as a political arrow. Unfortunately, the result of this is that it inflicts harm + creates confusion. And yes, if we could try to be more impartial we could see that through history all races have suffered through racism unjustly.

        And as a corollary + as you note, some have said that climate change theory has had strong political pressure applied to it. As you know, some scientists have proposed ways to depoliticize the topic.

        Impartiality needs to always be looked at in regards to intense topics. As you say, at all times we need to try to be aware of what can be gained by those making certain emotional claims.

        Take Care! 🙂

  6. Thank you for the wonderfully civil forum and thoughtful topics. A great example of the type of arguments being made are reflected in one of your comments.
    “By saying what she did about Israel, Omar appears to be somewhat echoing the desire by some to defeat Israel”.
    Ilan Omar has never advocated for the defeat of Israel. Such false generalizations de-legitimize the topic instead of addressing it.
    Another recent example by a high profile politician,
    “I really don’t like their policy of taking away your car, of taking away your airplane rights, of ‘let’s hop a train to California,’ you’re not allowed to own cows anymore!” Such comments are an appeal to ignorance, creating false dilemmas and straw-man arguments.
    I think that is what where Luv4all compares the politics of race to the false logic used to deny humanities responsibility to the environment. Both topics are fraught with bigotry.
    The circular logic “The earth has always had a period of hearing and cooling”,
    And the false dilemma, “We will have to go back to living in caves”,
    The Tu Quoque blurring the lines, “Both sides”.
    These politically obfuscating statements strike a nerve just as tense as race. Just as being able to discriminate friend from foe is imperative, individual responsibility (Existentialism) is essential to our survival. And our survival is literally in the balance should we this wrong.
    Thanks again to you and your contributors.

  7. Sorry couldn’t sleep. Another unconscious dog whistle quote,
    “Some have said that climate change theory has had strong political pressure applied to it. As you know, some scientists have proposed ways to depoliticize the topic”.
    Are you referring to the presidential advisory panel to asses the national security risk of climate change? Or something else?
    Even though you tried to soften your comments with “Appears to be somewhat echoing” and “Some have said that,…” followed by a loud whistling. I don’t know if you realize how “some” may hear your words. Just as you helped me many times by calling me out on a multitude of brash comments, I thought I might help by throwing you under the public forum bus. That was not my intent but I am sensitive to the fact this is your blog and though a bit of controversy may drive participation, I do not want it to drive a wedge. However, revealing each of our implicit biases is exactly on the topic of race and bigotry. I agree with you and your contributors, let’s have a frank conversation without name calling, blaming , dodging or projecting. Can we talk honestly and dispassionately, accepting of others biases?. It is good to have passion for a subject but we must keep those feelings balanced in the gravity of the topic. We all make offhanded comments to make light of weighty subjects, and we should be able to tell coping with dark humor from a persons true feelings and most importantly, we should all be able to respect others true feelings and not make light of them or use them for political purposes.I love you Perry and truly know you as an honestly caring, deliberative and thoughtful human-being who I would trust my life to. Keep up the amazing work.

    1. Hey Tom…thx so much for your supportive words about myself + the blog! I appreciate your interest + comments.

      In response to your specific points, I have to admit I find it a little tricky to know where to start. After all, you seem to question how I use the word “some.”

      Regarding this blog, the main thing I try to do is look at both sides of each political equation. Therefore, I read about each issue in-depth from both Liberal + Conservative viewpoints. In addition, my voting record shows I’ve voted across the spectrum.

      Historically, one of the best things about democracy + the political process is that it’s allowed for a synthesis of ideas to be reached through debate. In my own way, this is a goal I hope to further by presenting both sides to a political situation. In addition, I welcome comments from across the political spectrum.

      Now I’ll try to respond to a couple of your specific points. Regarding climate change, its been asserted by some scientists + followers of science that the scientific theory of The Milankovitch Cycles need to be considered more regarding climate change. These thinkers accept the notion of climate change. They just want this accepted theory to be considered more in the discussion about it. Some of these scientists have claimed that the climate change debate has become politicized.

      In relation to Omar + her comments about Israel, again I will assert that she has a right to her opinion. And in addition, there must be compelling reasons as to why she was elected. As for the current debate about Israel, I will also state that it may be good if there’s a better resolution to the Palestinian situation someday. However…on the other hand, I respect the fact that supporters of Israel, a country that was born out of the horror of The Holocaust, are offended at Ilhan Omar’s comments about Israel. To these supporters of Israel, Omar’s comments seem harsh about a country that they love.

      Hopefully Tom, my comment here helps to shed new light on things. Take Care!

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