Janet “Marie” John

15 April 2010

PS 201


The Perception of Racism Has Eclipsed Actual Racism

At Issue: Is Racism A Serious Problem?

  1. Response

        “The nature of racism has changed, so although it continues to exist, racism now is different from the historical, systematic oppression of black people.” Shelby Steele of the Hoover Institution in his article “Does Racism Matter?” presents that racism today is drastically different in nature than that of racism seen in yesteryear.  Steele, using the diction and both modern and older connotation of ‘racism’, allows him to argue the change in racism and the major differences he has noticed.

         Steele begins his argument with a list of questions he rhetorically asks to provoke thought and interest: “Is racism now a powerful, subterranean force in our society? Is it so subtly infused into the white American subconscious as to be both involuntary and invisible to the racist himself?” With this list, Steele begins his analysis by acknowledging the end of a key aspect to racism as it is historically known: the death of white supremacy. This statement aligns well with the writer’s opinion that racism has changed from its original form into its current state. Typically, the word ‘racism’ creates a memory or connotation of stereotypical whites oppressing blacks, which would better align with the original form of racism seen years ago. Today, racism can apply to more than just the white to black population, as well as the theory that racism has now been turned from an actual practice to more of a memorable belief.

        While racism does in fact, still exist, it is difficult to drag on the argument that racism deserves the same caliber of attention as it did back when people were being murdered based on the color of their skin. Racism today is lower on the totem pole in relation to more pressing problems: “[Racism] has assumed a different kind of power, making it impossible for blacks or whites to acknowledge that issues such as poverty, broken families, and lack of education are far more significant problems for blacks than racism” (Steele). The battle of looking deeper than skin color should have ended with the Civil Rights movement, yet today, it is still overpowering the attention needed to fix more prominent problems. “The solution to the economic underdevelopment of black communities lies within those communities, and will be solved only when the idea of racism as an article of faith is rejected” (Steele). This quote parallels the writer’s overall feeling that racism should no longer influence the want to improve and better one’s own, and that playing the victim is no proper fix. Yes, racists do still exist, but they are in the minority and have a respect level that is lowered with vocalized opinions of racism. The best way to move forward is to remove racism as a faith and stop promoting it to the younger generations. Steel comments that today’s racists are now stigmatized through association to the “point of ruin,” making it less and less likely for racism to carry the same connotation as it did pre-Civil Rights. White supremacy is “dead today because it has no authority anywhere in the world and no legitimacy out of which to impose itself,” leaving those who openly practice it alienated.

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        Steele does argue that today’s form of racism is not gentle, but it’s fundamental difference comparable to other common faiths: the common practice of looking down unwed mothers, shunning drug use, or even those who do not attend church regularly –the point being that while racism is still in existence, it is not the violent, brutish form seen is yesteryear. Today’s version is nothing more than a social “no-no” than grounds for exclusion from the community or worse. The “victimization mentality” serves as the most prominent form of racism, which argues that “black progress will come from more black effort ...

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