Before You're Racist, Walk a Mile in Another's Shoes

With the election of our new president, Donald Trump, it is not surprising to hear that many believe that racism is getting worse in America.  Sure, we aren’t seeing blacks being forced into slavery or enforced segregation that was present 50 years ago.  However, racism is still an ongoing struggle faced by many people of color in America.  The problem arises in the fact that there is a dispute about how bad racism really is.  Those who are not in danger of facing racism or those who have been so lucky enough as to dodge racism are likely to believe that while racism may still exist, it may not be as bad as some claim it to be; versus those who have come face to face with racism at its finest.  When people have two completely different perspectives, it is hard to determine how bad the issue really is.  One cannot determine the severity of an issue if they have not yet to walk a mile in the other’s shoes.  So when it comes to racism, it’s hard to reach a consensus about exactly how bad it has become when some people have experienced it and some have not and at different scales.   


First, the forefront of this issue can be seen in polls and surveys asking American citizens about how bad they think racism has become.  In these surveys, blacks were more likely than whites to make statements asserting that race relations for blacks are on the worse side of the spectrum.   In a national survey done by the Pew Research center (based on percentages and percentage points) conducted between the dates of February 29 and May 8 of 2015 that included 1,799 whites, 1,004 blacks, and 654 Hispanics, it states that, “by large margins, blacks are more likely than whites to say black people are treated less fairly in the workplace, when applying for a loan or mortgage, in dealing with the police, in the courts, in stores or restaurants, and when voting in elections.” In addition, in the data released by the Pew Research center points out that 46% of whites believe that race relations are okay while 45% of whites say that the race relations are bad versus the 34% of blacks who say that race relations are okay and the 61% of blacks who say that racial tensions are bad.  Both these findings solidify the fact that no one can exactly determine how bad racial tensions have become since both sides disagree on the subject of the matter.  Granted, those facing the discrimination are obviously going to be more likely to answer with statements that assert that racial tensions are worse.  However, the divide on the subject is still evident and if steady and about equal answers aren’t given, accurate and representative data cannot be determined.  It’s the simple fact that whites are more likely to answer that racial tensions aren’t bad while blacks are more likely to state that racial relations are bad that poses the problem.  It’s evident that whites are going to say that discrimination isn’t that much of a problem because they have more than likely, not experienced discrimination at all meaning that they don’t know what it’s like.  It’s not an everyday struggle that they have to face.  The divide originates from not understanding what it’s like to be in another’s shoes. 


Secondly, the more recent “Black Lives Matter” movement has been a bit more controversial because many do not understand where the movement has originated from nor do they understand the exact purpose of the movement.  When the phrase “Black Lives Matter” is chanted, it is often refuted by the statement that “All Lives Matter.”  And this statement that “All Lives Matter” is a somewhat racially charged response to “Black Lives Matter.”  Yes, it’s understandable that some people may be quick to defend other races and claim that “All Lives Matter” because they feel as if the “The Black Lives Matter” movement is communicating that the only lives that matter are black lives but, when it comes down to it, the phrase “All Lives Matter” is partially a way of refocusing attention to whites.  This is because white is the automatic default race in America when people are referring to a majority of the people in the U.S.  This phrase is chanted in response because people misunderstand the purpose of the “Black Lives Matter” movement.  Many believe that it’s trying to convince people that black lives are more important than any other lives or that it’s just a movement against police because of all the blacks being shot by white cops; or even that the movement is nothing more than a mob trying to rile people up.  But in actuality, the movement is essentially a cry for help.  It is a reminder to people that blacks lives are just as important as white, Hispanic, or any other race’s lives.  “Black Lives Matter” is a cry to bring attention to the fact that not only do racially senseless killings need to stop, but that people need to stop discriminating against blacks as well because while we would all love to believe that discrimination is not a problem in America anymore, it’s still an everyday problem; especially when you have young kids telling others in their class, “Now that Trump is president, I’m going to shoot you and any other blacks I can find.”  All-in-all, not to much surprise, yet again, the root of this controversy over the topic is because of misunderstanding.  The movement is misunderstood because, quite honestly, both sides have yet to see the other side of the argument and have failed to try and understand where the other is coming from. 


Lastly, reverse racism is a thing that “exists” and it completely skews the meaning of racism. According to dictionary, the definition of reverse racism is, “intolerance or prejudice directed at members of historically dominant racial groups.”  This basically means discrimination against whites from people of color.  But here is the thing; people of color cannot be racist.  Sam White portrayed by Tessa Thompson, from the Netflix series “Dear White People” sums the reasoning up of it perfectly; “[People of color] cannot be racist.  Prejudice, yes, but not racist.  Racism describes a system of disadvantage based on race.  People of color can’t be racist since [they] don’t stand to benefit from such a system.”  Thompson’s character is stating that in the long run, whites have sought to become higher in a sense of social hierarchy simply because of the color of their skin versus people of color who have never sought after that nor have they even been given the chance to seek that (if for some reason they so wished).  Therefore, if white people wish to call out any discrimination against them, they must seek out a different term since reverse racism is not an accurate term.  In addition, in an article published on the Huffington post by Zeba Blay, four common myths about reverse racism are identified, one being that “reverse racism” is a thing because affirmative action exists in the workplace and in college and that it favors people of color over whites.  However, Blay refutes these statements by pointing out the fact that affirmative action only exists to ensure that all people of color are considered just as equally as whites.  Blay also points out the fact that, “someone with a ‘white sounding’ name is 50% more likely to get a job call back than a person with an ‘ethnic’ sounding name, according to a 2003 study.”  So essentially, even if whites believe that they are being highly discriminated against, the proof is still there that people of color have a tendency to still be discriminated against more severely than whites.  In the end, reverse racism has arisen from misunderstanding terms and not being able to correctly identify prejudices and discrimination, skewing what racism means and essentially messing around with data findings when it comes to talking about racism. 


In the end, I highly believe that everyone can agree that racism still exists in some form or another, no matter how severely one believes it is present.  And I think that we all can also agree that many of our racial issues come out of the fact that we do not seek to understand each other; we seek to argue and fight because we are stuck in a time where many have tunnel vision or are so stubborn as to believe any other way besides their own.  As a society, we don’t take the time to step out of our own bubble to see things from a different perspective and get another idea.  We confine ourselves to our own littles worlds full of people who only think and look like us instead of finding those with differences, and that’s where all of these racial issues stem from.  We do not understand each other.  It’s high time to try and resolve our racial issues and come together as one nation instead of being divided into a nation of factions.  So the next time you’re quick to defend your side of an argument walk a mile in the other person’s shoes first.






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