Sample Essay: The Veil of Racism Worn by Modern Society
It is true that society has made great strides in battling racism in the past decades. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s yielded both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965; racial segregation was ended; more people of color are represented in various sectors of society. These developments may give people the impression that racism has been greatly reduced, if not completely eradicated. The reality, however, is the opposite: racism remains very much alive to this day. As the great civil rights leader and human rights activist, Malcolm X once said, “Racism is just like a Cadillac; they simply bring out a new model every year.” Modern racism can be likened to a veil worn over the head of contemporary society. It is less obvious, and more translucent, and if we wear it long enough we eventually come to think that it is not there. Racism has become so thoroughly woven into our daily life that it can sometimes be difficult to detect. But a closer look reveals that it exists in subtler yet insidious ways such as racial wage gaps, unequal access to education and healthcare, and racism in the criminal justice system.
One of the ways by which racism persists is by way of racial wage gaps . Wage gap refers to the difference in wages between two people who have the same competencies and perform the same jobs. Findings from research conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management [SHRM] showed that non-white male workers generally receive lower wages compared to their white male counterparts. For instance, for every dollar earned by white men, African American men earn only 87 cents; Native American and Hispanic men earn 91 cents; and Pacific Islander men earn 95 cents (Miller, 2020). These figures represent a 5-13% difference in wages. The wage gap, however, grows far wider when gender is factored in. Across the board, women of color earn far less than their white male counterparts who have the same competencies and perform the same jobs. According to the National Partnership for Women and Families [NPWF], Hispanic women earn a mere 55 cents for every dollar earned by white men, Native American women earn 60 cents, and African American women earn 63 cents (NPWF, 2020). With all other factors equalized, researchers conclude that differences in wages can be attributed to racial bias. The racial and gender wage gap represents is not merely about numbers; rather, this gap represents real far-reaching consequences for financial security and social mobility. Indeed, the fact that so many people receive lower wages due to racial bias contributes to the rising rate of poverty in the western world.
Racism also manifests as systemic injustices in America’s social institutions. In particular, people of color are less likely to benefit from social institutions like hospitals and schools. Education and healthcare are universally regarded as essential to holistic development. People need to receive good education and healthcare not only to acquire the capacity and competency necessary for employment but also to become productive citizens of the country. Studies show, however, that healthcare and education are less accessible for people of color. A recent review of trends in healthcare services among blacks and whites shows that blacks receive or avail of healthcare far less than whites. Blacks are less likely to undergo health screenings, are more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage cancer, and are less likely to be covered by health insurance among other disparities (Imhoff, 2020). Systemic injustice is also noted in the education sector. For example, schools with predominantly students of color receive less funding and have fewer resources than schools with predominantly white students. These resources can be anything from classroom material and equipment, to subsidies for lunch meals, to the competence of teachers (Boschma and Brownstein, 2016). These disparities in funding and resources are directly linked with lower rates of graduation and academic performance among students of color. Like the racial wage gap, systemic injustices that prevent people of color from accessing high-quality education and healthcare result in cumulative disadvantages that set back individuals, families, and entire communities. Consider, for instance, how a person who has more access to college is more likely to have better career opportunities than someone who has had to drop out due to economic difficulties.
Finally, and perhaps most insidious of all, is the racism that persists in the criminal justice system. Numerous indicators show that people of color are more susceptible to injustices and abuses of power. For instance, the number of African Americans shot despite being unarmed is disproportionately higher than their number in relation to the total American population. African Americans comprise only 13% of the population, yet 26% of people shot and killed by the police are black. Furthermore, 36% of unarmed people shot are black (Schwartz, 2020). People of color are also more likely to experience racial profiling from the police compared to whites, a problem that even people as young as high school students already go through (Anderson, 2016). Finally, rates of incarceration are also much higher among minorities than whites (Schwartz, 2020). The recent death of George Floyd in the hands of police is just one of the many, many cases of injustice people of color have suffered in the hands of authorities. The avalanche of protests that resulted from his death is indicative of the extent of this injustice against people of color.
Racism continues to be a widespread problem. Racism today may not be as barbaric as slavery of the pre-Civil War period or the genocide that characterized racism in Europe and the Nazi Party . Indeed, the United States has already left behind even worse days of the more recent past decades—days that can be regarded as comparable to the rise of Neo-Nazism in Eastern Germany in the 1980s. Victories against racism in the late 20 th and early 21st centuries saw to that. What changed is how racism manifests in our daily lives. The racism that remains to this day is no longer the racism in American Literature that students usually write essays about. The end of these terrifying manifestations of racism, however, has not ended racism itself. It has evolved and has become less recognizable if people who are not keen or distracted by privilege. It is essential to recognize this as fact, for addressing racism begins with acknowledging that it exists.
Anderson, M. (2016). “How the stress of racism affects learning.” The Atlantic . https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/10/how-the-stress-of-racism-affects-learning/503567/
Boschma, J. and Brownstein, R. (2016). “The concentration of poverty in American Schools.” The Atlantic . https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/02/concentration-poverty-american-schools/471414/
Imhoff, J. (2020). Health inequality actually is a “black and white issue,” research says . University of Michigan. https://healthblog.uofmhealth.org/lifestyle/health-inequality-actually-a-black-and-white-issue-research-says
Miller, S. (2020). Black workers still earn less than their white counterparts . Society for Human Resource Management. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/compensation/pages/racial-wage-gaps-persistence-poses-challenge.aspx
National Partnership for Women and Families. (2020). Quantifying America’s gender wage gap by race/ethnicity . https://www.nationalpartnership.org/our-work/resources/economic-justice/fair-pay/quantifying-americas-gender-wage-gap.pdf
Schwartz, S. A. (2020). “Police brutality and racism in America.” Explore (NY), 16(5), 280-82.: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1550830720302172?via%3Dihub
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