Racism in the 21st century

| Staff Columnist

Six Wash. U. students initially filed civil rights charges with the Illinois Attorney General’s office against a popular Chicago nightclub, Original Mothers bar. Allegedly, these black students were denied entry into the establishment under the “no baggy pants” policy even though fellow white students were admitted wearing similar clothing. As of now, the two sides have reached a settlement, and the charges have been dropped against the nightclub.

Student Life, along with many newspapers around the country, has already covered this story in detail, and I will not go into detail here in my column. However, I would like to point out that racism still exists in our society, even (as some commentators have called it) in the Age of Obama. It is quite astounding to find out that in the 21st century, discrimination based on race continues to shape our societal perceptions of America and challenge the ideals that this country supposedly stands for.

According to a 2003 study conducted by Dean Karland and Marianne Bertrand, from MIT and the University of Chicago, respectively, widespread discrimination still existed in the workplace against applicants whose names were simply perceived as “sounding black.” Furthermore, these applicants were 50 percent less likely to receive a follow-up telephone call than applicants with names perceived as white.

A survey conducted by CNN in December 2006, prior to the Obama election, found that while Americans, white and black, see racism as a lingering problem in society, they disagree on how serious racial bias is. For example, 49 percent of black respondents said that racism is still a “very serious” problem, while only 18 percent of whites shared that view. Interestingly, 43 percent of whites and 48 percent of blacks said that they knew someone who was racist, but only 13 percent of whites and 12 percent of blacks consider themselves racially biased.

On the question of whether or not whites and blacks dislike each other’s races, there was a similar disagreement. Asked how many whites dislike blacks, 40 percent of black respondents said “all” or “many,” while 26 percent of whites agreed with that assessment. With the converse question of how many blacks dislike whites, 38 percent of whites agreed with an interesting 33 percent of blacks concurring with that statement. With a five percent margin of error, statistically speaking they are equal.

University of Connecticut professor Jack Dovidio, who has researched racism for close to 35 years, estimates that up to 80 percent of white Americans may have racist feelings, of which they are consciously unaware. He points out, for example, that racism in the 21st century is manifested differently than in the 20th century, as “contemporary racism is not conscious, and it is not accompanied by dislike, so it gets expressed in indirect, subtle ways.”

In the end, racism is still a problem in the United States, but this country has come extremely far in improving race relations, with Obama’s election being the ultimate proof. However, we still have a way to go before we reach our founders’ vision of a more perfect union, one fulfilling the promise that “all men are created equal…[and] are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Isaac is a sophomore in Arts & Sciences. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].

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