This should perhaps be prefaced by a very obvious, though sometimes understated, recital of fact: racial equality or lack thereof is not merely a matter of black and white. In fact, recent political rhetoric has brought to national spotlight many other prejudices that seem to be increasingly prominent aspects of the darker side of American culture. In particular, people of Mexican or Middle Eastern descent have increasingly been addressed in a way that should be universally regarded as appalling. With that said, it would be difficult to have a discussion about racial inequality in America without addressing the vast disparity between how the black and white communities experience life. Today we will take a look at all of these aspects of inequality in our culture.
What Do We Mean By Inequality:
Racial inequality is not necessarily the same thing as racism, though the two do often go hand in hand. Perhaps it would be fair to say that racism is defined by a prejudice towards a group of people based on their race or ethnicity and racial inequality is the result of that prejudice. For example, while it would be hard to point towards the racism of any one individual to account for the disparity between wealth in white families, and wealth in black families, it is nevertheless certainly an example of racial inequality. The fact that on average black people have less money than white people is very plainly a result of lack of opportunity. After all, we know that while western culture (particularly the United States)
values the “pull yourself up by the bootstraps narrative”, it is ultimately usually generational wealth that wins the day.
Racial inequality, in this case, is a result of the fact that African Americans started as slaves in this country, then suffered through the Jim Crowe era, and other racist circumstances that contributed to immense difficulty in establishing a foothold both economically, socially, and politically. It is important to note that instances of racial inequality do not necessarily impact to every member of a given race. For example, not all African Americans struggle economically, and not all Caucasians prosper financially. In fact, there are countless examples of each case where the exact opposite is true. When people refer to racial inequality, they are talking about patterns that tend to manifest themselves in our society.
Who To Blame:
Sometimes, it is very easy to identify when someone is propagating racial inequality. When
someone with a large platform declares that all of a certain group of people are criminals, that is without question contributing to a problem of racial inequality in our country. These obvious incidents of racial inequality, while appalling, are also in some ways easier to mitigate. It is relatively simple to counter the notion that a single group of people is responsible for all the problems in a country. While certain groups will probably believe the lie, said people may already be predisposed to such opinions anyway.
Historical racial inequality is much more difficult to counteract. To follow up on the example
illustrated in the previous section, it isn’t difficult to acknowledge that the African American community has not historically enjoyed the same amount of opportunities as other ethnic groups. It is quite another thing to know what to do about it. In the case of systemic racism it is not so easy to know who to point the finger at. So, what can be done about it then?
What Can Be Done About Racial Inequality:
Unfortunately, no one knows exactly what to do about racial inequality. With that said, it is worth mentioning that progress has been made. Slavery is over, schools are no longer segregated, and the general attitude of the nation has generally improved. But how do you reverse something that is the product of history? While there is no exact answer to that question, awareness is definitely a good first step. To acknowledge as a nation that bad things that have happened in our history are still affecting our present could potentially go a long way towards producing new opportunities.
Of course, that will not ultimately be enough. Proactive initiatives that provide jobs and education opportunities to otherwise underprivileged or underrepresented segments of the population are key to minimizing the effects of racial inequality in our nation. While these types of initiatives are viewed unfavorably by some people, I would argue that they should not be regarded as handouts. Creating opportunity for those that have been historically denied it is not charity- it is equity, and it is perhaps the most definite way to ensure progress moving forward. These initiatives can be accomplished by individuals making a point of giving qualified minority job candidates an opportunity for employment, and it can also be achieved on a larger scale through grants, scholarships, and other sweeping efforts. Just as no singular thing creates racial inequality, no one initiative can fix it either. Instead, consistent and comprehensive effort is certainly key to the continuation of progress.
Racial equality will not be comprehensively achieved in matter of days, months, or even years. It is a cultural cancer that has been festering for centuries and one can only rightly expect that it might be similarly strenuous to correct the problems of our past and present. While an individual cannot rewrite history, they can start actively doing their part to make things a little bit better for those that need it. Undoubtedly, these efforts will not be quick, nor will they be comfortable. But they will be worth it.