Monday, February 13, 2012

Have we Made the "Change"? By: Aly Fossett

“I have a dream”.  Four simple words with a huge meaning. When anyone hears these three words they automatically think of Martin Luther King Jr. He spoke these unforgettable words on August 28,1963 during the March on Washington for jobs and freedom.  As I listened and read through this speech something caught my attention.
                                             ( fast forward to 12:20) video from
“I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.” (huffington post, p1)-- Martin Luther King           
The last part of this phrase he says “it is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream” (Huffington Post P.1)-- Martin Luther King. it wasn’t until I was closing my eyes, listening to his speech intently, picturing every word as he said that I realized that I was doing exactly what I am trying to persuade people not to do. The picture that crossed my mind when I heard Martin Luther King’s deep, promising voice say the words “American dream” was an image of a white male succeeding. This is the problem. No matter how far we think our society has come since this hot August day forty nine years ago, we still have a long way to go. Racism is still very much prevalent in our world today. We want to think that our society is “post-racial” as Tim Wise would say, A blogger for CNN and author of six books about race, but in reality we are the farthest thing from that.
Anyone who has graduated high school has studied the basic history of African Americans Throughout our history. We’ve been taught about the people, Martin Luther King Jr, Malcom X, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglas, Dread Scott.
 We’ve heard about the courageous and dangerous things African Americans have put themselves though to get the chance of freedom, slavery, the under ground railroad, the sit in movement, Montgomery bus boycott, Jim Crow laws.
Sit in Movement

Montgomery bus boycott

We’ve seen tragic and painful pictures and videos of the cruel and unfair treatment African Americans had to endure during these tough times.
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Okay okay, I know what your thinking… how could it be a problem? Your favorite singer or actor is African American, and for god sakes our own president is African American, there is no way we have a race issue. I’m not talking about those people; people like these are the exception. They have somehow made themselves socially acceptable in our society. I’m talking about the people we see and interact with in our everyday lives, I’m talking about the subconscious thoughts that pop into your head when you’re about to walk past a black guy on the street. But lets backtrack a little, why do you think we see Obama or for example Jay Z as normal? Gilda Graff points out in her article “Everything Has Changed, But Nothin’ Has Changed” that
 “if someone had a 1960 understanding of race and politics, and had to guess which of the 2008 presidential candidates, Obama or McCain, was whit and which one was black, he or she would probably guess that Obama was the white candidate,  and McCain the black one (Harris-Lacewell, 2010). Obama has the Ivy League education and the stable family, while McCain was an average student who made his mark in military and has been married twice. In addition McCain’s running mate’s teenage daughter was pregnant out of wedlock (Harris-Lacewell, 2010).” ( Graft, p. 350-351).

Graft makes a good point; if you think of the characteristics of McCain most  (primarily white) Americans would automatically think black. Obama has traits people would most likely consider “whiteness” traits. Is this why some accepts him? Because he crates a persona that reminds them of a white person? But then again there are people who absolutely despise him for this very same reason “The real threat he poses to American’s racial order is that he disrupts whiteness, because whiteness has been the identity that defines citizenship, access to privilege and the power to define national history (harris-lacewell, 2010, p.10)” (Graft, p. 351).  This idea of whites before blacks has been a universal norm for so long people don’t know how to accept anything different. Obama has done the unthinkable, he has made a African American the most important man in our country. If we were a postracial society we would be ok with this “change” Obama has made our country go through but there are a lot of us that are not ok with it at all.

picture found at

Lets think about Jay-Z for a second, why do we accept him? Just like Obama, Jay-Z possesses “whiteness” traits as well. Maybe not quite as much as Obama but it's still prevalent. He owns his own business, he is a well known performer, which leads to a lot of money and a lot of money means a lot of fancy things to show off, fancy things makes you believe he is successful, being successful in America is a “whitness” trait.
picture from

Like I said before, these are exceptions. What I really want to concentrate on is the prevalent racism today among everyday people not rap stars and presidents. The on going problems we see in our school systems, work environment and social circles. “Almost sixty per cent of whites think blacks have the same opportunities that they have” (Gilda, p. 347)  when in reality, “a typical white family has 20 times the net worth of the typical black family” and when studies have found “that even white men with criminal records are more likely to be called back for job interviews than black men without them, even when all the credentials and personal characteristics are indistinguishable” and although “whites use drugs just as often as blacks, it is the people of color who comprise nearly 90% of persons incarcerated for a drug possession offense. And its is the people of color who are disproportionately stopped and searched for drugs and other illegal contraband, even though they are no more likely (and sometimes less likely) to be in possession of such items than whites are.” ( Wise p1 ) so, tell me, do you think blacks have the same opportunities as whites?
Whites are oblivious to the privileges their skin color provides for them.  We don’t think anything is wrong; at least we don’t want to believe that the color of our skin makes a difference. White people are not going to go right out and say they are better than blacks. No matter if deep down they actually do think that because that’s what was believed during slavery, and we know and understand that was an awful thing. Whites are ashamed of the way their race treated blacks during slavery, they wouldn’t want to be compared to that so when the issue of race comes up today we tend to look past it. We are taught that everyone is equal because that’s what we are “supposed” to say in today’s society whether they truly think that or not. 
Why is this cycle so hard for us to break?  This is the question I had a hard time coming up with an answer for. This question was the main reason I started researching this project. For me, I grew up in a democratic household. Where as everyone in my parents eyes, therefore everyine in my eyes as well, were considered equal beings and I never thought otherwise. I grew up playing with not only white baby dolls but black and Chinese ones as well. The Chinese one (Shophie) was my all time favorite doll. I decided at a young age that I wanted a “real baby” like her someday. To this day I still want to adopt a little girl from China. I think even a small thing like letting your daughter play with different race baby dolls can make a huge difference in someone’s way of thinking. It wasn’t until middle school and high school where I ran into the idea of racism. Not everyone thought the way I did and it was really hard for me to wrap my head around. I went to a primarily white school in a primarily white neighborhood so when I heard my peers stereotype and talk bad about anyone who wasn’t “like us” I was confused. Eventually when you hang around that type of environment long enough you start to think that way too. So yes, I have had preconceived notions about races from what I have been socially taught to think but I have learned to shake those thoughts out of my head.
Coming to college was an even bigger obstacle for me. Like I said, I didn’t grow up being exposed to very many different races. And even the ones I did know weren’t what were thought to be the stereotypical black person. There was one guy in my high school that was half black, he and my older sister dated for seven years! My parents never said a single thing about it, so to me, it was normal. Then I come to college. I took summer classes and my only friends I made in the summer were black as you can see in the photo. My best guy friend here at school is also black.

I didn’t think anything of it. Around comes fall, I’m still friends with all the people I met from summer but now im friends with my white friends too who come from an area like mine. They gave me so much crap about hanging out with black people. Again, I was confused but I didn’t really mind, I eventually got used it. The time I was really taken back by the racism factor was on dads weekend. I asked my roommate if I could invite my black guy friend to go out with us and her dad that night,  and to my surprise she said no! “because he’s black and her dad would be weird about it.” I was astounded.
It’s all about the environment you grow up in. You can obviously see the differences in my life style and my roommates way of life. Its not that one is right or wrong it just shows that the environment you grow up in easily translates into the environment you create for yourself later in life. The main place you learn these emotions are from your loved ones. You trust these people, so if they believe a certain thing you are prone to believing it too. Graff explains the cycle perfectly;
 “wishing to raise successful white children and grandchildren who will reflect well on their parents and grandparents maintains the status quo..yet when..[they] have children,…[they] correctly perceive that to be black in America is, in part, to live with narcissistic mortification.. and the dread of searing narcissistic mortification insures white people will be motivated to keep themselves and their white children as far away from the psychic trauma of blackness as they possibly can. It seems unlikely then, that the racial status quo will ever change until the white professional class is no longer so strongly motivated by an ethos of competitive individualism… (miller and Josephs, 2009, p. 115)” (Graff p.357).

 How do we fix this current day racism problem? As Sharon E. Davis says in her article “The Oneness of Humankind: Healing Racism Today” “it’s a process” to over come this problem. Its not going to happen over night, healing racism is going to take time and effort because Davis explains that racism is feeling and its connected with an emotion we have deep down inside no matter if we know it or not. To be able to heal racism we need to “1. recognize that racism is, like other disorders, an emotional commitment to dysfunctional beliefs. 2. Understand the pervasive impact of white privilege. 3. Recognize the effect of institutional or structural racism. 4. Embrace the oneness of humankind. 5. Take new steps in the healing racism journey.” (Davis 46).
It might be hard, but I think if we worked hard and were willing to make a change we could eventually demolish racism.  “differences arnt something to divide us, but something that we can encourage and enlighten and appreciate.” (Angila Deum).

                                                                                     Angila Deum viedo from

Work Cited 
Davis, Sharon E. "The Oneness Of Humankind: Healing Racism Today."Reclaiming Children & Youth 18.4 (2010): 44-47. Academic Search Complete. Web. 20 Feb. 2012.

GRAFF, GILDA. "Everything Has Changed, But Nothin' Has Changed': Shame, Racism, And A Dream Deferred." Journal Of Psychohistory 38.4 (2011): 346-358. Academic Search Complete. Web. 20 Feb. 2012.

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