With the passing of time, America has come a long way toward raising awareness of cultural differences in our country and toward eliminating the fear and threat that many feel when faced with those differences. Through termination of the cruel and unjust laws of Jim Crow, the end of the “legal” brutal treatment and lynchings of innocent black people in the south, and, by fighting for changes in segregation laws for public facilities and schools, we are finally on our way to raising racial awareness and acceptance of other cultures in our country. There is, however, still a long way to go before we can honestly say America is a place of equal opportunity for everyone.
For a country as large as the United States of America, and with so many people immigrating from countries around the globe every day, racial consciousness is an important concept and a milestone to work toward improving. People of color in America are represented by immigrants from Asian countries, those of Latin origin, and “Black” people from many countries around the world. An important fact to realize is that today, African-Americans (descendants of those who were slaves) no longer represent the largest number of Black-Americans or non-white people in our country.
As far as we have come as a country, it is a disappointment to point out that people of color are still being marginalized and treated differently by society. People of color do not start with the same opportunities or privilege as those who are born for the American Dream, a dream that has been tied to white privilege. Even the “melting pot” ideal has been found to have been aimed at the colonial settlers -- those of Northern-European descent -- and has not ever included people of color into the equation.
What we have come to know as Black America has changed since the majority of black immigrants are no longer direct descendants of slaves from Africa. Today the term Black American is preferred by many African-Americans because they are from places other than Africa; and, will often check the identifying box on paperwork as “other” writing in their own labels of Jamaican-American, Haitian-American, and the like.
Through ignorance around the enormity of the impact on marginalized citizens, U.S. society minimizes importance of racism, racial consciousness, multiculturalism, and colorblindness (Warren & Sue, 2011). With the numbers of immigrants from Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe, shifting racial boundaries indicate that population ratios are changing and whiteness will eventually no longer be a universal experience of privilege or power (Winddance-Twine & Gallagher 2008).
Other factors changing Black America are the rising number of multi-racial children who identify as white through their parents’ interracial marriages and blended families (Shaw-Taylor, 2009). A “third wave” of whiteness predicts that the population of our country will actually be considered white within the next fifty years (Winddance-Twine & Gallagher 2008). We may live to see the end of racial inequality by 2050 because any physical attributes or other ethnic markers will fade away through the blending (or “mixing”) of races (Warren & Sue, 2011).
Whites who claim to be unaware of their superiority and mistreatment of people of color, or who don’t want to see it because it is ugly, will continue their ignorance because they truly believe it isn’t so bad. They will continue to enjoy the privilege that comes with the color of their skin – whether they are aware of it or not. (Winddance-Twine & Gallagher 2008).
I believe that people often pass off the responsibility of speaking up against racism, racist jokes, hurtful labels, slang, or comments because they are worried what others will think of them. These people who are afraid to speak up are the very people who can begin making a difference in raising racial consciousness, and need to realize that speaking up does not necessarily mean becoming involved in confrontations. By not laughing at racist jokes, walking away when conversations become racially offensive, or naming racism for what it is in the face of it, we can begin to raise racial consciousness one person at a time. By making others aware that they are being offensive, we can plant a seed that will possibly help them think twice the next time they are tempted to tell one of those jokes, use a hurtful label, or classify people in negative terms because of where they are from.
As allies for people of color, immigrants, and members of the LGBT community, we can begin to make a difference. We have the power to create change, and need to have the courage to step up, speak up, or walk away when faced with prejudice, because the prevalence of silence indicates acceptance. If our voices don’t cause racist people to turn from their offensive behaviors altogether, it will at least teach them not to talk about such things in our presence.
Shaw-Taylor, Y. (2009). Trends: the changing face of black America. Contexts, 8, 4:62-63. doi:10.1525/ctx.2009.8.4.62.
Warren, J., Sue, C.A. (2011). Comparative racisms: What anti-racists can learn from Latin America. Ethnicities, 11: 32. doi: 10.1177/1468796810388699
Winddance-Twine, F. & Gallagher , C. (2008). The future of whiteness: a map of the ‘third wave.’ Ethnic and Racial Studies, 31, 1:4-24. doi: 10.1080/01419870701538836