Racism has existed for centuries. Despite significant progress, racism persists in our societies today. Understanding why racism still exists and learning how to get along with people regardless of race are important steps towards creating a more just, peaceful world.
The Roots and History of Racism
1. Slavery and Dehumanization
Racism has deep historical roots going back to the transatlantic slave trade starting in the 15th century. For hundreds of years, false dangerous ideas of racial superiority and inferiority were used to justify the unfathomable system of slavery, oppression and dehumanization of African peoples. Millions suffered the brutal devastating journey through the "middle passage" and those who survived were subjected to the horrific lifelong bondage, abuse and cruelty of slavery.
Treating human beings as subhuman property to be bought, sold, abused and exploited poisoned society. The severe trauma and detachment from one's culture, language, family and humanity has had psychological impacts passed down through generations after slavery. The practice hardened notions that peoples of African descent were inferior beings undeserving of basic dignities and rights. These toxic attitudes outlasted formal abolition.
2. Segregation and Discrimination
Even after slavery was abolished following the American Civil War in 1865, racism persisted through barbaric systems like Segregation in the United States, Apartheid in South Africa and Jim Crow laws which legally enforced discrimination and physical separation based on race well into the 20th century.
The trauma of having an economic, political and social system explicitly grounded in notions of racial inequality for centuries cannot be underestimated. Racist structures shaped all aspects of society including laws, institutions, beliefs and behaviors that still cast long shadows today.
3. Native American Genocide and Oppression
Alongside African slavery, European colonialism instituted genocidal policies against indigenous peoples. Ninety percent of Native Americans perished from violence, displacement and diseases carried by colonists. Surviving tribes were relegated to reservations denying traditional lands and livelihoods. Prejudice that these nomadic peoples were unsophisticated savages unworthy of equal rights or status facilitated centuries of marginalization and denied atrocities.
Why Racism Still Exists Today
1. Systemic and Institutional Racism
Centuries of slavery, segregation and discrimination created racist societal structures, policies and patterns that still negatively impact minority groups today despite increasing diversity and stated commitments to equality.
Unequal access to opportunities across areas like housing, education, healthcare, employment, government policymaking and finances exists through implicit biases and ongoing discrimination built into institutions. For example, poverty disproportionately affects people of color due to historic economic disadvantage. Or achievement gaps in elite academies and boardrooms reveal glass ceilings.
These complex deeply-entrenched racial inequalities are an immense challenge to dismantle, requiring fundamental changes across public and private institutions, policy reform, resource redistribution and shifts in social attitudes and behaviors.
2. Implicit Biases
Even when people do not overtly discriminate, we all harbor subtle, largely unconscious stereotypes and “implicit biases” towards certain groups that serve to uphold racial advantages shaped by history and ongoing structural imbalances.
For example, identical resumes with “white sounding” names receive more callbacks than ones with “black sounding” names. Shooter bias studies reveal weapons are more readily identified when held by unarmed Black men. Educators also disproportionately discipline minority students. Microaggressions reveal these ingrained unconscious attitudes through subtle behaviors.
Addressing prejudices buried deep in our collective and individual psyches calls for tremendous societal self-reflection and effort to unlearn racist mental models passed down through our institutions, culture, media, families and formative experiences.
3. Overt and Veiled Racism
While more subtle today, overt forms of racism and white supremacy still persist. High-profile cases of police brutality, immigration policies based on ethno-nationalism and proposals to preserve Confederate monuments defend racial hierarchy. Hate crimes like Charleston church shooting reveal toxic, dangerous ideologies which completely devalue non-white groups and perceive social progress as threatening still motivate violence today.
Coded divisive political rhetoric about "real Americans," welfare recipients, immigrants and crime prey on racial angst and reinforce stereotypes. Rising alt-right, neo-Nazi and KKK movements now blended with mainstream politics embolden traditional racist outlooks. All demonstrate prejudice evolves new forms even as societies grow more diverse on the surface.
Undoing centuries of racist beliefs across institutions and unconscious minds is an immense, emotionally-charged task we still deeply struggle to reckon with despite having come a long way.
How to Get Along With People
Building relationships and replacing divisions with understanding across racial lines in our local communities is crucial to the larger struggle to counter systemic racism. Here are some everyday tips:
1. Become Conscious of Biases
Making progress starts with accepting that we all absorb societal prejudices often unconsciously. Notice knee-jerk reactions you may have to people of other races. Catch yourself making assumptions based on stereotypes. Ask yourself honestly why you feel or think that way when encountering difference. Seek out counter-stereotypes. Racism hides inside all of us to some degree through our upbringing in society. Shining light on our biases is needed to growth.
2. Cultivate Compassion
Remember all people share dreams, emotions, struggles and humanity at our core despite surface differences. When connecting one-on-one with those from other races, look past identities to connect with shared hopes and passions. Seeking common ground builds bonds that help overcome learned prejudices when race, power and resources divide groups on the societal level.
3. Embrace Cultural Differences
Honor racial identities by allowing others to proudly express cultural traditions without judgement, mockery or attempts to colorblindness. Respect unique cultural practices, beliefs, communication styles and perspectives without forcing assimilation. Appreciating diversity makes life richer. Curiosity, dialogue and celebrating traditions allows understanding.
4. Listen Deeply
Give people of other backgrounds space to voice feelings and perspectives. Set ego aside. Rather than interjecting personal experiences, listen earnestly without interruption or debate to understand different outlooks. Let go of assumptions. Hearing people’s stories firsthand fosters nuance beyond stereotypes.
5. Build Community
Proactively create regular opportunities that bring people of diverse backgrounds together through community initiatives like hosting multicultural block parties, sporting events, potlucks, book clubs or other local efforts. Consistent positive interactions offspring deep relationships and care across dividing lines. Familiarity nurtures empathy.
6. Stand Up Compassionately
If witnessing an act of racial insensitivity or bias, speak up politely without accusing anyone. Share your perspective on why certain remarks or behaviors negatively impact human dignity. Dialogue educates. Anger often breeds defensiveness while compassion and moral courage inspire.
While racism’s roots run deep historically, each of us chooses how to grow unity rather than division within our own spheres of influence. Progress takes time, but ordinary people can change the course. The tips here aim provide actionable guidance to counter racism in ourselves and communities.
I offer counseling and clergy services. For more information, visit https://www.pastorservonteephriam.com/. For weekly podcasts and livestreams, catch me on https://www.therealephriampodastshow.com/.
Pastor Servonte L. Ephriam, a native of Los Angeles, California, is a dedicated professional with a passion for helping others. With a wide range of certifications and credentials, Servonte has established himself as a trusted resource in various areas of counseling and support services. Overall, Pastor Servonte L. Ephriam's diverse range of qualifications and experience make him a valuable asset in the field of counseling and support services. His compassionate approach and dedication to helping others make him a trusted confidant and advocate for those seeking guidance and healing.