Racial Prejudice in America
Is America moving toward racial equality?
Racial prejudice is defined as an irrational suspicion or hatred of a particular group, race, or religion that typically arises from race-based stereotypes (Nittle). The media has played a major role in distorting the images of many races with stereotypes that have made society come to believe they are all true and apply to everyone in the race. Vincent Parrillo’s “Causes of Prejudice” indicates that prejudice is not from a single cause but from psychology and sociology. He explains that people become hostile towards others when they feel their security is being threatened (Colombo). This essay will present a few images from the media that demonstrate the pervasiveness of inequality. These images prove that America is far from having equality among all races. Self-justification involves denigrating a person or a group to justify maltreatment of them.
To begin with, this image is from an episode of Family Guy. This television show is known for breaking boundaries and “making fun” of real-life, sensitive issues. In this particular episode Peter converts to Islam after he meets a Muslim who turns out to have terrorist plans. Later in the show, Peter is stopped on a bridge where a police officer pulls out a color chart that implies the colors of the races. As one can see, the darker the complexion, it is considered to be “not okay”. This is a great example of the treatment of black drivers, especially black men. Black men are three times more likely to be pulled over than a white man.
The black man is constantly worried about running into trouble with the law regardless of their innocence. Eddie Griffin said in one of his stand-up comedy shows that “as a black man, we drive with one eye on the road and one in the rear-view mirror”. This is further evidence that black men are aware that they are the prey of cops and likely to be pulled over for “driving while black”.
Black Americans are not the only citizens racially profiled and prejudiced. There is a famous image from 1942 in Oakland, California after the Pearl Harbor attack. President Franklin D. Roosevelt made an Executive Order for all Japanese-Americans to be sent to Internment Camps after hearing of the attack. This was to keep the “spies” in check and isolate them from other Americans. This image is of a grocery store with the sign stating “I am an American”. The store owner was a Japanese-American protesting against the anti-Japanese atmosphere.
As stated before, racial prejudice is an irrational suspicion towards a race, group, or religion. From an episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, this particular episode portrayed the headlines and current events. The episode entitled "Hate" has an image of a police officer frowning at a Muslim black man walking past. Although this is not a common image of a Muslim, Law and Order is showing the diversity of the Islam Nation. After the tragic September 11th events, Muslims and “Middle-eastern” people were and currently are racially profiled. Along with this, the past election has given rise to hate-crimes against Muslim citizens and immigrants. “Islamophobia” has caused anti-Muslim hate crimes in the United States to rise 67% in 2015 (Ansari). Prejudice is taught and it is scary to say that as Americans we are followers; sheep in a flock running to the slaughter.
Many of the deaths in America are racially charged. Vincent Parrillo explalins that self-justification involves denigrating a person or a group to justify maltreatment of them. This is done by making the murderer the victim and justifying the death by negatively portraying the actual victim. A perfect example of this is Trayvon Martin. Trayvon Martin was 17-years-old when he was murdered. He was fatally shot by George Zimmerman on February 26, 2012 in Sanford, Florida. The media portrayed him as a “thug” to justify the killing of this young black man, defending the killer. The famous picture of Trayvon Martin wearing a hoodie. This photo is ironic because he was killed while wearing a hoodie, later leading to the reason of his murder. While walking home from the corner store, it began to rain causing Trayvon to don his hoodie. Whilst walking innocently, George Zimmerman the neighborhood night watch called the police describing Trayvon and stating his concern that Trayvon looked suspicious and out of place. After the police dispatcher told Zimmerman to not pursue, he did otherwise which unfortunately lead to Trayvon’s death. Zimmerman saw a black man, wearing a hoodie, walking late at night in a nice neighborhood, and decided to handle the “situation”. This racial profiling caused the death of the innocent Trayvon Martin.
Another unfortunate death of a black man is Philando Castile. Philando Castile was fatally shot by Officer Jeronimo Yanez on July 6, 2016 in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. While being stopped for a broken tail light, Castile let the officer know that he had a registered gun in the vehicle. While reaching for his wallet in his pocket, Officer Yanez shot Philando four to five times in his arm. Why the officer thought it was necessary to pull his gun is beyond me.
Officers are here to protect and serve the community, however it seems that the police are only protecting themselves.
On August 28, 1955 a 14-year-old Emmett Till was brutally beaten, tortured, defaced and disfigured in Money, Mississippi. The images of Emmett Till were shared in newspapers and magazines to open the eyes of the citizens of America of the hate against black people in America. His mother insisted and demanded for an open-casket funeral to show the world what hate did to her son. Emmett Till’s death opened the door for the media to show the results of racial prejudice. It is clear that white people are fearful of the black man. As stated before, Parrillo proves that if someone feels that their security is threatened, they become hostile towards that group, race, or religion. In this case it resulted in the death of a black man-child.
America is not progressing towards equality among all races. Prejudice is constantly taught through the media. The media also proves that racism is well and alive in our society. As Americans, we have roots in racial prejudice causing the teaching to be generational. Once the media and society has a complete change of mindset, then society will achieve racial equality.
“Airport Security Check Color Chart.” WeKnowMemes.com. 19 Jul 2013. http://weknowmemes.com/2013/07/airport-security-check-color-chart/
Ansari, Azadeh. “FBI: Hate crimes spike, most sharply against Muslims”. CNN.com. 15 noV 2016. http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/14/us/fbi-hate-crime-report-muslims/index.html
Barnes, Shane. “The 50 Best “Ripped From the Headlines” ‘Law & Order’ Episodes, Ranked”. Season 5, Episode 13: “Hate”. 28 Oct 2014. http://flavorwire.com/484828/the-50-best-ripped-from-the-headlines-law-order-episodes-ranked/view-all
Nittle, Nadra K. “What is Racial Prejudice?” ThoughtCo. 8 Jan 2016. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-racial-prejudice-2834953
Tisby, Jemar. “Trayvon Martin’s Death and a Resurgent Civil Rights Movement in America”. 26 Feb 2017. https://www.raanetwork.org/fifth-anniversary-trayvon-martins-death/