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Race Matters Essay

In America, society likes to believe that America is a Color Blind Society. They say they don’t see race, but just Americans. It has been noted that whites who are exposed to images or shows of upper-middle-class blacks, like the Huxtable family in The Cosby Show, the Kyle family in My Wife and Kids or the Banks family in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, believe that blacks have the same socioeconomic opportunities as whites (Gallagher 94). Media is one of the main reasons why people in today’s society might believe that America is a Color Bind Society with television shows, like the ones stated above, and celebrities, like Jay Z and P-Diddy, who are doing very well for themselves. A 1997 Gallup poll found that most whites believe that blacks have “as good a chance as whites” in the community in finding jobs and a Kaiser Family 1997 Poll found that most whites believe that blacks are doing at least as well or better than whites in income and educational attainment (Gallagher 98). However black men, over the age of 25, had a 12.3 percent unemployment rate in 2012 while white men, over the age of 25, had a 6.1 percent unemployment rate in 2012 (Bureau of Labor Statistics: House Hold Data Annual Averages).

With that being said, in 2010, the educational attainment of black men was 17.7 percent, slightly lower than the year before, while the educational attainment of white men was 30.8 percent, slightly higher than the year before. Black men are at a disadvantage. They are already deemed as a threat to society, a stereotypical threat that is. With cases like Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis and even as far back as the case of Emmett Till, it is obvious that when a person sees a black man they will associate them with trouble. First it was whistling at a white woman, now it is a hooded sweatshirt or playing loud music in a car (Harris-Perry).

“But always, this one thing has been the same. No presumption of innocence for young black men. No benefit of the doubt. Guilt not determined by what they did or said–but presumed to be inherent in their very being. They need not wield a weapon to pose a threat. Because, if you are a young, black man, who you are is threat enough” (Harris-Perry). This paper will prove how America is not a Color Blind Society through statistics and cases of how race matters, in regards to blacks especially black men.

It started as early as how skin got its color. Human skin gets its color from melanin. The primary function of melanin is to protect the skin from being damaged by the sun. Since humans are not hairy like mammals, the hairlessness exposes humans to radiation hazards, such as ordinary sunburn, but it can even expose humans to skin cancers, including malignant melanoma, which is one of the deadliest diseases (Harris 7). Humans saw race and color as early as 6000 B.C. depending on what side of the equator a person lived on (Harris 9).

In Europe, fair-skin was preferred because they tended to grow up and be taller, stronger and healthier than their darker siblings, so in that part of the world white was beautiful, or preferred, because white was healthy. In the equatorial latitudes, however, it was quite the opposite since vitamin D was never in short supply, and rickets and osteomalcia were rare, darker children were preferred because they were usually free from disfiguring and lethal malignancies. In that part of the world, black was beautiful, or preferred, because black was healthy (Harris 9).

If society were Color Blind, then color wouldn’t have mattered. A parent wouldn’t choose certain children simply because they happened to be lighter or darker. Natural selection, or survival of the fittest, and cultural selection, when society selects cultural traits that will enhance the survival of a civilization, wouldn’t apply to color, but it would apply to things people can actually obtain or change. A person can’t change their skin color unless they try tanning or bleaching, which holds problems in itself.

As a society, race is seen. Blacks are seen as thugs, people of Arabic descent are seen as terrorist, and whites are seen as the workers, or elite. People of Arabic descent who wear traditional clothing might be stared and ridiculed at on a regular day, but imagine if that were to happen on 9/11; many people would either fear them, or be racist towards them.

That wouldn’t happen to a white person on the anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing. In The Lost Boys of Sudan, a documentary on two Sudanese refugees who leave Africa and come to America so they can start a new and better life, a group of them were asked to stop traveling in packs because store clerks were threatened by them, but in all actuality they travel in packs because they are the ones that are scared. The unknown is scary, and they are in an
unfamiliar country.

It is common knowledge that during the pre-Civil War era, blacks were kept ignorant but physically strong, especially black men. Blacks were not supposed to read because an educated black would begin to understand that their treatment was wrong, and not just of the norm. An educated black would’ve known that something could be done about their treatment. Many whites slave owners believed that educated blacks could start a riot especially since they were kept physically strong. Race was seen in slavery days, even within the slaves and servants. A white worker was called a servant had to be paid and were in low supply, which is why they turned to slaves who worked for free and in high supply (Zinn 9). They were viewed as property, not humans.

They could be auctioned off like a person auctions off his car, these days. Race was seen back in those days, and it is still seen today. A study showed that if a black man pushed a white man, 75 percent saw it as violence were as 6 percent saw it has horsing around or dramatic. In contrast, if a white man pushed a black man 17 percent saw it as violence and 42 percent saw it has horsing around or dramatic. “America’s nightmare. Young black and didn’t give a fuck” (Menace II Society 1993). This referred to a young black male who was deemed a menace to society. A person would rarely, if ever, use the term menace to society to describe a young white male; they would use a term like “troubled teen.” Teenagers are known for being reckless and careless, a Color Blind Society would have said America’s nightmare: young and didn’t give a fuck, but since black was added, it shows people that race matters.

Black isn’t desirable it is feared. White is desirable, even Hitler tried to make blond haired, blue eyed society. No one has ever successfully tried to make a black only society. Race is a social concept because the idea of race has changed so much over time (Omi & Winant 18). In contemporary British politics the term black was referring to anyone being nonwhite (Omi & Winant 19). But a Jamaican or Latino would be offended being called black because one, they are not black, and two, black is not desirable.

It has been noted that black men are frequently stopped and frisked by the police whether they are driving a car or just walking down the street. Black men, especially those who live in New York, have encountered many impromptu frisking. Although blacks only makeup 23.4 percent of the New York City population, they make up 53 percent of the New York police stops. In Contrast, Whites, Asians and Native Americans make 47.3 percent of the New York City population, but they make up 13.3 percent of the New York police stops. This means a black person is about four times more likely to be pulled over in New York than White, Asian or Native American person, but society wonders why blacks are disproportionally represented in prisons.

Even more specifically more black men were stopped by the NYPD in 2011 than there are black men in New York City. Black men only make up 1.9 percent of the New York City Population, but make up 25.6 percent of NYPD stops. Black men are feared that is why police stop them. They stop them because police believe that they are up to no good. The way they dress may be a factor but it is not the reason they are stopped and frisked so frequently because the police have no problem stopping and frisking a well-groomed black man. Since 2003, the NYPD stop and frisks have increased by 600 percent (Mathias 2012). They have even gone as far as stopping and frisking people in their buildings, with their landlord’s permission. It is called “Operation Clean Halls”, which has been in effect since 1991. It allows police to do “vertical patrols” that allows them to go into private buildings and do stop-and-frisk searches in hallways. Almost every private building in the Bronx allows Operation Clean Halls, which population coincidentally has 30.1 percent blacks (2010 Census).

In the first three months, last year, the NYPD stopped and frisked people 203,500 times. Two men sued the NYPD because they were forced out of their livery cabs and were searched by cops. Both men accused police of racial profiling and unlawful searches. Being able to pull a person out of their cab and search them should be illegal. It is understandable that the police want to minimize crime in their cities, but people still have the right under the Fourth Amendment to not have to undergo any unlawful search and seizures. About 15,000 police stops over the last six years are unconstitutional and lack legal justification and 9 out of 10 of those stopped in 2011 were not even arrested, which in other words means, had little to no reason to be stopped. The police shouldn’t have the right to search a person without probable cause. Race is not probable cause.

Actually the “crime control policies of the Regan and Bush administration in the 1980s, which many academics believe to be partially responsible for the increased use of policing tactics such as racial profiling, have been disastrous for minorities, particularly young Black males. Likewise, young males, especially young Black males in their late teens and early twenties, are disproportionately represented in arrest statistics and thus, as a social group are often the targets of the police. In recent years, however, as racial profiling emerged as a highly visible intersection of racism and policing, the broader problem of racially biased policing has become considerably more important” (Reitzel & Piquero). Racial profiling also proves how America is not a Color Blind Society. Pulling over, unreasonable and unethical stop and frisks, stereotypes etc. are all ways proving America sees race. Those all prove that race and color matter to some, if not most, if not all.

The Trayvon Martin case opened a lot of questions on racial profiling that had been ignored before. Trayvon Martin was a 17-year-old black male who was gunned down by a 28-year-old Hispanic American male on February 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida. George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin’s murderer, saw Martin come into the neighbor and called the police because he looked suspicious. Martin had on a hoodie and sweatpants, something most kids these days wear especially when it’s a rainy day. Martin was walking to his father’s house who lived in the neighborhood and talking on the phone with his girlfriend holding a bag of skittles and an iced tea because he had just left the store. Although the dispatcher told Zimmerman to wait for the police to get there, Zimmerman took it upon himself to follow Martin. There was a brawl and a gunshot was fired. Martin was pronounced dead at about 7:15 that night. No one canvassed the area to see if anyone knew Martin because they assumed he was trespassing.

No one uses Martin’s cell phone to locate his family. Martin’s own father thought he was missing for three days because they said he was a John Doe in the morgue. His body was even tested for drugs and alcohol. Although Zimmerman admitted to murdering Martin, he was only questioned and released and no charges were brought against him, the night of the incident. Zimmerman wasn’t charged with Martin’s murder until April 11, 2012, almost a month and half after the incident. Many people argued Zimmerman was not arrest because there were ambiguities, but since he admitted to the murder the prosecutor should bring upon those ambiguities during trial. Other argued Zimmerman was not arrested due to the Stand Your Ground Law.

The Stand Your Ground Law clearly states, a person is not allowed to use deadly force, unless, “He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony” (Hutchinson 2012). In that case, the Stand Your Ground Law should’ve protected Martin. Zimmerman chased Martin. Zimmerman had a gun while Martin was unarmed. Therefore, Martin was the victim, but since he was a black man, he was deemed as a threat.

America clearly didn’t get the message because close to a year after the death of Trayvon Martin, the death of Jordan Davis arose in Jacksonville, Florida. Jordan Davis was another 17-year-old black male shot to death. Michael Dunn, a 45-year-old white man, murdered him but unlike the Trayvon Martin shooting, there were witnesses. Dunn allegedly told Davis and three other men in the car to turn down their music, but after a few negative words were exchanged between Dunn and Davis, shots were fired. Again, the murderer tried to go for self-defense under the Stand Your Ground Law in Florida. Davis was unarmed, like Martin. Davis was the victim but still he was deemed as a threat. Unlike the Martin case, it only took a month for Dunn to be convicted of first-degree murder, however, Zimmerman is still not convicted and his trial begins June 10, 2013.

Even before Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin, there was Emmett Till. Till was a 14-year-old boy from Chicago who was visiting relatives in Mississippi. On the night of August 24, 1955, Till allegedly approached a white woman in a grocery store. While the stories are unclear of what Till actually did, the husband of the white woman, Roy Bryant, was offended. Bryant thought his wife’s honor was tarnished after being approached by a black boy. A few nights after the incident, Bryant and his half brother, J. W. Milam, kidnapped Till, beat him, shot him, after seeing a picture of a white woman in his wallet, and then threw him into the river. Although Bryant and Milam were charge with murder, an all-male, all-white jury acquitted them.

Bryant and Milam told the truth to an Alabama reporter, William Bradford Hule, since they could not be charged again due to the Fifth Amendment. Emmett Till wasn’t a threat. He didn’t hurt the white woman. His murder was premeditated. He was taken from a relative’s home, beaten and killed, but they couldn’t just stop there. They couldn’t just leave his body there. They took his lifeless body and throw it into the river hoping it would never be discovered, leaving his family wondering. Jordan Davis wasn’t a threat. He was shot in a car for playing loud music. The police found no weapons in the vehicle. Trayvon Martin wasn’t a threat; an armed man chased him down. He tried to fight back which resulted in his death. After his death, no one tried to locate his family but instead left him in the morgue to rot because they assumed he was trespassing in the neighborhood.

Proper protocol was not used with the arrest of his murderer. It took over a month for him to be arrested, even after Zimmerman admitted to the murder since there were ambiguities, they let him go after questioning. All those cases would have been handled different if national attention wouldn’t have shinned light on the wrongdoing. It’s not always about putting someone in jail, but fixing the problem. The consequences to not having a Color Blind Society leads to things like racial profiling, racism as a whole, stereotypes, bullying etc. It also leads to minorities not being able to have a fair chance at life. When people hear things like, 5 percent of blacks with a criminal record will get a call back in terms of jobs, while 17 percent of whites with a criminal record will get a call back in terms of jobs and 14 percent of blacks without a criminal record will get a call back in terms of jobs, while 34 percent of whites without a criminal record will get a call back in terms of jobs, in enrages people (Pager 233). However, it also opens the eyes of a lot of people.

Race matters when it comes to jobs. It has been noted that if two exact resumes were turned into a job, but the names were different. The person with the “traditionally white” name would be called back before a person with a “traditional black” or “ghetto” name. It also matters when a white man receives three times as many job offers as an equally qualified black who interviewed for the same positions (Gallagher 98). But not only are minorities just not called back for jobs, but Black and Hispanic job applications suffer blatant and easily identifiable discrimination one in every five times they apply for a job (Gallagher 99).

In fact, many blacks are overqualified for the jobs they hold (Sterba 124). .Race matters when it comes to the war on drugs. Since 53 percent of juvenile drug offenses are by blacks while 26 percent of juvenile drug offenses are by whites (America’s Racial Report Card 410). However, in terms of the usage of drugs, whites use drugs more than blacks, but since blacks are more likely to be arrested for drugs because they are more likely to be searched, blacks makeup a large percentage of prisons. The purpose for the war on drugs is to stop the usage and distribution of drugs, however, since the police force mainly focuses on black usage and distribution of drugs, the war on drugs will remain a war. Race matters when it comes to getting loans for housing. Since minority applicants are 50 percent more likely to be denied a loan than white applicants of equivalent economic status.

More specifically, blacks seeking loans are two to three times more likely to be rejected than whites and blacks were 12 times more likely to be rejected tan whites at the highest level of assets and collateral (Gallagher 98), which is the reason why it is harder for black to remain middle class. Last, but certainly not least, race matters when it comes to education. Although blacks are at a low percentile when it comes to attending college or university, those who actually earn a degree still face racial inequalities. Blacks with a bachelor’s degree earn as much as $15,180 less than their white counterparts and although native-white males make up only 41 percent of the United States population, they comprise 80 percent of all tenured professors, 97 percent of all school superintendents, and 97 percent of all argil positions in Fortune 100 industrial and Fortune 500 service companies (Sterba 123). With those statistics, minorities don’t stand a chance because even when they try to better themselves and get an education or a job, they face discrimination.

They face hardships. They face inequality. If race didn’t matter there wouldn’t be a black history month, where people highlight the “first blacks” to do something, or the blacks who stood for change. If race didn’t matter there wouldn’t be Census specifying gender and race, such as the unemployment rates, dropout rates, poverty rates, or educational attainment rates of blacks, or more specifically, of black men. If race didn’t matter, Trayvon Martin wouldn’t even be dead from the result of George Zimmerman’s gun because Zimmerman wouldn’t have followed him because he would have never looked “suspicious.” If race didn’t matter, no one would have cared that Roy Bryant was white and that he killed an innocent black boy, but that a young child was dead in result of the rage of a husband. If race didn’t matter, some statistics wouldn’t even be relevant because most statistics foundation is based off of racial inequality. Most importantly, if race didn’t matter, something else would. America is not a Color Blind Society, which has been showed through statistics and the cases of Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis and Emmett Till. America notices race more than anything else. America first sees black then sees a black man. A person looks at news reports and it would state the race before anything. People wouldn’t know how to function in a Color Blind Society because race has matter for so long, racism is becoming the norm.

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