Friday, October 17, 2008

Race and Causality

Hello students.  We've discussed two kinds of arguments in the last week: rebuttal arguments and causal arguments.  For your next essay, you have to chose to craft one of these kinds of essays (although, please remember, they are not necessarily mutually exclusive).  In this blog posting, I am going to pose a provocative question, and since everyone needs to mandatorily post a comment to this, I want you to think in terms of causality here.  In Shelby Steele's essay "I'm Black, You're White, Who's Innocent," he early on uses the expression that a party of his was doomed as a result of "an abrupt and lethal injection of the American race issue" (603).  I am going to ask you a question that might at first seem vague but will perhaps help us to come to a better understanding of something that still very much concerns us an Americans precisely because of its enigmatic and inarticulable nature.  What is "the American race issue" today?  And, secondarily, as this issue exists today, what causes its perpetuation as a "topic" of continued relevance in our society?

17 comments:

RoryRowley said...

In my opinion, i think one of the major race issues in the country is the fact that most people refuse to even acknowledge the fact that there is a race issue not only in this country but within themselves. In being ignorant to the fact the racism still exists we are allowing it to still be a major issue within everyday life, giving it a standing spot within our cultures, homes, and lives.

Sam O. said...

American ignorance has created racist culture that is founded in its unwillingness have empathy with other groups. Instead of treating others with mutual respect, we alienate them so that we can make them the target of our hatred. Too many Americans are stuck in a rut unable to sympathize with people that are in the same situation as them. Rather than working together, people fight against those that are facing the same problems as them; wasting a chance to work together and overcome the adversity. The only way to break this pattern is for us as a nation to realize that we have more in-common with each other than any of the difference that may separate us. Just like C. P. Ellis when he had the epiphany looking out his window watching the black man that was walking down the street with the same ragged shoes and clothes that Ellis had. He came to release that he was only perpetuating a system that worked against him by continuing to cling to his racists believes.

nikki said...

I may seem completely ignorant and narcissistic but I haven't seen evidence that suggests that racism is running rampant in our society today. I am in no way dismissing or ignoring those who do continue to exhibit hateful prejudice, but I do believe that, as a whole, we have come to the point where we don't discriminate based solely on skin color. I think that we've moved past the era of hatred for hatred's sake.
However, despite our progress, I do believe that feelings of bitterness, apathy, and alienation continue to exist between races today. It's evident that social, psychological and economic gaps continue to “segregate” races today. White people still constitute the majority of high socioeconomic classes while minorities seem stuck on the lowest rungs of society. However, I think it's impossible to determine whether this is due to underlying racial discrimination or if it is the result of convenient victimization, as Steele seems to suggest.

Sam said...

I agree with Nikki in that I don't see widespread racism as a problem. My head is full of images from 1960's Civil Rights movies, and I tend to compare the rampant racism of the past with that of the present. Although, if I was to look very closely at the state of things then maybe the biggest race issue is that of segregation in schools. Many schools are still overwhelmingly segregated. These schools also tend to suffer from gross inequality. Most people believe this issue dead, but the evidence of this inequality is plain to see in any city elementary or high school. This topic will always be important, because no one can stand idly by while those less fortunate suffer.

jon s said...

I think that to some extent the American race issue of today could be shifting more from an internal issue to an external issue, in that we are discriminatory against people from other nations. If they are "American" then we generally can get along with them dispite their racial backgrounds. If they are from different nations, however, then we tend to see them as inferior. This view that America is the greatest leads to many injustices around the world, including slavery which most Americans would agree is wrong. They don't see it happening in America, however, so it is not as big of an issue to most people. I think this is a horrible system that perpetuates injustice because it is out of sight and out of mind.

tim said...

While perhaps not as obvious as racism in the past, pretty strong feelings of resentment still seem to exist between cultures. I think the issue of illegal immigration, whether from Mexico or elsewhere, definitely suggests that nativism, if not outright racism, is still prevalent.
Causes of past racism still seem to be an underlying cause of modern discrimination. Scapegoating, for example, still definitely occurs. It occurred in Germany pre-World War II, and it's still somewhat occurring now with illegal immigrants. Americans can't seem to find work. Immigrants are arriving and finding jobs, albeit not usually the best-paying. As a result of their frustration, some Americans feel the need to blame these "aliens."

John said...

I think racism as a system of abuse and violence in the form of protests has become less frequent. However, prejudice, and the causes of prejudice are still running rampant in our society. I believe one of the causes of racism and prejudice is the clique mentality - an exclusiveness that tends to alienate and group people based on physical attributes rather than on the "Content of their character" (King, 1963).
However, while excluding people can have devastating consequences, I do not believe that this is something which can be forced out of an individual. I think that an individual's attitudes towards others are based primarily on their social circumstances, as in CP Ellis. Mr. Ellis was not, until the later part of his life, put in a position where he was working with people who maintained different views than his. In consequence, Mr. Ellis maintained the most hateful generalizations about blacks, Jews, and Irish catholics. Later in his life, Mr. Ellis was put in a position to work with some of these people and he repented of his bigotry, so it seems that the best way to cleanse our nation of hate and discrimination, is to instead instill in our compatriots a sense of what similarities are common to all. We're all human, I believe we are all created in the likeness of God, so what else matters?

eric said...

I think the race issue, like the gender issue, is drastically over-exxagerated by mainstream media. Yes, racism does still exist and it probably always will to some degree. However, the amount of attention that is given to racism is disproportionate to what is actually observed in society. The media, just by constantly acknowledging differences between races, does nothing to help the problem. For example in the Obama campeign, everyone is talking about the implications of there being a potential black president. In my opinion its stupid to even talk about that, and by doing so we are continuing to recognize a racial barrier.

Alan said...

I may seem completely ignorant and narcissistic but I haven't seen evidence that suggests that racism is running rampant in our society today. I am in no way dismissing or ignoring those who do continue to exhibit hateful prejudice, but I do believe that, as a whole, we have come to the point where we don't discriminate based solely on skin color. I think that we've moved past the era of hatred for hatred's sake.

Had contact with the KKK lately? Sure, such discrimination and hate are not as rampant as they were in the past, but they're still there, and still rampant -- they just happen to be mostly underground now. If we let them run their course, their hateful ideas will (unknowingly to us) spread like a poison.

I think the issue of illegal immigration, whether from Mexico or elsewhere, definitely suggests that nativism, if not outright racism, is still prevalent.

This is misleading -- that is *not* racism. We're not pissed off at illegal immigrants because they're Mexican or whatever the hell of race/nationality they are. It's because they're stealing *our* jobs. Hating for race and hating for ganking our jobs are two very different things.

Dunte said...

Racism is not an issue.


It's obviously not because classism, economic discrimination, political discrimination, ableism and ageism are not issues.
Racism is only an issue in the context that it is ONE pervading human response that we choose to analyse.
However, it falls under the very same categories as those above, as similarly does sexism.
Global tolerance and harmony can never exist truly because humans default to a "group mentality" to resolve all things.

But to address racism singly, it is a problem, as has been said before, most often when we make it a problem. By attacking an entire race through one person, you make them a representative of that race, thereby accountable for all the transgressions of that race. And when they then defend themselves against your accusations, the assumption is made that they are defending that race and are therefore racist. In fact, the aggressor, who so often fancies himself the victim, is the true racist, because he only has power when he can use another's race against him.

Racism is just a controversial term for human weakness.

Alan said...

dunte: Racism is just a controversial term for human weakness.

Your elitist remarks make it hard for me to find truth in your claims, and acting like you're above the influence doesn't help either.

Call it what you will: discrimination, a "one pervading human response" thing, or a "group mentality" thing, just know that it doesn't change the fact that the problem still exists.

Del said...

The more I think about the whole racism problem in the United States the more confused I am. It's compelling to me that a nation once built on unity is now so segregated. However, if we look around we realize that it's not only the United States that shows pronounced racism. Pretty much every country is racist to a certain extent against others.

Dan said...

I believe racism still exists today as there are sayings throughout the media about blacks and whites. With it still being talked about, there are more reasons why people are racist. For example a black man is running for president and are people voting for or against because of his color? I heard one say that "he will be the first black president. He probably will get shot." I see this as very racist and that no should see anyone as a color or race but as what they can do as an individual.

Dunte said...

@ alan:
I don't make statements to establish myself as an elitist as you so label my position. The statement made is quite simply that "racism" is no more a problem than any other form of discrimination upheld by societies worldwide. Check yourself before you cast labels and consider what I might mean by it.

In general, I wasn't denying the existance of racism or any other discriminatory mindset- and I acknowledge that I promote just as many assumptions about people as I resist. Put simply, because we in academia consider ourselves aware of things happening in the world, and in many cases, rather arrogantly think ourselves empowered to change something in the world, I make the point against ALL people, myself included, that we can't attack just one problem in the hopes that it promotes our skewed concept of "equality".

If we want change, we have to analyse the causes of what we wish to change. That's exactly what I'm pointing out- we would do well to see the big picture while we redraw the small one.

Alan said...

dunte: I don't make statements to establish myself as an elitist as you so label my position. The statement made is quite simply that "racism" is no more a problem than any other form of discrimination upheld by societies worldwide. Check yourself before you cast labels and consider what I might mean by it.

Then perhaps you would do well to check your own wording so it does not lend more than the meaning you intended. Your tone suggested arrogance. English is a versatile language, y'know.

Put simply, because we in academia consider ourselves aware of things happening in the world, and in many cases, rather arrogantly think ourselves empowered to change something in the world...

Not sure about "arrogantly," but there's nothing wrong with feeling empowered to change the world. I share that sentiment. That's called motivation; idealism; ambition; the mindset that one person can make a difference. What good will my schooling here do if I don't believe that it will one day be used to change the world?

If not even one person feels that way (no matter how foolish the extremity of beliefs), then those problems you speak of have won the day.

Alex said...

I think that racism today, like jon s. said, is changing from an internal issue to an external issue. The cause for this, in my opinion, was Sept. 11. Since then, Americans have become more paranoid and are less willing to understand people that aren't from America. In the sense that, we don't know what immigrants want, and we don't know if they are planning another Sept. 11 attack. People are now on their guard around foreigners, especially those who are from the Middle East, and have become more susceptible to the stereotype that everyone from the Middle East is a terrorist. The cause of these reactions is fear. Fear that something will happen that will change people's lives for the worse, and it will be the fault of "those foreigners" who should not have been allowed to enter the U.S.

Vicky said...

Racism still exists in America today. In the past when we heard the term racism, we typically thought black and white. With the current election approaching and with the prospect of Barrack Obama becoming out first black President, we could say that racism in our country has all but subsided. However, we would be wrong. The fight against racism has come a long way, but to believe that it no longer exists would be foolish. The differences between races will always exist. These differences are what lead to conflict, but they are also the things that make each group special and unique. Being different is not necessarily a bad thing. It would be a very boring world if we were all identical.