«Race and Ethnicity in America» - Free Essay Paper

Race and Ethnicity in America

Section 1.0 Modernism, Its Decline and Post-Modernism

  • The section deals with the rise of modernity alongside with the rise of science as the dominant ruling force.
  • According to Cornel West’s definition, modernity in discourse represents the modern discourse as the result of the process of scientific enquiry based on observing and measuring the external world that provides value-free pragmatic opinions on specific subjects.
  • Since the Age of Enlightenment, scientific methods were applied to the study of various disciplines as they were treated as the sole source of truthful and reliable evidence.
  • Scientific methods were used to perpetuate the phenomenon of race domination in order to justify the existed inequality.
  • The emergence of modernity is related to the slave trade that was initiated by the Western civilization and forms a foundation of American state and its rise on the world’s arena.
  • The period starting from 15-16 centuries to the end of 18 century was marked by the development of movement for equal rights and liberations. However, it was basically related to the individual freedom of the European ethnical group. The representatives of different nations from the entire globe attempted to dominate Africa, grounding their superiority on the religious, social or political matters.
  • Color blindness results from the false representation of the real state of relationships between the races. It is based on hypocrisy of blaming African Americans for their disadvantageous position in society and propagation of suffering and humiliation by denying the past.
  • The real equality can be attained through the recognition of the fact that it was the physical strength of the black people that allowed Europeans to establish their dominance on the continent and the difficult life conditions for other nations were appearing during many centuries and take time to get free from the impact of the past.
  • Prejudice against prejudice represents the safe reaction of people whose opinions are blamed to be racist and contribute to the tension between races.
  • The slavery had dehumanized the contemporary race relations. Instead of focusing on the past obstacles and eradications of minor ethnic society, it is necessary to recognize the achievements and contributions of the African Americans despite the past oppressions.
  • The achievements of modernity and its present treatment of world lie between the values of puritanism and materialism.
  • The glorification of the European nation and the acknowledgement of its supremacy within the settling of modernity were based on the belief that African Americans comprised a part of the acquired wealth and belonged to their property.
  • African Americans were tools and means rather than creators of modernity. They were not recognized as individuals who deserved “freedom from” and “freedom to” (Drjasonjcampbell, 2014).
  • 1871 – 1950 – the decline of European modernity: the recognition of the violence and vain efforts, signification of nihilism.
  • The decline of modernity was followed by the Postmodernist era: science had lost the position of the ruling force; the growth of cynicism and narcissism as the consequence of the fall of modernistic values; loss of awareness of what to expect from the next stage.
  • Postmodernism is related to the recognition of the USA as the new and separate cultural and political community with separate conceptual features.
  • Forming of national identity and the issue of ethnicity is related to the European dependency and common past.
  • European dominance results from the geographical movement that caused long-lasting opposition between the arrivals and indigenous people, as well as isolation of the latter. Hence, the American nation was basically considered to be the offspring of Europe.
  • European dominance caused the sense of isolation, while identifying themselves as Americans, they could no longer appeal to the European culture. They have to recognize own identity, which was established alongside with the enslavement of numerous people.
  • Till present, the USA has not managed to break the bonds with of its European roots and customs. However, the European element functions merely as a symbol. The recognition of own identity presupposes looking forward and beyond its measures.

Section 1.1. Understanding Modern Racism. Part One.

  • The section refers to the depiction of the historical reasons of racism emergence.
  • The genealogy of modern racism refers to the reasons of establishment of the idea of white supremacy and derives from:

- great attention given to the difference of physical appearance (stimulated by the habit of viewing the world and people from scientific perspective);

- scientific Enlightenment that made a great impact on emphasizing the empirical observations and comparison as the methods of discovering and evaluating the world;

- the recognition of undeniable excessive power resulting from the advances in science;

- new understanding of the concept of power that, according to West, is viewed as something subjectless.

  • There exist two concepts of power: discursive and non-discursive. The concepts have entered the modern discourse and formed the two different discourse structures.
  • Non-discursive power represents the type of outer authority, which propagates sociopolitical power as the unquestionable rule that cannot be the object of negotiations or put under doubts.
  • Discursive power refers to the authority that admits the discussion of its supremacy and the questioning of its establishment methods.
  • Non-discursive power deals with the conditions for the means of the ruling forces propagation, while discursive power provides the direct access to such means.
  • Both manifestations of power facilitate habituation to the dominance of specific force and its propagation.
  • In terms of racism, discursive structure allows the variations of the purpose of specific term use related to racism, while non-discursive discourse applies the specific expression as the mean of power establishment and dominance of one race over the other.
  • A non-discursive structure facilitates the use of genealogy that refers back to the history of relationships between nations and represents the reasons of the offensive meaning of specific expressions.
  • Non-discursive structures act as justifiers of the racist implications within discursive structures.
  • Nowadays, the process of transformation of non-discursive structures into discursive is observed. It resupposes shift in the purpose of the specific phrases or expressions usage alongside with the concealed meaning that stands behind the words.
  • There exist three variations of modern discourse structures that shape true representation of race and which derive from the significant historical events and processes.
  • First structure type is shaped by the scientific revolution and consequently is distinguished by the excessive glorification of the power of science and the appeal to scientific methods that include observation, comparison, analysis, and evaluation of the evidence.
  • The second discourse structure is related to Cartesian philosophy that set the major principles of discourse, namely, “the primacy of the subject and the preeminence of representation” (Drjasonjcampbell, 2014).
  • The discourse within the boundaries of Cartesian philosophy appears as the product of subject’s thinking on the specific phenomenon in reality. Hence, the existing thing is objective, while its representation in individual’s mind is subjective.
  • The third discourse structure type is grounded on the process of classical or aesthetical revival that presupposed the cult of physiological beauty and proportionality within the images of antiquity.
  • It pays a great attention to the comparison of physical appearance of modern population and the ancient sculptures and detection of the deviations from the established European aesthetic standards. Moreover, it is defined as an evidence and justifier of the white supremacy over the whole globe.
  • To conclude, scientific method became a mean for biological observable racism.

Section 1.2. Understanding Modern Racism. Part Two.

  • The current section deals with the ways modern racism manifests itself within the three previously mentioned types of modern discourse.
  • In relation to the science, the remnants of the racism may be found in the access of people to certain benefits or their evaluation, for instance, standardized testing.
  • Standardized testing represents the way of evaluation of individual abilities or achievements in unbiased way regardless social, cultural or racial characteristics. The participants are places in equal conditions, receive equal tasks, and are evaluated by the same examiners. Consequently, the results are purely based on the individual experience, skills, and abilities.
  • The essence of educational testing consists in selection of specific people and the division of participants into those who performed better and deserved the benefits and those who performed worse and are automatically considered to belong to the “lower class”.
  • The necessity in high-quality education is related to the fact that advantageous positions and career prospects have always been accessible only for well-educated people.
  • The history of standardized testing is stained with the issues of biased treatment and racism as it eliminated the representatives of racial minorities providing the descendants of historically ruling ethnical community with better opportunities.
  • According to Fleming, standardized tests have been used to discriminate the minorities and provide the access to high-quality education only for the white people during two centuries.
  • Within the mechanism of standardized testing there are distinguished five potential conditions for biased treatment of the participants:

- tests require the awareness of the white middle-class experience, while the different ethical groups have differences even in kinship relationships;

- prejudice about the underachievement of ethnical minorities representatives and their educational disadvantage in the educational space designed for facilitating the social mobility for the majority;

- feeling of being incapable of performing at the sufficient level that reflects the issue of being different and the dominance of specific class that lies at the core of racism (testing procedure is viewed as a separate microcosm and the participants represent the prototype of real society); 

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- lowered predictive validity for the students from ethnical minorities (tests represent the attempt not only to evaluate but also to foresee or predict students’ abilities and performance in future according to the achieved scores. In its turn, it represents a biased attitude, as the scores cannot determine the future success or failures due to the fact that they are merely the outcomes of hard work);

- denial of opportunities that occurs as the consequence of giving them to those individuals who performed better in the testing. 

  • In terms of emphasis on subjectivity as the central component of Cartesian philosophy, the racism manifests itself within the process of representatives of African American community discrimination that is based on the idea of criminalization.
  • Jason Campbell distinguishes the theoretical and practical discrimination (Drjasonjcampbell, 2014).
  • The subjective theoretical discrimination of specific ethnical communities refers to the relations between the dominant and subordinate groups that are commonly characterized by tension coming from the intergroup conflict.
  • The eminence of single group domination presupposes the establishment of the standardized set of features that are considered to be normal and define the superior community. Hence, the individuals that lack such specific features are ascribed to the subordinate class.
  • The theoretical discrimination within the communities refers to the intragroup relations, within which the subordinate or minor groups have to assimilate in the aesthetic standards dictated by the ruling majority.
  • The discrimination occurs at the level of speech when people with accents that do not follow the standard sound are treated as less-educated or qualified and are not taken seriously.
  • There exists a tendency of evaluating people by the presence of specific characteristics that approach the ones possessed by the European nation: the more biological resemblance is identified, the more privileges or opportunities the one might receive.
  • The practical discrimination is analyzed in terms of gender division as male and female African Americans have different experiences of unfair and biased treatment.
  • Discrimination of male African Americans is related to the biased public opinion that associates black men with threat and manifestations of violence and aggression.
  • The perception of the black men as the source of threat is connected with their expression in modern culture. For instance, rap music, that originates from the African American ethnical communitties, eradicates aggression and, in certain sense, pays homage to criminality and creates false opinion that all black males follow such trend.
  • The belief in inherited violence results in occurrence of prejudices against the normal manifestations of negative feelings immanent to all human beings. It is caused by the fact that such situations are commonly treated as simple representation of threatening aggression.
  • There exists biased attitude towards the groups of black men that are commonly associated with savagery.
  • The image of a person with a dark skin (even without the observations of his actions and behavior) is associated with violence. Even within the police officers, there is a tendency to suspect people with dark skin in having committed some crimes or in the inclination to violate the law.
  • The black women are also suffering from discriminations. However, their image is less stereotyped than the one of black men.
  • The black females are commonly associated with laziness and presence of a big number of children with the suspect of having different fathers.
  • Modern society has deprived both male and female representatives of African American community of the right to react in physical or highly emotional way to any insults or injustice as such reaction may be treated as the act of intentional aggression and strengthens the biased attitude.
  • People are made to feel that they represent minority. They are inferior in physical appearance and intellectual abilities and do not have feeling of inclusive experience.
  • There also exists the discrimination within the group of black identity people that is based on the distinction between the shades of skin color or other physical characteristics shared with the superior group.
  • The issue of colorism refers to the fact that representatives of the same race can receive different punishment for the equal crime: people with lighter color of skin have less severe detentions for misbehavior than those whose skin is darker.
  • The statistic data demonstrates that African Americans with highly distinctive ethnical features of the physical appearance were more likely to be sentenced to death penalty.
  • To conclude, the representatives of racial minorities still suffer from discrimination and biased attitude that are the consequences of the three significant processes of scientific Enlightenment, emergence of subjectivity, and aesthetic revival.

Section 1.3. The Emergence of Modern Racism and an Aesthetical Response.

  • Cornell West claims that there exist several stages of the emergence of modern racism relation to the aesthetic beauty and physical appearance.
  • The first stage is marked by the idea of the specific physical norm presence that was the embodiment of the beauty. The normalized physiological type of a person is compared to others and the similarities and differences between the model and the observed individual determine the classification to majority of minority representatives.
  • The aesthetic model emerged from the subjected appreciation of the classical era of antiquity and was represented by the appearance of European type.
  • The second stage of the rise of racism is related to the appearance of such scientific disciplines as phrenology and physiognomy that were focused on determining the differences in the skull structure and the face physique.
  • The focus on examination of the divergences between people and determination of the common features immanent to the members of specific ethnical group had deepened the inherent sense of being different.
  • Physiological abnormalities lead to the rise of social prejudice against people with divergences from the aesthetic norm. The people with similar abnormalities were expected to have similar behavior and inclinations or declinations in misbehavior.
  • A good example of the racism based on physical appearance is represented in the film entitled 10,000 Black Men Named George. The film refers to the phenomenon of labeling the representatives of specific occupation with the same name. The case depicted in the movie shows the tendency to call all Pullman porters who were mainly represented by African Americans “George” (Mundy, M. & Townsend, R., 2002). It is obvious that such workers were not distinguished as the individuals and were simply labeled with the characteristic of being black.
  • Campbell refers to the responses in regard to modern racism and discrimination of people who, according to their ethnical peculiarities, look or act differently (Drjasonjcampbell, 2014).
  • One of the examples of overcoming the “white” standard of beauty is represented in the Disney movie entitled The Princess and the Frog. The princess here is depicted as the girl with the dark skin, which assures the fact that nowadays the aesthetic ideal of beauty includes the people with different skin colors (Del Vecho, P., Lasseter, J. (Producers) & Clements, R., Musker, J. (Directors), 2009).
  • The investigation of specific ethnical community should take into consideration its historically enrooted traditions and culture. In case of African Americans, it refers to the manifestation of muscular power in dancing.
  • The subjectivity of feelings of offense or threat that may arise during the observation of the physical movement or display of emotions by African Americans should also be acknowledged (the peculiarity of the “black” culture determines the nature of the movements that are often distinguished as aggressive and distinct. However, they do not necessarily carry some negative implications).
  • The management of discrimination on physical level refers to the significance of developing the aesthetical sensibility and acceptance of all variations of individual’s appearances.
  • It is important to remember that any personal features in terms of taste and culture are accepted as deviations from the ideal.
  • The emergence of degenerate aesthetic is another response to the attempts to discriminate the features that are not immanent to the commonly accepted norm. It refers to manifestation of personal freedom of choice regarding personal outlook that differs from the aesthetical ideal of beauty.
  • To conclude, the racism and ethnical discriminations derive from denial to see and acknowledge the differences either in physical appearance or in individual tastes and preferences.

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