Well, which ones? At the home level or the political level? It depends on who you’re asking, but here are some things to keep in mind:
Black Lives Matter. This recent movement has ignited a whole swath of emotions from both supporters and opponents of its ideals.
“Don’t all lives matter?”
–one might ask. And on a philosophical, principle-based ideology, yes, they do all matter. But looking at several parameters comparing black Americans to other “races” it’s easy to spot a disparity, especially between whites and blacks.
Here are just a few charts I found particularly alarming:
In these three charts, you can start to get a taste for how disproportionately society treats one group of people over another. Now, there are some important things to note here:
- About half of the deaths caused by police violence are suffered by whites. However, more blacks are killed in proportion to any other racial group, alarming since they make up a much smaller part of the population
- Even though marijuana usage is becoming more legalized across the country in recent decades, and about the same amount of whites and blacks admit to using it, a much higher percentage of blacks are arrested for marijuana possession
- White households overall are more likely to be high income, while black households overall are more likely to be poor
These are just what numbers show us; do with them what you wish.
There are plenty of white people killed by police or put in jail, and plenty of black people are wealthy. But at the heart, the U.S.’s system slows down the progress of certain groups.
And it’s not just a current phenomenon. Many opportunities exist for all races today, which is great, although, historically these minorities didn’t have a chance. Institutional slavery was one part of this. Theories of some races being better than others was another yet related one. Why else would a bunch of people come to one continent thinking they were “destined” to teach and conquer another?
I also want to point out that this problem isn’t uniquely European. Slavery, colonization, and segregation have existed on all populated continents throughout most of human history. People are just cool like that.
America has a dirty history of xenophobia, which is fearing or looking down upon people of foreign nations, cultures, religions, etc. Back in the early days, we were worried about Germans and Scandinavians taking our jobs and land. Later it was the Irish, then Eastern Europeans, Italians, and Asians. More recently it’s been Latin Americans and Muslims, but the history is long-standing. All these groups suffered violence and retaliation when migrating to America, the only difference being that those groups seen as having a “lesser” skin color, “lesser” religion, or from “needier” countries have suffered a lot more. This discrimination persists especially strongly in communities that have been divided for generations.
The U.S. is an incredibly complex country. The perception of it being a nation of immigrants has influenced many to arrive and continue with their old customs, estranging them from the general American culture. Fear of immigrants and frequent hostility towards them has left many feeling unwelcome to the point of willfully leaving to other countries or going back home. Who wants someone yelling,
Go back to where you came from!
or receiving despising looks all the time just because of their appearance or religious beliefs? I’m sure that I’d feel terrible about myself if I were put down for stuff I couldn’t even control. The government definitely creates policies that encourage this fear of foreigners. Think of:
- Japanese-Americans put in Internment Camps
- Irish migrants advertised as being subhuman invaders
- Mexicans and Central Americans being mass deported
- travel bans imposed on Muslim-majority countries
That last one’s pretty recent, eh?
To bring some sunshine to this story, Americans, in general, seem to be really well-meaning folks. We don’t like to see others suffering, and we want to be a peaceful and happy society that works together. Many are truly interested in other cultures, languages, and religions. We get a bad rep, but many of us are trying to break those closed-minded, bigoted stereotypes that we’ve put on ourselves.
Anyway, check out these pages below to see more charts about the perception of racial issues in America, and let me know what you think! There’s everything from income comparisons to opinions on how a person’s race affects social class mobility. There’s even an interesting little graph showing how Americans view the “N” word. There are a whole 7% of whites that think it’s okay “Sometimes” or “Always” for white people to say the “N” word, which is just silly. It’s a very small percent, but I’m trying to imagine who these people are. Are they really racist or are they just dotty white dudes that hang out around black people a lot and get away with it? Probably both, but that word deserves a whole article to itself.
So, the answer to the original question is: Yes, we’re a little racist, segregationist, and xenophobic, but it’s a long-time bad habit. We’ve been trained this way. We’ve been taught this way. Our nation started this way. But don’t forget, it’s not just an American problem. And, we’re trying! Many are fighting to fix this. Thinking about those positive-minded citizens helps me sleep better at night.
Charts showing how racial differences appear in society: https://www.businessinsider.com/us-systemic-racism-in-charts-graphs-data-2020-6
For the history of xenophobia in the U.S.: https://now.tufts.edu/articles/long-history-xenophobia-america
For Americans’ perception of racial issues: https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2019/04/09/race-in-america-2019/