A new form of racism: how racial prejudice has evolved over time

By Renin Broadnax
March 29, 2019

Whites only, colored only illustration. Graphic by Michelle Guerin

“I can remember going to my parents to Florida in the 1950s and I was just a little kid who always seemed to have to go the bathroom,” Dr. James Hedtke, history and political science professor, said. “On our way there we stopped in North Carolina and I remember seeing a sign on the bathroom that said ‘whites only.’ Then, I’m looking at myself not knowing if I was white or not. So at 7-years-old, I had to ask my father am I white?’”

“My father responded ‘yes you are white; you can use this bathroom.’ Then I noticed there was another sign that said ‘colored people,’and it had an arrow pointing to a field and I asked my father ‘then what is colored?’ There were only about two black families in the neighborhood and my Dad responded that’s like the Thomas’s.’”

While America no longer has segregated bathrooms as in the 1950s, many wonder if racism persists. Two Cabrini students have opposite views on whether racism remains.

On the one hand, one student feels it would disappear if we did not keep bringing it up.

“I think racism is only a problem because people keep bringing it up. If we left it alone, future generations would just forget about it,” said a Cabrini student who asked to remain anonymous.

On the other hand, another person believes racism will only be removed if the country consciously uproots it.

“You can’t delete racism. It’s like a cigarette. You can’t stop smoking if you don’t want to, and you can’t stop racism if people don’t want to. But I’ll do everything I can to help,” Mario Balotelli, identity, said.

Racism has been around in many different years and, rightfully, has caused much discourse and discussion. One of those topics of discussion is how we should tackle racism and has it grown over the years or has it just evolved into something more inconspicuous?

One scholar believes that we have evolved to something like racism lite.

“High school seniors are increasingly expressing a form of prejudice that sociologist Tyrone Forman calls “racial apathy” – and indifference towards societal, racial, and ethnic inequality and lack of engagement with race-related social issues.” Racial apathy is a more passive form of prejudice than explicit articulations of bigotry and racial hostility.

A Cabrini sophomore has experienced this kind of milder racism.

“I have experienced slight racism but never in an aggressive way, more in an ignorant way,” Samar Dahleh, sophomore political science major, said.  

“Yes, I have. I have experienced it in various ways from microaggressions to overt racism. It usually happens because I am Latino and look different. People generalize stereotypes of Latinos,” Alex Sanchez, a junior psychology major, said.

Is racism increasing now or just coming out in the open?

Hedtke believes racism is increasing in the last few years.

“I feel like there is an encouragement to almost say anything. There is also an attempt to tear down everything that Obama did and I believe it’s because of the color of his skin, and I mean I can’t prove that, but I do believe that,” Hedtke said. “And it started with [Donald Trump] calling into question whether or not Obama was American or not and whether he was born in America or not you know that whole birth question and that was really a racial question. And it was perpetuated to a point that did not have to occur.”

Another student, however, questions whether racism is increasing.

“How could racism still be a problem now when Barack Obama was president for two terms?” said a junior Cabrini student who asked to remain anonymous.

A minority student leader offers his perspective on what it like to live in America during the Trump era.

“The President and those who support him have set the tone for ‘appropriate’ behaviors for all, even more so for the actions of those citizens who support him. His approach is to characterize immigration as a race issue, to demonize Obama and to claim equality of perspectives between Charlottesville’s racist marchers and the protesters who came to show commitment to civil liberties for all,”  Dr. Kathleen McKinley, a sociology professor, said.

“Trump’s rhetoric certainly has an effect which ramifies through local communities and empowers those who may have kept their racial, ethnic and religious prejudices hidden from public view,” McKinley said.

“I do believe there is a correlation between the spike in overtly racist actions and hate-crime with our current president, who has enabled people that are racist to be more vocal about who and what they dislike,” Sanchez said.

“Very much so. [I believe] Donald Trump has become a voice for bigotry in America,” Dahleh said.

“When President Trump took office.” The FBI’s report released this month revealed that hate crimes had jumped an astonishing 17 percent from 2016 to 2017. And the targets? Sixty percent of the victims were selected because of their race, ethnicity or ancestry. More than 20 percent were targeted because of their religion.

How does this affect Cabrini?

Racism is a world issue and it affects everyone, everywhere meaning that Cabrini’s campus is not excluded.

Adrienne Green a reporter at The Atlantic provided some statistics on how minorities are affected by racism on college campuses.

“The study, whose analysis is based on critical race theory, explores how racism affects the ability of high-achieving black students to have healthy mental attitudes toward their work and college experiences. “We have documented alarming occurrences of anxiety, stress, depression, and thoughts of suicide, as well as a host of physical ailments like hair loss, diabetes and heart disease,”

Hedtke added in some perspective on how prejudice may be present in his classes “In class sometimes you can see the latent racism, in the way students or faculty talk or in the presentations that they give or things of that nature,” Hedtke said. But I personally have not seen any acts of overt racism, I mean there have been some here but I have not seen them first hand occur with own eyes there have been cases of aggressive racism here on campus but again I have not witnessed it first hand.”

“I think that while racism makes it very difficult to be a minority, especially when it comes to having pride about it, it is characteristic of it, so it doesn’t necessarily make it ‘more’ difficult, but is to be expected. When it comes to attending private or public education (such as college) it is difficult because racism may allow for people to deny you entrance or opportunities but once again it is to be expected,” Sanchez said

Another student agrees with this point of view.

“I think being a minority in public or private schools makes it harder in a way where you interpret everything a little differently than the other students who are not minorities,” Dahleh said. “While you learn about these white historians and philosophers you may not see somebody who you can identify with and that makes the education just kind of different not necessarily harder but it’s like you have to kind of represent yourself within that field and figure out how your identify fits.”

Mckinley offers so inside information on how Cabrini attempts to combat racism.

“Cabrini does have an ‘inclusivity’ council.  This council runs programs to work with the faculty on issues related to diversity. There have been many ‘diversity’ initiatives over the years and several faculty development workshops on the topic,” Mckinley said. “The best programs are always the ones with panels of our students telling us ‘like it is.’ These are so helpful and we should have more of those. We need to be informed on the real issues and where we can be helpful.”

The other side

“Black Lives Matter is not helping racial relations it is only creating more violence and causing people of color to cause even more violence,” said a junior Cabrini student who asked to remain anonymous.

Mckinenly urges us to look to the students to get the real facts on if racism in present here at Cabrini.

“I think if you want to know if prejudice is a problem you should ask the students and the faculty and staff of color. We have had incidents over the years that point to issues in dormitory life and off-campus issues but I would not be an expert on this. The white privilege may [unfortunately] blind me to some of the issues others may face,” Mckinenly said

Jonathan Capehart a reporter at The Washington Post provided some statistics on how prejudice is expressed in this generation. “White millennials and African American millennials have mirror opposite responses. The former agrees by 59 percent. The latter disagrees by 59 percent. Interestingly, a majority of Latinos (51 percent) agrees with the statement.“White millennials vote a lot more like whites than like millennials” was the headline on a September 2016 piece by The Post’s Philip Bump. And this GenForward Survey shows that despite the millennial reputation, white 3c5 think a lot more like whites than millennials, who are increasingly more people of color.

What does the future hold?

A student leader offers some insight into what we can do in the future to combat this prejudice in the near future.

“We as minorities and victims must be able to measure a situation and realize whether we should react with anger or try to understand. There will be people who taunt us and overtly are racist to get on our nerves and express hatred, and those should be dealt with accordingly,” Sanchez said. “While on the other hand, there are kids who say racist things and don’t know better.  We need to be open to having arguments, discussions, and conversations with those who are racist and learn where they’re coming from in order to use it to educate them on why it’s wrong. It is not easy and would take immense levels of maturity but could work.”

“I just wish [white people]  were more open to learning about other people’s lives , especially people of color’s lives and how not everything they have or can do is easily accessible to others, especially minorities. Basically, I wish they were less ignorant,” Dahleh said

“I would say to students you have the opportunity your parents may not have had. You sit next to students who may be different from you in every class. Your parents might not have been so lucky. Take advantage of this and step out of your segregated world and learn something new from the person sitting next to you,” Mckinley said

“At the end of the day you are going to see me as a white guy and I’m going to see you  [me] as a black guy but what is really important is that we see each other as human beings,” Hedtke said

1 thought on “A new form of racism: how racial prejudice has evolved over time”

  1. I hope that we are going back to that?! I lived 2 years in Muskogee, OK in 1970-1972, and I saw it. I am glad I love in the West and not in the South. I guess Trump is helping to being back race issues, again.

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Renin Broadnax

1 thought on “A new form of racism: how racial prejudice has evolved over time”

  1. I hope that we are going back to that?! I lived 2 years in Muskogee, OK in 1970-1972, and I saw it. I am glad I love in the West and not in the South. I guess Trump is helping to being back race issues, again.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


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