The United States has always claimed to be a mixing pot of cultures, ethnicities, and beliefs; a place where freedom reigns and people are unrestricted from operating safely within their natural states of beings and within their subjective identities. However, this is largely untrue. The United States very well may be a land of opportunity, where many different cultures coexist, but the United States is built upon a violent, bloody, oppressive history. Much of this contemptible history is in relation to racial genocide and prejudice, from the eradication of Native Americans to the enslavement of the Africans. Tensions between whites and people of color in the United States are far reaching and extend to every tenant of human existence, from life, to liberty, to the pursuit of happiness. Obviously the United States has somewhat progressed in terms of racial relations, beginning with the emancipation of slaves and continuing today with the fight for recognition of the value of a colored person’s life, but this Eurocentric country still harbors much of the institutional oppression and racism that it was built upon hundreds of years ago, especially in relation to African-Americans.
Being a minority in America does not only mean that you are a person of color, minorities encompass other things such as sexuality, gender, religion, age, and ability. Every minority undergoes struggles and suffer a systematic disadvantage as a result of not being part of the majority, but minority groups that do not pertain to race have also had a significantly different struggle and path to acceptance, particularly minorities pertaining to gender and sexuality. Feminism and the LGBTQ+ movement have made major headway in terms of awareness, acceptance, and equality in recent years. Contrastingly, despite there being an effort and movement for racial equality for as long as there has been marginalization of races, there has been significantly less cultural willingness to accept and equate races.
I believe that the reason behind the faster and more noticeable progression of the feminist and the LGBTQ+ movements is rooted in race itself. The face of both of these progressive movements are white. As a person of color, I hesitate to call myself a feminist much of the time, because the connotation and actions of feminism are centered around white feminism. Feminism always has existed to benefit the white female. Women don’t make 78 cents to the man’s dollar; white women make 78 cents to the white man’s dollar. While women of color only make between 54 and 65 cents to the white man’s dollar. Additionally, the men of color only make between 67 to 75 cents to the white man’s dollar, more than women of color, but still less than the white woman. Similarly, despite the origins of many important demonstrations and progressive actions in terms of the LGBTQ+ community being initiated by black people (see Stonewall Riots), the LGBTQ+ movement is whitewashed and has made no noticeable efforts to promote racial acceptance of differing sexualities, or curtail sexual racism within their very own community. Social movements, despite inherently being progressive, often fail to be intersectional and inclusive. When movements and revolutions are based around the European, they progress. When movements and revolutions are centered around the person of color they are erased or demonized.
Moving past examining the reasons that larger political movements pertaining to race may not progress as well as other minority movements, and into more personally engaging reasons as to why it is hard to determine why race relations have, more or less, stayed the same we have to examine the system in which we exist. Many, if not all, major systems of power and authority are set up, run, and biased in favor of white people. There is hardly any representation of people of color be it in media, politics, or art. And a significant portion of the time when there is representation of people of color, the representation is written off as an obligation to include people of color as opposed an objective recognition of the skills and abilities that the base human being might have, or as a necessary presence so as to serve as an advocate for the oppressed minority.
I think that the reason racial relations have remained stagnant mostly has to do with how much eurocentric ideals and standards are ingrained into our culture. Even myself, an African American, according to the implicit-association test (IAT), have a tendency to have an automatic moderate preference towards European Americans compared to African Americans. I am a very aware and intelligent person, my Quick Discrimination Index (QDI) score was at the maximum (which is indicative of “more awareness, sensitivity, and receptivity to racial diversity and gender equality”). I consistently and adamantly advocate for my people, facilitate conversations and actions pertaining to race, racial relations, and equality. And yet, there is evidence that I still may have a bias in favor of Euro Americans. I think that this result, along with many other of my general outlooks on life, especially pertaining to beauty and success, reflect how significantly our society has ingrained a kind of self hatred into people of color.
Some of my self esteem issues stem from self hatred in regards to my race; from my hair, to my skin color, to my non-white facial and body features, I was (and at times still am) very insecure for a long time about myself, simply because I did not fit within European beauty standards. Furthermore, in regards to skin color, looking past society’s aesthetic preferences, it is very easy to resent your color because of the blatant discrimination and hatred that you experience because of it. Being successful as a person of color is also something that, as ironic as it sounds, can foster self doubt and hatred because your accomplishments are always in relation to your race, and so your value and abilities are constantly being undermined, as Rowan Pope, a character on “Scandal” so simply put it, “You have to be twice as good as them to get half of what they have”. Test scores, grades, résumés, experiences do not matter as much because I am not white, they do not matter as much because I had to have had some advantage based around pity, they do not matter because my successes are only within the frame of my race.
Holistically, the reason that race relations have, more or less remained the same as they have always been, is because people do not want to own up to their inherent prejudice, they do not want to become educated about issues, about history, about their wrongdoings, they do not want to recognize how much they have benefited from racism, and they do not want to lose their position of power. And despite powerful, moving efforts to change this, ultimately, people will have to come around to the idea of equality on their own. In most situations, people are unwilling to change their ideas about something until it personally impacts them, and since you can not change your race, the issue of race relations will be a persistent issue domestically and internationally for hundreds of years to come because of how the inherent system came to be and the way in which it operates. The best that we can do is to facilitate racial conversations, educate ourselves and others on the issues, and persist, no matter the hardships we may face, in order to contribute towards creating a world where equality reigns and black lives matter.
Photo credit: Alex Webb