Racism

by Carson Stultz, age 13
Racism

“People are racist, it’s a fact. It’s becoming a huge problem that is sweeping the nation and it needs to be fixed as soon as possible, but for that to happen we need to teach others about racism and why it is happening.”

People are racist, it’s a fact. It’s becoming a huge problem that is sweeping the nation and it needs to be fixed as soon as possible, but for that to happen we need to teach others about racism and why it is happening. People tend to say racist things because they don’t know any better because they weren’t taught about it. Only 1% of our population had studied racism in depth. My goal is to change that and to spread awareness about racism and the ways that we can fix our wrongdoing. To start, let me tell you a little bit about what “race” actually is and why racism if you think hard enough, is really stupid.

In the first part of the nineteenth century, a scientist by the name of Samuel Morton from Philadelphia found a way to “scientifically rank races”. Dr. Morton collected skulls from all over the world. He started by dumping a set volume of pepper seeds into the brain cavity. He then filled up the extra space with lead pellets. Once the brain cavity was full, he dumped it out and counted the number of lead pellets and added it to the set volume of pepper seeds to find how large the person’s brain was. During his studies, he discovered that Caucasians or “Whites” are the most intelligent, therefore highest ranking. East Asians or “Mongolians” were next, one step down from that were Southeast Asians, then followed by Native Americans. At the bottom of the chain were blacks or “Ethiopians”. For some strange reason, people believed Morton. He had made a strong enough case that he was correct so people took his word for it, especially supporters of slavery and slave owners. He got most of his support from the south. To this day, Dr. Morton is called the Father of Scientific Racism.

Sadly, no one spoke out about the fact that race has no scientific or genetic basis until Craig Venter said exactly that in June of 2000. Though he may not have been the first to notice this, he was the first person who successfully let a huge group of people know. He had done his research and this is what he came across: all humans are more closely related to each other than chimps. Also, all people alive today are technically Africans. This is because the earliest forms of human life that scientists have been to identify are all in Africa, this makes sense because if you think about, Africa was in the middle of the earth surface (or as close as it could get anyway) during Pangea. So, we know that people are all from what is now Africa, but how long ago was this?

Well, scientists have been able to trace back the human race to about three hundred thousand years ago, but we could have been living much earlier than that. We just don’t have technology advanced enough for us to figure that out. If we’re all from the same general area, why do we all look so different?

The reason that we all have different colored skin is that some groups within that original human race moved around and became more isolated. As the continents moved closer to the formation that we know today, people moved with them and the non-Africans that we all know and love today, they are most likely descended from a few thousand humans who left their place in Africa about 60,000 years ago. Studies show that that first exodus of humans created offspring with another species called Neanderthals in the what we now know as the Middle East. Neanderthals are an extinct species of human that were all over the place in ice-age Europe between about four hundred and fifty thousand years ago and thirty-five thousand years ago. They are said to have had receding foreheads and brow-ridges that stuck out more than your average human being. These people were more tanned because they were living further from the equator at the time, so obviously, the offspring between them and the humans from Africa had a different skin tone than either of the original species. From there, some humans went closer to the equator and some were moved further north or south. Scientists haven’t found a way to figure out exactly where this first group of people went, but those closer to the equator built up a thicker layer in their skin to shield themselves from the potentially harmful UV rays. Therefore, they had and some of us have darker skin. The people that moved farther away from the equator didn’t build up that shield though. This is because there is less sun exposure up north and far down south whereas there is always sun exposure at the equator. About ten thousand years after that first exodus from Africa, another large group of humans left Africa and made their way over to Australia. This happened about fifty thousand years ago. ABout five thousand years after that, this same group of people split and some continued on to Siberia. This group stayed in Siberia for about thirty thousand years before they made their way over to South America. Just keep in mind that through this whole process, the original human race was meeting up with Neanderthals and integrating them into the race. This (for the most part) is how the first humans on the earth made their way to other continents and why we all have different skin colors and this all goes to show that those who believe that their own race is superior or that skin color or “race” determines how well others are able to function are completely wrong because we are all from the same place if you trace it back far enough. Also, we are all made up of the same basic cells, we each just have slight differences that make us who we are. Those slight differences make us unique.

People have lots of different ideas about what racism is. For example, some think that racism is when someone discriminates against someone because they look different. Others say racism is when you discriminate against someone who is from a different place. In the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the definition of racism is “The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.” Basically, it is saying that racism is when someone thinks that their “race” is the best and that one’s “race” determines their personality and how well they’re able to do things. This definition does show a prominent reason for slavery hundreds of years ago. But it really doesn’t show how racism has evolved since then. Explicitly stating that your race is better than someone else’s is not the only form of racism out there. But why?

People don’t like to admit that they’re prejudiced. It happens all the time. For example, as of 2017, 11% of people still disapprove of interracial marriage. I bet that the majority of that 11% doesn’t tell anyone about this belief though. This is because people are taught from a young age that prejudice is bad. So when they say something racist or prejudiced, it is most likely going to be subtle and not explicit. The remark will probably be implied or hinted at. This is because that person, in the back of their head, knows that what they’re doing is bad so if it is subtle, they can play it off as not meaning to say it. So they don’t have to admit to themselves or anyone else that they did something racist. But if people know that being prejudicial is bad, why do they still say prejudiced things?

People say prejudiced things because of biases. A person may know about this bias, but it may be something that comes up unconsciously. Some say that an implicit bias is like a filter that clouds some conclusions and this filter are shaped by past experiences. These unconscious or implicit biases can start forming as early as age six. This is alarming because if one’s parents repeatedly say something, whether it is directed at the child or not, that child is going to learn this and it is just going to be in their minds for a very long time. Really, unless a parent really teaches their child about racism and why it is bad and what not to do, they are going to do it because they are actively learning from the environment around them. They can’t do anything to help it. Everyday racism is something that is very common, just little things that people say that kids, for example, pick up on and start to say because they think that it is okay. For example, President Trump, after the rallies in Charlottesville in August of 2017, didn’t condemn the hate groups that organized the whole thing until two days after it happened. Although this example specifically isn’t something that kids will pick up on, it is an example of everyday racism.

Another type of bias is a racial bias. This bias takes over the amygdala which is the part of the brain that governs fear response (also known as fight or flight). Again, this bias is unconscious. People don’t know it is there. It is usually formed when someone is exposed to something repeatedly, but it isn’t necessarily formed from a young age, though it can be. Many people believe that this generation of young white kids are much less racist than the generations before them because of how many more people are trying to teach them about racism. Also, while support for segregated school had dropped drastically in the last fifty years.

One more form of bias is called ethnocentrism. Although this isn’t really a bias, it is very similar to one. Ethnocentrism is the idea that a person’s own culture, lifestyle, and experiences are normal, or that everyone else experiences the same things, so when someone doesn’t do the same thing as this ethnocentric person, they will most likely get mad or annoyed because it isn’t what they’re used to.

To treat these biases and make them go away, you are supposed to treat them like a habit. Try to fix them the same way that you would get yourself to stop biting your nails or playing with your hair. Try to catch yourself whenever you recognize one of the biases and try to drill it into your mind that you can’t do it anymore.

We aren’t going to get any better about our acts of racism if racism continues to shape our politics, neighborhoods, sense of self, and therefore our daily life. Systemic racism is something that is in our daily life. As you may be able to tell from its name, it is racism that is systematic. It is unavoidable because it is built into a system that is pretty much the structure of our society. Here are some examples: studies show that once black kids are in the criminal justice system, they are about eighteen times more likely than white kids to be sentenced as adults, and within the criminal justice system, blacks make up thirteen percent of the general population and forty percent of the prison population. Also, many studies show that black people tend to get much harsher sentences than white people. More closely related to daily life, blacks are shown eighteen percent fewer homes and four percent fewer rental units. Also, black drivers are thirty percent more likely to be pulled over than people of any other ethnicity. And lastly, one of the scariest statistics: white families own ninety percent of the wealth, black families come in with about two point six percent of the wealth within the population of families in the US.

All of those statistics above are extremely alarming considering the fact that only 58% percent of people in the United States in 2017 think racism is a “big problem” and only 55% percent of the population of the United States support the black lives matter movement. In my opinion, that movement wouldn’t be a thing if the United States were truly equal.

We, as Americans, need to step up. We need to improve our lives now so that our children and our children’s children can have a good life. We want them to not have to worry about discrimination and prejudice. We want them to live a happy, worry-free life, where they don’t have to think about other people’s skin colors.

In the words of Common: “Gert over race … extend a hand in love.”

Bibliography:

Bassett, Charlotte; Interview; November 4, 2018

Davis, Grey; Interview; November 4, 2018

Edwards, Sue; Harris, Duchess; Black lives matter; MInnesota: Ando Publishing; 305.896 EDWARDS

Fleming, Crystal Marie; Living In a Racist Society is Making Us Stupid; The Medium; September 25, 2018; medium.com

Goldberg, Susan; For Decades, Our Coverage Was Racist. To Rise Above Our Past, We Must Acknowledge it; National Geographic, nationalgeographic.com

Hangerman, Margaret; Are Today’s White Kids Less Racist Than Their Grandparents; The Conversation; September 17, 2018; theconversation.com

Kolbert, Elizabeth; There is No Scientific Basis For Race, it is a Made Up Label; National Geographic, nationalgeographic.com

Neal, Samantha; Views of Racism as a Major Problem Increases Sharply, Especially Among Democrats; Pew Research Center; August 20, 2017; pewresearchcenter.org

Police Shootings in 2018; The Washington Post; October 1, 2018; thewashingtonpost.com

Racism; The American Heritage Student Dictionary; Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co; 1994

Razzett, Gustavo; Why Racism is About The Color of Your Mind, Not Your Skin; The Liberationist; April 22, 2018; liberationist.org

Wan, Wiliam; Kaplan, Sarah; Why Are People Still Racist? What Science Says About America’s Race Problem; The Washington Post; August 14, 2017; thewashingtonpost.com

7 Ways We Know That Systemic Racism is Real; Ben and Jerry’s; benandjerrys.com


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