Dear Mr. Smith, It was a great pleasure speaking with you on the plane ride back to Chicago. However, we didn’t get the chance to finish our conversation about minority relations. I disagree with your claim that the playing field is level and if people don’t succeed, it is their own fault. Through this letter, I wish to prove to you that racial oppression still persists today through examples of “Laissez Faire” racism and how you can make a difference regarding this issue. Racial oppression persists today through the legacy of our history.
First, individual beliefs on white superiority from the past have passed down through generations, manifesting in the form as white privilege, an example of individual racism in which the perception of race is created from one’s own cultural lens. White privilege is an unconscious and invisible form of racism in which whites do not realize they have racial privileges. They do not ask for it nor choose to keep it but it nonetheless comes with birth and their natural white skin color.
Although some may acknowledge race, they may ignore the existing racial hierarchy in society as they naturally enjoy many benefits like economic opportunities. White privilege is important because it labels non-whites as victims, holds white people more accountable, helps whites understand their invisible superiority and integrate into white norms when there should be interracial integration. Second, the self-perpetuating cycle of negative racial stereotyping continues to drive racial oppression. A majority of whites are unaware and ignorant of these persistent negative racial stereotypes that remain in their attitudes.
These stereotypes impact behavior subconsciously and are intensified by fear and power, making it into a vicious cycle that is less likely to break and be challenged. Whites enjoy power and may feel threatened when minorities rise in power or threaten them through terrorist attacks, creating instances with racial profiling, hate crimes, etc. This cycle explains why it is difficult for some people to move past racism in his or her lifetime. Lastly, institutional racism demonstrates racial oppression from legacy of our history.
Institutional racism is embedded in political, social and economic structure and if its effects are magnified, consequences are widely spread out and repetitive. The intentions of individuals in this case do not matter as it is carried on through society over generations. Such racism provides automatic advantages for whites, who were born to be ahead in the four stages of life including socioeconomic status, education, work, and legacy. This is especially due to the current growing wealth gap as the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, making it difficult for minorities to climb beyond their ascribed status.
As people accumulate wealth through inheritance, investments, average family income, and home ownership, etc. minorities as a result have to work harder to achieve the same level of success as whites. The theory of laissez-faire racism encompasses the prominent ideology regarding contemporary racism and was coined by Dr. Lawrence Bobo. This more subtle and hands-off form of racism still continues to highlight the current problem of racial oppression in the United States (US) through the following conclusions.
First, available data suggests that the US experienced a positive transformation in attitudes regarding racial relations. Yet, despite this change in attitude, there is no change in behavior and racial discrimination still remains a barrier for minorities in the American institution. As a result, race is used as a device to divide and mobilize voters at the local, state and national levels. In other words, believing the ideology of equal opportunities, personal responsibility and the “playing field is level” for minorities does not mean discrimination no longer exists.
It simply demonstrates the lack of awareness and failure to accept the persisting existence of racial oppression, as society is unwilling to enforce and implement these new attitudes through action. Some examples of racial inequities that persist as a result of laissez-faire racism are evident through home ownership, health disparities and the disproportionate incarceration of young men of color. Although minorities have access to home ownership like everyone else, they still encounter discrimination in their efforts to rent, buy, finance or ensure a home, which has significant financial benefits.
Most minorities do not accumulate wealth through inheritance, investments and home ownership like most whites do. As a result, they struggle to secure a house because they are less financially sophisticated. For example, some houses are available for white families and not black families. Banks charge higher interests and are also more reluctant to give loans to those that live in black neighborhoods, also known as the redline area. In addition, although whites want to live in diverse and predominantly white neighborhoods, laissez-faire racism prevents residential desegregation and white flight can still occur.
The available medical programs available for society like Medicaid and health care distorts the reality that minority families receive the full medical care they need, creating health disparities between different races. For example, whites live an average of five to seven years longer than blacks. Studies have also shown that people residing in the richest zip codes live up to 90 years and those residing in the poorest zip codes live up to 57 years. Regardless of income, all African Americans suffer higher blood pressure and the women on average have high mortality rates.
These health problems are due to environmental factors and the effects of laissez-faire racism. For example, segregated neighborhoods with minorities struggle to attain health care, private amenities and basic resources like healthy food, medicine, medical facilities and doctors. If there are doctors, lack of cultural competence is common in which these doctors, mostly white, can mistake illnesses or oversee an African American exclusive disease. There may also be a language barrier, as doctors may not know how to speak the language and carry negative stereotypes. Health care is available but only for those who are able to afford it.
The disproportionate incarceration of young men of color is another example of laissez-faire racism. Although anyone can be caught committing a crime, incarceration rates are much higher for people of color as 80% of the people in prison are African American or Latino. Minorities are easily victims, as those that have the power to sentence punishment like the police and courts consists of mainly whites. For example, the stop and frisk policy gives police officers chance to look up if anyone had possession of any drugs and minorities, and African Americans are especially targeted.
Disproportionate incarceration rates occur because blatant racism still exists; there is persistence of negative racial stereotypes; institutional practices or policies have great outcomes and the presence of economic incentives. Disproportionate incarceration can also have negative impacts including stereotyping victims for life, stripping their rights to vote, and banning them to live in public housing, receive welfare payments and public assistance. The statistic that young men with criminal records are more likely to be hired than young black men without criminal records shows that these victims would forever struggle to find mployment opportunities. These impacts influence the community, as there will be fewer positive role models for children and create a sense of hopelessness among these victims in finding a bright future. You mentioned in our conversation that you are interested in using a significant portion of your wealth for a socially responsible purpose. Well, I have several ideas you can consider. In regard to health disparities, you can build better facilities like hospitals and clinics in poor neighborhoods with high minority population. As I mentioned before, these neighborhoods lack basic necessities like food, sanitation and medicine.
By building these facilities, you would help this community gain easy access to whatever they need, increase their exposure and awareness to biological education and health and reduce the wealth gap. Another idea is to invest your money on leaders or influential figures who support and promote racial equality. Their popularity and presence through the media can stir sympathy, empathy and transformation insight to understand racial oppression. Depending on your interests, you can invest in a person or an event to increase minority representation in any field including politics, business or the media industry.
In politics, you could fund for the political campaigns politicians like senators and representatives who have major roles in policy-making. Or, you could aim even higher and invest in the presidential campaign. Presidential leadership has a strong impact on nature of racism as it can impact laws that are designed to create level playing field. For example, Lyndon B Johnson’s attitude towards the importance of extoling importance of affirmative action and overcoming racial discrimination had a strong impact on society.
As the first African American President, Obama instilled faith and hope for African American representation in the high-class society or workforce. The attitudes and values of the president are reflected in his administration, as he would appoint prominent positions like ambassadors and Supreme Court judges to people with similar goals as him. Besides politics, you can also invest in minority singers, movie actors or actresses. Some talented people lack the opportunity to show their talent but you could be their agent and help them gain the attention and representation they deserve.
However, you must be aware of the tokenistic fallacy, which guarantees total equality in society if there is an anomaly such as eliminating racial discrimination towards African Americans with Obama as president. Nonetheless, it does help to gain more minority representation in all areas of the workforce as these people in powerful positions can influence others and increase their support and empathy for minorities. My last suggestion is to increase educational programs that promote diversity and provide more chances for people of different races to interact and integrate into one culture.
In specific regards to disproportionate incarceration of men of color, you could invest in better education of police officers on race, class and gender dimension of their kind of work, racial and ethnic sensitivity training to reduce street level how officer perceives and how they can not use quotas to get men of color. You can also educate doctors that work in segregated communities about misdiagnosis and medical differences to avoid cultural competence. You can also plan interactive and fun events and activities in less integrated neighborhoods to promote interracial interaction.
Such events can include celebrations of Black History Month in October or Asian Pacific Islander Awareness Month in April that all aim to educate society about a culture and its history. By exposing the cultures of different races, you would be able to spread and gain awareness of cultural diversity. Studies have shown that the degree of change in racial values depends on where and what type of community one grew up in. If grew up in a diverse community, then one has a more open-minded attitude. If one grew up in a homogeneous community, attitude is less progressive.
Thus, we must aim to create more diverse communities by encouraging interracial interactions. Your efforts will make a great impact, as generations over time will become more open-minded, progressive and diverse. You can promote attitudinal change within a generation and from generation to generation. Racial oppression will diminish over time as people become less racist. In conclusion, I hope my letter informed you more about the current issues of racism that have not yet been fully resolved. You have the potential to make a great difference in the community at large. Consider my proposals and make a smart choice. Best, Helena Wu