Racism in America
The more recent decades of world history have been highly consumed by progression and innovations in all fields of human life. This progress and development can be observed in categories ranging from medical and scientific advances, to legislative and social reform. Whatever the case may be, the 21st century has not been one of menial historical relevance: change is an essential component to the structure of modern society. With that said, we must ponder the question: why is something as outdated, primitive, and senseless as racism still prevalent in this progressive, contemporary, and innovative society?
Anti-racism counter-protest march in Charlottesville (Source: Reuters)
Why does racism still exist?
Racism has no productive place in modern society: it is useless and completely barbaric. However, the concept of believing that one's skin color is superior to another is still very much alive. Racism is an acquired trait — no person is born with the notion that they are somehow superior simply due to the color of their skin. In order to be a racist, one must first be taught how to hate, since racism stems from hatred, an acquired emotion. Therefore, if a person is unfortunate enough to be taught hate and racism, then they will probably be unfortunate enough to begin to believe that racism is socially acceptable. Not all teachings of this nasty practice are intentional — The New York Times quoted Jennifer Richeson, a social psychologist at Yale University, on her belief that racism stems from “the environment, the air all around us.” Richeson believes that people are taught to hate based on their social surroundings. In other words, people tend to follow the general flow of society, and racism has existed in American society since colonization.
Fear of 'the Other'
Most modern racism is developed from a sense of fear — fear of the loss of normality or control or supposed order in a given society. American racism, in particular, derives from a similar fear, and this fear has been inherently passed down through generations and into the present day. When African inhabitants were first stripped from their homes and brought to America, an incorrect notion that dark-skinned people were somehow "inferior" to light-skinned people was immediately instilled into society. Why? Simply because light-skinned people were afraid of people coming into their society — rather, being forced into their society — and then dominating the society of which they never asked to be a part.
It is human nature to be competitive in one’s desired area of expertise, and to want to be at least better than the next guy that comes along in all areas of life. No one wants to come last; therefore, people will go to extreme lengths to ensure that they are never outdone, and that they are always marginally better than the other guy. In the case of American racism, the extreme lengths were slavery, segregation, and the Civil War, and that "guy" was anyone in society who could be easily torn down, manipulated or taken advantage of. Generally, that "guy" would turn out to be someone of color, or of an origin other than Western European because it was easiest for the original intruders of America (I will not call them the original settlers because let’s not forget about the Native Americans who were also heavily oppressed by white people in America) to pick people of color out as being different, and this difference is frightening to people who are afraid of being beaten.
The Odyssey and Major League Baseball
Xenophobia and bias have always been extremely prevalent and visible. On Odysseus’ major journey home, he becomes stranded on the island of the Phoenicians and must be cloaked in some godly mist so that the people of the island will be friendly and welcoming. Without this magical mist, Odysseus was just someone who looked different: someone whom the locals had no interest in helping.