New year, new approach to racism

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In light of the recent uproar over police treatment of African Americans, an important question has come up: How do we fix America’s race problem? Despite the massive strides people of color have made in society, racism in this country is far from over.

This issue goes far beyond police brutality, however. There are a plethora of ways in which people of color are experiencing life as second-class citizens in this country. Housing and income inequality are hindering advancement. Mainstream media perpetuates stereotypes of non-whites, which then plants the seed for relentless mocking and prejudice. Criticism about the way minorities are living in this day and age is falling upon deaf ears. The clearest and most disheartening example of this ignorance is seen in a survey done by Michael Norton of Harvard University in 2011, which showed that two-thirds of African Americans believe that their race generally makes less money in comparison to whites, an established fact. But only 37 percent of whites believe the same thing.

This complete denial of America’s reality has gone so far that Norton’s study found that white people are more likely to believe that discrimination against whites is a bigger problem than that against blacks.

Of course, much progress has been made since the Jim Crow era. But racial progress does not end with the election of a black president, especially when President Obama’s election had essentially no trickle-down effect. Many minorities still have limited access to the education and resources that would allow them to ascend to positions of prominence as President Obama did because of institutional racism that blocks social mobility. Though inspirational, Obama’s accomplishment was an anomaly and cannot be seen as the end-all-be-all of racism in America.

It’s important that we dispel this idea that we’re living in a “post-racial society.” Differences must be acknowledged and criticisms must be heard. The unwillingness of many white people to recognize the great power imbalances that keep people of color at the bottom of the pile is helping to prevent full equality. Even if it means simply refraining from referring to minorities with derogatory language, white people need to take the initiative to use their inherent privilege to dismantle this country’s systemic mistreatment of non-whites.

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