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Racial inequality among blacks have long been a blatant circumstance of the American experience. Such circumstances range
of the horrible realities of African enslavement in the 1700s to the restrictions on human rights such as unfair practices such as literacy tests before being permitted to housing and voting in the 1950s. Fast forward to modern day, and the progress that blacks have initiated in America is evident through legislation like the Voting Rights and Civil Rights Act. Both are pieces of legislation which stemmed from the Civil Rights Movement. Despite the advancement, the repercussions of such mistreatment of blacks by whites are still in effect today. The issue of “internalized racism” comes in part from the pressure of a majority white society and economy wanting blacks to be a “model minority,” while in fact the institution of a majority white society are the ones in “denial” of the ongoing problems that make blacks feel they should not be the “model.” All the terms have socioeconomic complexes pertaining to the inequality of backs in America. Each term will be defined in context of the paper as well as analyzed and interconnected with each other term through factual justification attained from a socioeconomic and historical basis.
The term internalized racism refers to the negative, condescending racial viewpoints that blacks have towards other blacks. Viewpoints such as seeing your own race as lesser than another race, not wanting to be of your own race, and wishing other people in your race were not associated with you are all forms of internalized racism. For hundreds of years, blacks were told that they were not equal to their white counterparts. They were told that having “dark skin was a mutation, and were made lower in society” (Smedley 59). These observations, as we know today, are completely absurd. However, such remarks were made and carried on for so long, and even acted on by white authority during periods of slavery where “lighter skinned Africans did not have to engage in harsher labor tasks as darker skinned Africans”(Colorism 1). Plus, majorities of American Congress agreed to the inequality of blacks with Jim Crow Laws and voting laws. Therefore, it is reasonable to see the internalized racism of blacks in previous generations where they would believe that they are not equal to whites or that their darker skin is a mistake. Furthermore, such ideologies from white society carried on in post-slavery eras such as the Industrial Revolution where blacks with lighter skin were more acceptable in society. Therefore, within black communities having fairer skin was seen as a positive physical attribute rather than having darker skin. This colorism among blacks was another form of internalized racism. Also, due to white supremacy, the “black” way of speaking which was primarily through ebonics was seen as uneducated. Therefore, in many Black communities internalized racism would arise when one spoke “white” because other members of the community would frown upon that and assume you were trying to be “white.”
Moreover, speaking “properly” refers to a way of speaking that does not comprise of ebonics or any other cultural dialect of English that does not derive form white colonialism. By doing this, whites would view blacks who spoke in such a matter as educated and reformed. With the notion of white supremacy which favors “whiteness” over “blackness,” the dialect more associated with whites would be what was deemed more acceptable and appropriate. Such viewpoints from model minority still have profound impact. I can recall my sister being teased by other blacks in middle school because she supposedly “talked white.” One of the black girls even went as far as to say, “you think you’re better than us?” With such a statement, it is apparent to see the internalized racism at work. Just because my sister spoke in a way in which was deemed by white society as “educated” and “pure,” other black girls actually believed that and saw that my sister’s “white” way of speaking was automatically better than their dialect even though my sister never made any statement or action of superiority over them. Furthermore, my sister’s way of speaking would be seen by whites as appropriate or the “model” way in which to speak. However, my sister was not trying to be something she was not. That was just the way she spoke. My sister has her own beliefs, culture, and influences that have all affected her dialect from birth. However, with white society forming an acceptable “norm” in which to speak; there is some vulnerability for instances internalized racism among blacks and other non-whites.
The socioeconomic implications from the experiences my sister has had as well as other African-Americans are evident as well. According to a poll conducted by Monster.com, one of the leading employment websites; it was concluded that employers are more likely to hire someone who has a similar dialect to themselves. Furthermore, with most employers being Caucasian, it is advantageous for African-Americans to develop a dialect that may not be natural to them. In my sister’s case it was natural since she is a first-generation American, therefore, her dialect can be easily derive from her life experiences. However, this can really be an issue to many African-Americans in the workforce because they feel they have to behave not authentically in order to just have a chance of being hired and contributing to the economy. In stating this, one could conclude why this could be one of the reasons why the highest rates of American unemployment are among African-Americans. This is crucial because that leaves a substantial vacancy for African-Americans in the workforce. Who knows the economic gains that could be derived if Americans tapped in to the potential human capital of all people rather than those they could most identify with? There has been legislation passed that makes some corporations meet a “quota” for minority employees, however, I believe corporations should really seek out to racially broaden their workforce rather than just meet a quota because you are forced to. Diversity promotes different perspectives, experiences, and knowledge that could all be beneficial to help a company grow. This is a circumstance that I believe more corporations should seriously look into.
The term model minority refers to the “proper” manner in which white society believes blacks should behave. Factors such as dialect, culture, and behavior are all effected under the model minority. The “proper” manner that white society believes blacks should engage in terms of this paper is a manner in which they “keep to themselves, don’t initiate any political change for the betterment of their race, speak without the use of ebonics, etc” (Model Minority). Basically the culture that derived from white colonialism is the culture white society wants blacks to take on. In addition, by white society wanting blacks to also keep to themselves and not try to initiate any political change; the notion of white supremacy will stay intact without their power being compromised. The term denial is a more refers to the ignorance of racial mistreatment that whites have towards blacks that the whites themselves fail to see. The inequality among blacks by whites has made substantial progress in modern-day from where it was even 50 years ago. Inequality based on race is illegal in nearly every facet of American life which allows blacks in America to succeed in ways unheard of in previous generations through affirmative action regulations set for universities, reformed voting laws, and more. However, despite the progression blacks have fought for, there is still a lot of inequality. The amount of blacks in prisons far “outnumber the number of whites although whites commit more crimes” (Weiser). Moreover, “blacks are the highest race targeted” with the Stop and Frisk laws placed in New York (Weiser). However, even with many racial inequalities that whites perform towards blacks; many whites believe that racism and prejudice is not alive, and that the lives of black people are just as equal and fair as whites when that is not true as evident through the preceding issues addressed. The issue of denial can be predicted for the following reasons: Since whites do not have to conform to the “model minority,” they don’t realize the struggle that many blacks go through with having to abandon who they really are as people in order to adopt model minority principles to be more accepted in society which could lead to their own personal, economic growth. Therefore, with blacks trying to be more accepted and play a part in a majority white economy, they have to deal with internalized racism stemming from condescendence among some blacks for abandoning their culture in order to “fit in.” Furthermore, since many whites are not really aware of this, it is easy to deny issues that many blacks face especially within their own cultural circles.
The socioeconomic impact of trying to be a “model minority” is prevalent among blacks as well. There is a renowned opportunity cost at stake when it comes to this issue. Should a black person act like “society” wants them to act in order to have a better shot at employment and advancement within the workforce, therefore forfeiting their cultural integrity to get ahead? Or should a black person stay true to themselves, and be looked at as “different,” therefore diminishing their opportunities for employment and career advancement? It’s a tough decision to make, and many blacks and minorities find themselves in a space where they have to balance the two worlds. Furthermore, having to work to find this “balance” takes away from the time that blacks could be using to be more efficient contributors of the economy. It brings an additional, psychological workload on top of what they already have to deal with in their respective economic situations.
Racial inequality among Blacks and Whites have long been a critical part of the American experience. The depiction of the model minority is a motivating factor behind some internalized racism within black communities and groups. Therefore, it can be easy for a white or non-white person who is not associated with any such group to deny some of the issues at hand. Furthermore, with the advancement of civil rights and privileges of modern-day that are somewhat due to blacks going against the model minority during the Civil Rights Movement; whites may believe that the fight for equality is over, and that blacks and whites are in fair, equal society. As we know by now, that is not the case, but with discussions such as the ones brought up in this paper even more progression can be made with race relations and inequalities in American society.
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