In American history, racism manifested through a system of inequalities, physical and psychological oppressions that the people of color were subjected. Over the years, Civil Rights Movements and Human Rights Activities and other individuals have been involved in the fight against racism using different ways. The fight against racism has been concerned with identifying its most damaging aspects and coming up with solutions that can eliminate racism.
The author of the book “Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes and Black Women in America”, Melissa Harris-Perry, identifies the kind of struggles that black women encounter due to their racial identity. She talks about how the black women in America have to endure stereotyping and shame as one of the most damaging aspects of racism in their daily lives. The African American women are surrounded by misrecognition, shame and stereotyping in their lives and these issues affect the kind of political decisions that they make.
Harris-Perry explains how black women go to great lengths to resist the mislabeling and their struggle in defining themselves and their experiences in politics. There is a clear expression of how the stereotyping has an impact on public policy drafted by policy makers. She provides a definition of shame distinguishing the kind of shame that is constructive and done in a loving manner from the shame that destroys and used for alienating and denigrating. Here, the role of the state in destructive shaming is highlighted; the American structures and systems tend to categorize African –Americans as malignant. This stigmatizing shame has resulted in negative impacts on the lives of African-American and especially to the black women.
The second author, Peggy McIntosh essay titled “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” talks about the unearned privileges of the white people and how its impact the lives of the people of color. The continued dominance of one group over the other and denials arising from the unearned privileges present the damaging factors of racism in this essay. Using personal experiences, the author explains how she learned about white privilege, its impacts and how acknowledging it would reduce its effects. She observes the unwillingness of men to acknowledge that they are over-privileged despite being aware of the disadvantages that women face. In a similar manner, she is informed about how a particular group of people encounters challenges due to racism, but no one informed her that white privilege, which ensures she is advantaged is one the factors that causes it.
Harry- Perry’s understanding of white privilege makes her justify that a white person should be considered oppressive even when the person does not realize they are that way. In her case, she had to identify a wide range of day-to-day impacts that white privilege brings to her life and in the lives of other African Americans. After writing down the list of conditions that she took for granted, it was easy to see how as a white person, everything worked out well for their benefit just because of the skin color. All this was to the detriment of a different group belonging to a different race since an aspect of dominance that is based on race emergences. She explains that this identification process can be used as a tool for transformation. She also discusses the myth of meritocracy that mostly makes the subject of white privilege to be ignored and denied. Those who deny the existence of white privilege purport that everyone can achieve anything they wish, as long as they work hard.
The autobiographies of Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Junior are concerned with the lives of these two great individuals who are involved in fighting for human rights in the 20th century. The Autobiography of Malcolm X illustrates his philosophies including pan-Africanism, black pride, and Black Nationalism. It offers insight into his life as one of the most engaging Human Rights Activists and provides a clear understanding of his times and struggle for equality. The autobiography portrays the injustices suffered by the black people for more than 300 years in the American history, which is a damaging aspect of racism. Malcolm X narrates his struggles from his early age arising from the fact that he was a black person. Some of the effects of racism on his life include the loss of his parents that could be mainly attributed to being part of the black race. He narrates how he dropped out of school in the eighth grade after a white teacher tells him that he can never become a lawyer since he was a nigger. This makes him result to a life of crime, which sees him arrested and spends considerable time in jail. However, it is the studying that he undertook while in jail that transforms his life. He converts to Muslim and joins the Nation of Islam where he learns about the suffering that the black people have experienced. The narrative helps to dispel a lot of the distorted message and image that the media portrayed about Malcolm X. it also provides a history of Civil Rights struggle and a historical account of America.
The Autobiography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, narrates about the life and the role he played as human rights activist, a preacher, an orator and a philosopher in fighting for the equality of the black people. The most significant damaging aspect portrayed in this autobiography is the lack of social justice and especially the lack of equality of races. He led a civil rights movement that culminated in the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and to the Voting Rights Act in 1965 ending the legal discrimination of the black people and secured their right to vote. Dr. King was committed to the use of a nonviolence strategy in the fight for social change, which earned him the Nobel Peace prize. His nonviolence matches organized in various areas including Selma, Birmingham, Mississippi, and Chicago were aimed at fighting poverty. In his struggles, he illustrated the connection between economic poverty and racial inequality.
The semi-autobiographical book “Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza” by Gloria E. Anzaldua analyzes the invisible border that is found between men and women, homosexuals and heterosexuals, Latino and non-Latinos and a wide range of other groups that oppose each other. The aspects of racism in this book are presented in her explanation of how the rich white people who live to the north look down upon the other group of people considered half-breed.
She also looks at the lack of appreciation of her language, culture, and art by the White Americans.
She describes the boarder, her homeland as the means used by the white man to segregate themselves from the culturally mixed people in the south. The author provides a brief history explaining that the dependence of Mexicans was created by America, whereby foreigners took over the Mexican land when they drove away the Spanish who had been natives. She goes on to illustrate how speaking the Spanish language was a major concern in the schools she that attended. She had to learn the hard way to speak English without a Mexican accent. This acted as a way of eradicating any identity she had with her culture and assimilate her into the American culture. She explains the importance of language to people as it provides them with an identity that makes them proud.
Therefore, those living around her, who belonged to her culture, had to come up with a language of their own by combining a number of languages and dialects. However, in the end, the Spanish language still experienced a revolution, whereby pronunciations have changed, and English words have been adopted. These changes were occasioned by the attacks that the people using their native languages faced. They were looked down upon as uneducated and stupid making them feel their language was illegitimate. In another chapter, the author distinguishes the importance attached to art in both her culture and western culture. These differences lead to the existence of uneasiness and unbalances between cultures and ideas that are created through the borderlands.
The racism problems can be addressed in different ways. The authors Anzaldua, Harris-Perry, and McIntosh, have stated in their writings some of the ways that racism problems can be solved. In Borderlands/La Frontera, Anzaldua provides a solution by first classifying race, ethnicity, and culture that she belongs to as one thing. Here she considers that people on the borderlands are represented by one huge race that is comprised of intermixed species. These people who have been in the same borderland are a mix of different cultures, ethnicities and races, which makes it hard to come to a common ground due to the mixed backgrounds pushing them in different directions. This has been a significant source of the problem among the people since they never work in harmony, but they try to tear each other down. To solve this problem, she suggests that, people have to move away from the convergent way of solving issues and adopt a single goal that will enhance divergent thinking that considers everyone’s perspective and it is inclusive rather than exclusive. She also writes that women should not claim to belong to a particular race or ethnicity but should feel they are part of all races and ethnicities because they are part of all these groups.
The essay by McIntosh describes how it is possible to eradicate racism by understanding that white privilege brings about unearned power and the dominance of one group of people over another. The white people should be aware of the unearned power that is conferred in a systematic manner after they are born as white and, which unknowingly allows them to escape or to dominate. They should then identify some of the condition in one’s life that automatically results from the advantage. This will ensure that everyone is able to work towards eliminating the impact of unearned entitlement. Redesigning of social systems is also essential, and it should start with the acknowledgment of the seriousness of unseen dimensions. The denials and silence that surrounds white privilege should be taken as an agenda that requires political involvement. The political elite should stop playing the role of suppressing the subject of unearned advantage and dominance arising thereof. For instance, the talk by most whites about equal opportunity as the only roadmap to dominance denies that a system of dominance exists.
Harry-Perry’s book suggests that eliminating stereotyping, misrecognition and shaming is the only way that racism issue can be addressed. This will take a collaborative effort from different quarters. The mainstream media that is mostly involved in stereotyping black women should change. The use of shame as a tool of social control should be prevented, and stories of black women who have become successful should be told in the media. Moreover, the stories told through poems, movies, music, fiction should be utilized in a positive manner that paints a better picture of the formation of black women political identity. The church is another social structure that has a big role to play, whereby it should change its strict patriarchal structure and provide the necessary support for black women. In politics, race should not be used in the assessment of women involved in political systems. Better concepts of intersecting people’s identity, as well as better analytical tools such as their performance in the offices that they hold, should be used instead.
Racism came from the government’s systematic, sanctioned persecution, exploitation, and indoctrination of people of color leading to the creation of a very different culture as the old was destroyed systematically. For this reason, just as it has taken time for isolated civilizations to accomplish different things, the people of color need to be given enough time to rise without being subjected to external meticulousness and constant indoctrination concerning their overall worth as human beings. Besides, the people of color have to start believing that they have the capability to find solutions to their problems without having to look at the white power structure and have faith in their self-worth. They have to strive for self-reliance, which is essential for the social mobility of any race or ethnicity. Thus, the realization by white Americans that American history resulted in, systematic, physical and psychological mistreatment of the people of color and the ability of the people of color to adopt self-reliance and the belief in their capability; will nature a post-racist society.