Racism In My Twenty-Eight Years

Hello, my name is Christopher and I am a twenty-eight-year-old black male that was born in raised in Southwestern Pennsylvania. I would like to share with anybody that decides to read this blog what racism has looked like to me in my lifetime. If you are familiar with area you may know that a nickname for it is “Pennsyltucky”. One may ask why do people call it “Pennsyltucky?” Well, people in Southwestern like to do things that they believe southerners do. These things include but are not limited to; driving with a large Confederate flag on their truck, talking with a thick accent, and spewing out racial slurs and other harmful rhetoric. Before I go on in this blog, please remember that I said that they do things that they believe southerners do.

On many occasions, I witnessed people engage in blatant racism. Blatant racism is obvious in that people do not hide how they feel about a group (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). For example, I have had people stop talking to me out of nowhere because their parents did not like them talking to black people. Also, asking some girls to homecoming or prom was out of the question because their mother’s and fathers did not feel comfortable with them being out with me. But wait, it gets a bit worse. I have heard people say the n-word (I was going to type it out but I just can’t bring myself to do it) and then when they notice me, they would say “oh, I don’t mean you; you’re a good black person.”

Since 2008, I have seen ambivalent racism a lot more than blatant racism. Ambivalent racism is a bit more difficult to see than blatant racism. Ambivalent racism is when people have two views that are varying from each other (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). People that show ambivalent racism often are aware of the prejudices and discrimination that other groups face but they still feel as though everybody is on equal footing.

Anybody reading this may wonder why I chose 2008 as a mark. Well, that was when Barack Obama was sworn into office. I began to hear the sentiment that racism is not really a problem anymore because a black man has been voted into office. I had a conversation with somebody that admitted that people or color do face adversity that white people do not. However, since the country put a black man in office then people of color can become anything that they want if they just work hard for it. I do not believe that this person was inherently racist; he did not treat me any differently than anybody else around. However, he held two contradictory beliefs that stopped him from seeing the challenges that people of color face in this country.

I decided to take this opportunity to talk about racism because I wanted people to know that yes, it still exists. I believe that Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts (2012) did an excellent job of explaining the different types of racism but I wanted to further expound upon their message and make it real. I hope that anybody that studies Lesson 6 will see why diversity should be welcomed. It may not solve all our problems but it can present us with new ideas on how to solve issues facing us in today’s world.

References

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., and Coutts, L. M. (Eds.) (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications

4 comments

  1. Kyla Minkyung Park

    Hi Christopher,

    Great post and I cannot agree with you more on prevalence of racism. I am sorry that you have experienced blatant racism. As a member of minority group, I have my shares of experiences that pertain to racism. After living in Philadelphia for a decade, I am now living in Tennessee, 5 miles away from Kentucky to be exact. I did not notice much of racism in Philly as people were extremely individualistic to the extent which everyone did not seem to care about others. However, Tennessee brought me a reality check that I am a member of a minority group, thus, I am being treated differently.

    Just like how you described Southwestern PA, confederate flags are easily spotted in Tennessee/ Kentucky areas. Not only the flags, but also bumper stickers with offensive phrases are often spotted as well. Interestingly, those individuals rarely cause a scene when they are in contact with members of minority groups. However, they often express their bigotry in a subtle way such as avoiding eye contact and distancing themselves from those are of different races. In another words, aversive racism is prevalent in the area I am living in. I am sure the southern culture has a lot to do with their passive-aggressive behaviors, nonetheless we are not being treated equally.

    On many occasions, I feel like I am invisible or not welcomed to certain places. Last week, my husband and I went out for his birthday dinner, and of course, I could not avoid experiencing another episode of discrimination. When I asked our server questions, she made sure to answer those questions to my husband who is White. When she took my order, she did not make an eye contact with me as if she would contract a disease when she looked me in the eyes. As she continued to answer the questions to my husband, he eventually told her, “It was not me that asked you the questions”. She stuttered, panicked a little bit, and turned her body slightly toward me to answer the last question without making an eye contact or a simple apology. And, she did not come by our table throughout the dinner. Such events happen quite often, and I am afraid I am being desensitized as such events occur more frequently.

    I have my own coping mechanism in respect to such events, but it does not prevent such events from occurring or changing others’ behaviors. I would love to hear how you react to or cope with disparate treatments if you get a chance. Again, great post, Christopher.

  2. Hi Christopher,

    Well, let me first start off by saying I am incredibly sorry you have had to experience such prejudice behavior directed towards you. I also grew up, and still currently reside in Pennsylvania. The incessant want for Pennsylvanians to act “southern” is something I have taken notice to as well. I live in central PA, but it sounds similar to what you have described in southwestern PA. I have also heard people from this state speak with a southern accent. Confederate flags are unfortunately a very common site in this area. I have seen people attach the confederate flag to their truck, wear clothing with the confederate flag, have confederate flag bumper stickers, etc. Even though it fairly common to witness, every time I encounter one I am always surprised.

    Any kind of racism is despicable, but it takes a significant amount of ignorance to engage in blatant racism. It is very distressing to hear how you were treated by your friends’ families, and even your friends. Unfortunately, children tend to adopt similar views to their parents. So, if a parent is a blatant racist, it is not inconceivable to think the child will have similar views. You described the components of ambivalent racism very well. The “Barack Obama is president, so racism doesn’t exist anymore” argument is also one that I have heard numerous times. I agree, that I do not think those people who support this argument are trying to be racist, rather they are simply ignorant on the matter.

  3. Christopher,
    I enjoy reading your blog and thanks for writing something so personal, I am Hispanic and USA is my home, however just because the way I look I have been told so many times that I need to go back to my country. Sometimes I think that racism will never end. Per your comment, you were born in raised in Southwestern Pennsylvania and you are dealing with this issues well let me tell you that I live in south Texas and I see the very same problem towards black people. Houston where I live is a financial Hub bring with this people from different countries to live and work, but sadly they have to deal with the same problem which is racisms.
    It is beyond dispute that the United States contains deep structural racial issues. These racial disparities are perpetuated not only through explicit discrimination, but through the power of history. For instance, black and Latino children are far more likely to grow up in poor neighborhoods, stinting upward mobility. Black and Latino men are disproportionately caught up in mass incarceration, which affects their families and their earning for a lifetime. A new report by Demos and Brandeis University finds that equalizing college graduation rates between whites and people of color would close the wealth gap by 1 percent for blacks and 3 percent for Latinos. (https://iasp.brandeis.edu).A recent study helps explain why: Michael Gaddis finds blacks who graduated from elite universities have the same chance in the job market as whites who graduated from less selective schools. In addition, black graduates are offered lower starting salary and less prestigious starting jobs. ( http://www.pbs.org).
    One logical strategy for reducing prejudice and discrimination was proposed by social psychologist Gordon Allport in 1954. He argued that if people with different group characteristics could get to know each other and work together, prejudice, stereotypes, and the impulse to discriminate would decrease dramatically. Allport’s “contact hypothesis” states that “equal status contact between majority and minority groups in the pursuit of common goals” and “sanctioned by institutional supports” should reduce intergroup tensions and promote perceptions of common interests and common humanity. In theory, programs that promote contact can succeed, but only if all of the conditions are met: equal status contact, common goals, and support by relevant institutions. In practice, unfortunately, achieving the required conditions is very difficult. For example, desegregation policies, such as school desegregation (or “busing”) in the U.S. and the end of apartheid in South Africa, largely fail to meet those conditions, and thus those policies have not had the positive impact on intergroup relations that was hoped for.

    Cheers,
    Guillermo Villasenor

    References
    http://www.pbs.org).
    Allport, G.W. (1954). The nature of prejudice. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

  4. Hello Christopher I enjoyed reading your blog I completely agree with you racism still exists in this country. It was interesting reading about your experience with racism I my self never experience racism however, I have a lot of experience with prejudice.
    I am a Mexican American and have in the past been treated like I was some how less worthy. Or that because of my Hispanic lineage I will become a gangster and not amount to much. Unfortunately most of my experience with prejudice is during my elementary years. One experience that I remember to this day is when my third grade teacher asked me question that I did not know the answer to. She looked at me and said “why do I even bother teaching your kind you’re all just going to end up in a gang and amount to nothing” and she just walked away.
    At that time I was maybe 7 years of age or younger how do you respond to that comment. From that day on I just did what I needed to do to pass the class and move on. I think this country needs a lot of work when it comes to equality. It’s a slow process but I believe one day things will get better for all. Again it was great reading your post I look forward to reading more of your work in the future.

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