Taken as a whole, how racist is American society? Some points:
For the purposes of this thread, let’s limit the discussion to racism against people of color. (I have no idea if that term is still current, but for the purposes of this thread we’ll use it.) This is not to say that anti-white racism can’t or doesn’t exist - I’m sure it can/does, and if you agree or disagree feel free to discuss the matter elsewhere - but typically when we talk about racism in the US that’s not what we’re talking about.
While we probably all agree that levels of racism vary depending on area, social strata, type of racism (implicit vs. overt), etc., for the poll just try to characterize it overall. Feel free to elaborate in your post.
If you find yourself getting torn up with the definition, imagine standing at a water cooler at work and hearing some coworker say either: “The US is hardly racist at all!” or “The US is one of the most racist countries on earth!” and ask what your gut instinct response would be in comparison.
I’m curious to get a sense of what my fellow dopers think.
I’m white. “Pretty damned racist”. This is working off the accounts and experiences I’ve encountered of non-white people, since I’m not really a good judge of how racist it is here, being, y’know, white. It seems racism has stopped (or is in the process of stopping) being institutional and is more a general societal feeling, which can be harder to eliminate.
Going above “pretty damned racist” seems to lack historical perspective, though - if you classify the current-day as “extraordinarily racist”, what do you call Jim Crow?
I went “very very”. In my experience even the people who claim support for minorities and equal chances for all tend to jump in their car at 4pm and head for some lily-white suburb 20 miles outside of the city; especially after the first kid is born. It may not be the same as white sheets and hoods but I don’t find it much more acceptable.
How is it poisoning the well? I was very upfront about what I was asking for in the OP, and besides, the vast majority of discussions about racism in American society are about discrimination against non-whites. Asking “How racist are white Americans?” wouldn’t do, because it ignores intra-minority racism. I could have just asked “How racist is American society against people of color?” but I think the terms of what I’m asking were clear enough.
This I’ll cop to, because it seems logical enough to me that no society on earth can be completely free of racism or any other form of bigotry, though surely it can come very close.
I agree with Tamerlane, though that might be a tiny too rose-colored about the current era.
What astounds me is that many people agree with the first three assessments offered in that post, but then believe something magical happened in the 1960s and racism is all but dead. I suspect that, fifty years from now, the current era will be seen along the same slow continuum as the last hundred and fifty and not some radical break. And, more likely than not, most white people in 2065 will think racism finally died in the 2010s. And so on, for some time. But with gentle progress.
It probably is. But cliched as it sounds, I simply can’t imagine a Barack Obama winning a presidential election in 1984. Like the recent sudden ( partial ) success of gay rights, something had shifted in the American gestalt by the 21rst century. Maybe not profoundly, but just enough.
I’ll stick with moderately, but somewhat is an optimistic hope.
A lot of people say racist things without even realizing it. My mother will often describe people by their skin color, when it’s not necessary. Now, my mother is the most loving, accepting, non-racist person you would ever met, but she can’t understand how what she says can be seen as racist. It’s like unintentional racism.
I’d say that every white person I’ve actually met expresses beliefs running the gamut from “I don’t care what color their skin is” to “they deserve preferential treatment” when asked about people of color. I’m sure there are white people out there who feel differently; I’m likewise sure there are people of color who feel white people should be hit with discrimination or slurs or violence and et cetera because of their race.
If, as per the OP, we should disregard the latter because reasons, I figure we should disregard an equal number of white people who also get it wrong. Would that leave us at zero? Well, maybe. But maybe not. But I’d sure like to have a clickable option instead of seeing that it’s been assumed away from the get-go.
The other side of the coin : other nations that might sneer at the USA being racist…are themselves monocultures that are terribly racist to outsiders. Supposedly, Japan and China are especially like this. But even Norway and Sweden and the rest, full of people willing to jump each other over political correctness, historically didn’t import massive numbers of black slaves or border a country that exports millions of hispanics.
So, somewhere like Norway or Sweden would probably be quite accepting were you some race other than white, yet the actual populations are lily white.
The more I learn, the less I see Obama’s election as a significant barometer of racism.
Extraordinary individuals are often able to overcome social prejudice. Even apart from whatever skill or characteristic sets them apart, the very fact of being set apart helps them–racial tropes and stereotypes are easier to apply in the abstract or with superficial contact than after years and millions of dollars worth of marketing. Obama in particular is also extremely adept at code-switching, in part because of his history and the nature of his family. Biden’s notorious comments about him being “clean” and “articulate” reflected as much Obama’s ability to avoid racial stereotypes as it reflected any social shift, IMO. Obama also had less code to switch, so to speak. He never had to learn to be “street,” and so he didn’t have to jettison any of that to be accepted as a mainstream politician. So I’m not so certain he wouldn’t have done just fine in the Cosby era if offered the same set of political circumstances (i.e., Iraq War, financial collapse, dominant but surprisingly weak primary opponent, etc.)
If he benefited from a change in racism, I think it was as much a change in the nature of it, not the degree. White supremacy in 2015 is very focused on criminality. That has always been a core theme of American white supremacy, but it is currently ascendant. If you’re a black man lucky enough to grow up outside a segregated black neighborhood, you still face all kinds of racial obstacles. But you’re way more likely to have avoided the biggest one: the criminal justice system. Because of the racial way our society chooses to deploy it’s police resources, if Obama’s drug experimentation days had been in Camden instead of Honolulu, there’s a much higher chance he never would have made it to college, much less the Presidency.
It’s racist enough that it is still reasonable for a person of color (especially a black one) to worry about being discriminated in employment, education, housing, and by the criminal justice system. We have a system designed to combat these things, but it is quite fragile. The results of a single election could dismantle the protections we’ve set up and take us in a backwards direction.
True, most people of color do not have to worry about being overtly racially harassed on a daily basis (although the majority of us seem to have at least one story of this happening). But even in Jim Crow days, it was impolite to harass. People can be unwelcoming even when they’re smiling in your face.