By Chelsea LoCascio
In 2016, we still consider race a significant and telling definition of one’s character. Despite years of learning how race scientifically and fundamentally does not define a human, Americans have yet to overcome the issue.
In an ideal world, one’s race would not be a thought in anyone’s mind, yet a long history of largely unjustified prejudice has made racism an impossible issue for Americans to give up.
As people still give power to the idea of race, the lack of progress we have made as a society is immediately evident through recent social media trends. Of the most notable are controversial issues like #OscarsSoWhite and actress Stacey Dash’s take on segregation in the media.
Being a white woman who is not an expert on race or race relations, I find it hard to place myself in this race war. I consider myself to be an average American citizen and I genuinely try to be empathetic toward both sides, since it is as difficult to see other white people being targeted as the enemy as it is to see white people actually continuing to wedge a divide between the races.
There is a constant struggle between extremists in all races to assert their dominance over the others and it’s not working. These close-minded crazies continue to fuel the racial fire with hate that is dividing and weakening our country.
I feel that I can speak for my hometown, which is a small, racially-homogeneous community made up of mostly middle- to upper-class, educated white people. Being from a generally non-diverse area, many residents just do not see the injustices that continue to hurt non-white people. Why? Because these injustices are institutional and so deeply ingrained into society that most people are blind to it. In addition, the lack of diversity and exposure to racial tension in my hometown makes racism something most don’t seem to care about fixing. I can assume this kind of thinking also applies to other parts of America.
Some white people wonder why we can’t judge people on their merit and not their skin — in other words, just be colorblind. Although we should hope to achieve that one day, we cannot let that happen now. To avoid talking about race is to avoid progress. These subconscious racist actions, thoughts and profiling are why we need to talk about it. As the saying goes, the first step is admitting you have a problem.
The most difficult ideas for us to shake are stereotypes, since they are often true to a degree, which allows some people to feel justified when asserting their beliefs about someone of a particular race.
Due to these sometimes-correct generalizations, people act accordingly. For example, a Washington Post article from Dec. 4, 2014, about racial profiling used New York Police Department stop-and-frisk data from a 2011 study conducted by the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) to show the discrepancies between how often a person of a certain race is stopped. The data showed that young black men made up 25.6 percent of the stops, young Latino men made up 16 percent and young white men comprised just 3.8 percent.
In an nyclu.org article from Dec. 10, 2015, stop-and-frisks have decreased since 2011. Some might consider this significant progress, but blacks and Latinos were still the prime targets — just one of many examples indicating that racial profiling has not gone away.
While issues like these are starting to gain recognition, some people are over-correcting the problem rather than resolving it in a logical manner. Some decided that filling a quota of black and Latino students at a college or employees at a company would be a good solution — it’s not. It solves the problem of ensuring that at least some racial minorities are given the same opportunities as white people, but that gives way to other problems.
Ideally, applications should not ask for someone’s race because anyone of any race should be chosen on their capabilities, skills and intelligence, rather than their skin color.
Unfortunately, this issue of unequal recognition plagues Hollywood, as well. While I am not someone who actively follows Oscar nominees, I will say that perhaps the #OscarsSoWhite issue has less to do with the Oscars and more to do with the fact that racial minorities are not offered the same leading roles as many white actors are. On the other hand, people, like Michael Caine in his interview with BBC, would argue that there were some noteworthy performances from black actors this year, such as Idris Elba’s performance in “Beasts of No Nation.”
When it came to the Oscars, Dash said in an interview with Fox News that aspects of the black community, like Black Entertainment Television (BET) and Black History Month, perpetuate segregation in America and should no longer exist. Actress Gabrielle Union responded to Dash’s comments and the Oscars issue best when she was interviewed by the Associated Press.
“If you don’t see yourself reflected in mainstream awards, you tend to create your own,” Union said. “Until there is no longer a need for that, I celebrate the (American Latino Media Arts Awards), the same way I celebrate the Country Music Awards and in the same way I celebrate the BET awards and the Image Awards… The more that we focus on inclusion and a true representation of this country, I think that (Dash) will have less to say.”
We cannot stop talking about race or do away with things like BET until everyone is equally represented in a country that prides itself on being a melting pot. Americans first need to recognize that no race is superior to another and second, that race needs to be discussed by everyone in order to facilitate empathy, understanding and equality. If we ever get to that point, that’s when we can stop giving race as much importance as we do now — when we all can finally stop identifying first by our race, and instead choose to foremost be known as Americans.
Students share opinions around campus
Is race still relevant?
“Yeah… it’s still s big topic in politics and the world.”
“Definitely… it’s still an issue because we still hear about racial issues (almost) every single week.”