I was in a discussion just the other day about racism here in the US. I came up with a theory that I think works and might put the finger on the actual cause of racism, but before patting myself on the back, I wanted to get the opinion of the people here at the Straight Dope. Having read the Straight Dope for some time now, I figure I might get a pretty well balanced set of responses and lengthy explanations as to why I’m wrong, if I’m wrong.
I thought back to when I was a little boy and remembered the Blacks in the community and that I don’t recall any hostility towards them. Growing up, I became aware of their plight and my family made a point not to treat them in a racist way nor to make racist comments. In the late 60s and early 70s, with desegregation and bussing, I started noticing a change, which while absolutely justified, made me start thinking differently about Blacks and I noticed a change in my families attitude.
The attitude became increasingly hostile and belligerent towards Whites. Extended hands by Whites to help them out were slapped down, slapped back or the help taken with an attitude that it was owed. As the years went by, more and more people I knew who were racially neutral started becoming bigoted because of the Black attitude towards Whites and in general.
The normal Black of the 70s, who seemed to fit in, to adapt, to get along well with everyone, who spawned great comics like Richard Pryor, Sammy Davis, Jr., and scores more, which produced great groups like the 5th Dimension, great singers like Donna Summer and even more than mentioned here, suddenly were hostile, resentful, demanding and obnoxious. Suddenly, they wanted not to be just equal, but to be a separate group of individuals with more privileges than anyone else and became very, very vocal about hating Whites. At the same time, a change started in the family units among Black families where there was an increase in violence, a decrease in respect to the elders, and a very sharp increase in illegitimate births. Suddenly, Blacks were ‘breeding warriors’ for the cause, searching for roots and a large chunk spoke loudly about being related to royalty in Africa, demanding separate status, getting involved heavily with organized crime, and being portrayed in movies as nasty thugs who took nothing off of anyone, especially the Evil Whites. By the 80s, the Black element was portraying Black life as a continuous fight against ‘the man,’ the formation of Black Gangs, the stereotypical ‘loud and belligerent attitude’ showed up within not only Black communities but spilled out into regular society and actions of dress, speech, attitude, and traditions started emerging to create a separate Black society. Ebonics, ghetto-speak and Kwanzaa showed up, along with the sudden switching from European to African names and deciding that Christianity was the ‘White Man’s Religion’ and a change towards the Islamic faith, followed by the formation of hate groups like the NOI, the rise of the obviously racist Jessie Jackson and Louis Farrakan, the killing of Malcolm X, and the ‘uncle Tom-ing’ of Blacks who tried to work into regular society, which was then classified as White.
Racism, I figured, was not because of the color of the skin, but because of attitude. I am racist to a degree, and so are most people I know, including Blacks, and I have heard all of the arguments about how criminal statistics are wrong because Whites slant them deliberately, though having worked for a time in the field of Law Enforcement as a clerk, I know how many calls were made on Blacks in comparison to Whites. I know why racial profiling was and is done.
In the past, most people felt sorry for the poor, oppressed Black person, who stood in the back ground, was treated like crap, abused, cheated and had better not say a word about it. The stereotypical image of the ‘fat, white man, wearing a hat, suspenders, big, brown pants, big brown leather shoes, white long sleeved shirt open at the neck and 50 pounds over weight, talking in a southern drawl’ became a hated image. Movies portrayed the Southern Whites of the past as evil beings, who deliberately slaughtered their own kind just to keep the Black man in chains and who committed unspeakable horrors upon them, their women and their children.
The killing of the Civil Rights workers brought out scores of movies showing Black and Whites working to fight against the Evil Southern attitude, against a people who were still fighting the Civil War and damning the Blacks and the Yankees and working to keep the Black Man down at all costs and hanging or beating to death as many blacks as possible. Groups of Whites in the 60s and early 70s were shown as running into trouble if they had Black friends among them and movies about Blacks being terrorized by Whites in schools came out and a lot of sympathy was generated and determination by Whites to change things for the Blacks.
So, things were done and the current attitude many Whites see today is that the Blacks hate Whites, want more than their fair share, reject everything White except for stardom, money and women, and to be treated as equals but want to remain separate, complete with their own language, dress, slang, and religion.
This is enforced by those Whites who have gone to other nations like England, France, Australia, Canada and more, where Blacks live and have found, in general, an entirely different attitude among them than in the States. Several of my friends have commented that American Blacks give other Blacks a bad name and that they have found working and socializing with foreign Blacks much more pleasurable than what they have experienced here in the USA. Even among the younger generation of Black kids and the few that he found unpleasant were copying American Black dress and attitude.
All in all, they found less reasons to be bigoted over seas than in America. Most said that the minute they deplaned in the States, the Black Attitude was obvious present, from the way Blacks around them, working at the airport walked, dressed, talked and acted.
So, I have support for my opinion that racism is not generally or actually based in color but in attitude. I, personally, have met Whites who act as Black as the Blackest Black, who develop the slang, the gestures, the walk and the attitude and have found them repulsive.
Thinking back, we located similar attitude problems in the early Irish discrimination in the US and those of my friends who have been to Ireland have come back commenting on the belligerent attitude of many of the youth and felt that many in Northern Ireland were walking around just begging for someone to punch them out. They found a lot of the young kids to be particularly aggressive and outspoken, surly when talked to and very disrespectful towards adults.
A point in fact is that those who have spent time in England found the White youth often to be more belligerent than the Black youth and compared them to stereotypes in some of the English police or detective movies we get here.
Those who went to Israel said that most of the Israeli nation has an attitude that ranges from friendliness to obvious suspicion to arrogant hostility and down right discrimination but what do you expect from a nation that has been almost continuously at war for a couple of centuries. War tends to kill off the weak and creative and leaves behind the aggressive survivor types. It did not help much that they are not Jewish either.
So, many of us agree that discrimination is NOT due to color, but due to an over all attitude a race or whatever, has designed to keep them apart from the overall, primary society.
Like the Italians years ago settled into tight communities and kept their traditions, language and attitudes from the homeland intact and resisted change for generations, which promptly angered the host population. The same thing is going on in Miami, Florida, where the predominate language is Spanish and you need to be bilingual to live and work there. The surrounding host populations resent this.
So do I, as a matter of fact. I find no reason for the Spanish to be so catered to that in many areas, Spanish is a required language in school, you have to be bilingual in many businesses and nation wide, public signs are posted in both Spanish and English and this is an English speaking nation! That, though, is another battle to be fought or discussed at some other time and forum.
So, what do you think? Is racism mainly because of attitude of the discriminated against, or of actual color characteristics?