Racism in America

by Amber Johnson 

Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in our Urban Youth International Journalism Program in partnership with Paul Robeson High School in the Englewood neighborhood. Students participated in a field trip to see “State of Deception,” a traveling exhibit from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. The UYIJP is generously funded by the McCormick Foundation.

There is an underlying problem that is not addressed in America. Racism is a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human groups are determined by cultural or individual achievements, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule over others. In fact, a lot of people believe and try to make others believe that racism no longer exists. But situations such as the Holocaust and Civil Rights Movement show that racism has always been a part of society. Many people today live their lives oblivious to what is happening in the world around them and often try to convince themselves racism is not a problem in their world. Others know all about the racism but don’t realize that they themselves could possibly be discriminating against someone else’s human rights, at the same time going around saying how open minded they are.

One of the main issues with racism is that many people live in racist conditions without even seeing it. Often it’s in their school, workplace, community or even in their own homes. People often tell jokes with racist slurs and while we know not to laugh at the jokes about black people, it seems the jokes about other races such as Chinese and Hispanic are OK to laugh at. We tell ourselves that they are just jokes but to those who they are ridiculing, it can be offensive.

Some of the biggest racists are those who don’t even know that they are and even say that they aren’t. These people are racist because they cannot comprehend that their behavior and the things they are saying are racist. It is important to understand the problem of racism is relevant in society today, especially when people apply for jobs or go shopping in stores.

According to the website Do Something.org, studies show that police officers are more likely to pull over and frisk blacks and Latinos than whites during a traffic stop or just walking down the street. Also, black youth are 33% more likely than white youth to be detained in jail while facing a felony trial in New York. Blacks arrested for drug possession are more likely to wind up in prison than whites arrested for the same crime under the same circumstances. Many young people as well as adults feel the United States justice system is a racist set up.

Blacks and whites were segregated before the Civil Rights era. Blacks were not allowed to eat with white people. Blacks had to sit in the back of the bus and whites in the front. Blacks and whites couldn’t go to the same school. Blacks were denied jobs and other things that were accessible to whites and weren’t allowed to use the same public restrooms or drink from the same public water fountain.

The Holocaust is another example of racism that has taken place in history. I viewed a video from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, “Stories of Rescue,” and I have read a book about the Holocaust called “Diary of Anne Frank.” She was a teenage girl who experienced racism at the age of 13 and her family was Jewish. Jews were being controlled by Germans whose leader was Adolf Hitler, who hated Jews because they he said they weren’t of pure German blood. Hitler treated the Jews like dogs. He would put them in concentration camps and he would burn the old people and children because they were unable to work. The Holocaust started before World War II but during the war, Anne and her family spent two years and one month hiding in a secret annex in Amsterdam. Anne and her family were separated and she was transported to Bergen-Belsen at the end of October 1944. In late February/early March 1945, Anne died of typhus. She wrote everything that she and her family experienced in her diary.

I have experienced racism myself . About two summers ago, I was in Wal-Mart with a few friends shopping for summer swim wear. After about 10 minutes in the store, I noticed an employee that worked at Wal-Mart following us. So just to make sure if this was true, we decided to walk around more. We were standing by the swim wear and out of nowhere, she said, “Don’t steal anything.” I felt it was racist because she followed us the moment we came in. So to avoid an altercation, we left Wal-Mart. My friends and I really felt it was wrong of her to just come out of the blue to say that.

I interviewed my classmate Ceona James. One day, she was shopping for an outfit and she was being followed by a white employee. Ceona said she stopped to look at a shirt that she thought was cute. Then she said the lady asked her if she was going to pay for the shirt. Ceona felt the lady was insulting her by saying she was broke or going to steal the shirt. To avoid conflict with the lady, Ceona decided to leave the store. I interviewed another classmate named Marcell (he didn’t want to use his last name). He and a close friend were in the suburbs on their way to a store and out of nowhere, a group of men who looked Latino started to chase them. As they were being chased, the Latinos yelled, “Get out of our hood you n—–s.” Marcell said he felt they were being hated by people they didn’t know.

Racism can happen to anyone no matter what race you are or where you live. There are people who tend to criticize another race because it’s how they were raised. What people fail to realize is that racism is something that makes our society look bad. As a country, we should be able to get along with one another and stop discriminating because of racial differences.

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