In recent years, racism has become an increasingly common term in the American public discourse. The understanding, interpretation, and use of the term have not stopped since the rise of the Black Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s.
The death of black George Floyd in the violent police law enforcement incident in May this year was the trigger for a new outbreak of long-accumulating racial contradictions in the United States.” The large-scale street protests triggered by the Black Life Movement have rekindled attention to racism.
As a historical phenomenon, the problem of racism has been haunting the United States and has become a social chronic disease that is difficult to eradicate. The main reason is that racism has been deeply embedded in various systems and lives in the United States and manifested in different forms, constantly having a devastating impact on American society and individuals. Under the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic, anti-racism in the United States has a long way to go.
Racism is an ideology and a social act: it believes that different races or colors can explain differences in characteristics and abilities between people, and believes that certain races are superior to other races; it is also a kind of words and deeds that trigger bias or discriminatory tendencies based on race or color judgment. In this sense, racism and racial discrimination can sometimes be used alternately in meaning.
As defined in the United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965), “racial discrimination” is any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent or national or ethnic origin, with the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing any political, economic, social, cultural or public life. Other aspects of human rights and fundamental freedoms are recognized, enjoyed or exercised on an equal footing. It should be noted that “preferences” are also regarded as a form of discrimination.
In a society based on racial hierarchy, racial contradictions and conflicts will inevitably breed. In other words, it is a group of people or individuals at a specific social level that discriminates against or demeans another group of people or individuals in society based on their views on race and color. The former usually has more social power and resources, and uses these powers and resources to constantly maintain and strengthen racial prejudice from “top” to “bottom”.
Therefore, it is necessary to understand racism in the prevailing social and cultural power relations.” Individual racism” and “structural racism” are considered to be two main forms.
For many people, individual racism is racism in the usual sense, that is, a person treats each other differently because of his race or color, usually (intentionally or unconsciously) manifested through ideas, words, expressions or behaviors, resulting in estrangement, exclusion and even resentment between people. In the United States, it occurs between whites and minorities, and also between different minorities, which is called “horizontal racism”.
Structural racism is mainly embedded in the practice of certain institutions or institutional systems. The racial discrimination it reflects is caused by various institutions or institutional arrangements of society, such as enterprises, governments, schools, hospitals, courts, etc., and is sometimes called institutional or systematic discrimination. The main manifestation is that the adoption of certain public policies, sectoral actions, cultural performance and other normative norms keeps people of a certain race in an unequal situation, often accompanied by coercive methods, such as discriminatory legislation, residential segregation policies, low levels of health care, low education, inequality. Wait for economic opportunities, etc.
The consequences of the two forms of racism are obviously different. The former is discriminated against by individuals or minorities; the latter is discriminated against a large number of people. In addition, the former is easy to be identified, perceived and corrected; the latter is more hidden, more habitual and more difficult to correct.
In addition to these two forms, there is also an implicit racism. When racial discrimination is widely regarded as a social cancer that needs to be eradicated, the naked and open racial discrimination in the past has gradually been replaced by implicit racial discrimination. Implicit discrimination can be individual or structural. It is not easy to be perceived by the public, and sometimes even vague in definition. It seems to be non-ethnic, but it is not.
American complex reality
Although the American Civil War broke out in 1861 fundamentally abolished slavery and brought the country back from a state of brink of division to unity, racial problems still existed and constantly ripped American society apart. Although various laws and concepts about slavery and racial discrimination have been abolished, their residual effects continue to this day.
More challenging and stubborn is structural racism, which is manifested in many aspects of the political, economic, military and social aspects of the United States. The historical Chinese Exclusion Act, the “Hanapepe Massacre”, Japanese-American detention camps, etc. are all typical cases that have caused a huge wave of racial controversy.
Structural racism remains pervasive for some minorities, but some whites do not think so, because it caters to the vested interests of the majority white people, and because its victims often live in “invisible” places such as slums, detention centers or prisons.
Nowadays, more ethnic minorities have obtained good jobs and a certain social status than before. Some white people have begun to reflect on structural racism and even worry about the so-called “reverse racism” phenomenon — that is, governments at all levels provide more welfare and relief programs for ethnic minorities, open borders, and implement Kenya. Qualitative action, these preferences make white people feel discriminated against in society. This cognitive difference aggravates the racial problem in the United States to some extent.
The “Freud’s death” in May triggered a protest anger that swept the United States and the world, not only because of its cruel picture, but also because of its occurrence at a time when the COVID-19 epidemic in the United States is spreading.
On the one hand, the U.S. government has long failed to ensure that minorities enjoy equal rights in health, housing, education and other fields. On the other hand, African and Hispanics are the most poor due to lower incomes and higher debts, which means that they are more likely to live in crowded spaces and have to Choose more public transportation and be exposed to the virus because of work. This makes it more difficult for them to protect themselves in the epidemic, causing great racial differences in the prevalence and mortality of COVID-19 in the United States.
Anti-racial discrimination has a long way to go.
Why is it difficult to eradicate the problem of race in American society? One can make a long list of reasons. The most fundamental of these is that racism is deeply rooted in the political and cultural system of the United States and has been internalized as an integral part of the social structure of the United States.
First, racism has been internalized in the social, economic and political life of the United States. The United States is a country of immigration, consisting of different cultures, languages and races of color, but European whites have always accounted for the majority of the whole population of the country and are dominant in the political and cultural life of the United States.
Second, on the ideological level, racism has never completely withdrawn from the stage of history in the United States. Although various laws and ideas concerning slavery and racial discrimination have been abolished, outdated white colonial consciousness and psychology still exist.” The difference between contemporary colonists is that they are far away from war and weapons and turn to the concept of “white supremacy” through cultural, language and education.
This kind of symbolic power enables minorities subconsciously to accept, endure and adapt to the reality that they are racially subordinate and unequal, thus generating inferiority and depression in self-identity and cognitive psychology. For some ethnic minority immigrants, joining the “mainstream society” in the United States means integrating into a white-dominated society.
Third, racism is often used as a political tool in the United States. There are important political drivers behind the civil rights movement and the “Freud death scandal”. Immigration has become an important topic of political opposition between the two parties in the United States, and ethnic politics has also become an important incentive for the return of racism in recent years.
With the demographic changes in the United States, the population of ethnic minorities has increased at a rate, one of the fastest-growing groups is “mixed races”. One prediction is that due to the higher birth rate of non-white babies, the majority of the population of the country may not last long, and no ethnic group in the United States may form a social majority alone. While the political and social development of ethnic groups in the United States has become more diversified, new risks have followed. Anxiety, fear and irritability have made white supremacy and other arguments popular again.
Obviously, racism questions the two core “American myths” that are repeatedly told. One myth is “God’s destiny”, which emphasizes the sacred nature of the belief in democracy and freedom in the United States; the other is the “American Dream”, which is engraved in the ideals of immigrants, believing that the future of this chosen country is beautiful and will be beautiful.
These two myths are depicted as the reality of daily life in the United States and frequently appear in people’s daily speech. People long to live in a society of racial equality, but in today’s United States, reality and ideals are still far away.
The chronic disease of racism in the United States needs to be eradicated through profound social reform, especially from both ideological and social behavior aspects. Attention should be paid not only to anti-racism at the individual level, but also to anti-racism at the whole social level. As a global ethical value, anti-racism requires the active participation and action of all people.