Demonstrators in New York City – USA – June 2012
In 2008, for the first time in US history, an African American made it to the top post in the White House. Last year, thirty nine percent of white voters helped him to continue serving as our president for another four years. Considering the opposition he still faces in getting needed legislation passed in Congress, we need to do much more to narrow our racial divide.
Racial profiling persists in towns and cities across our nation. The stand-your-ground law – applied in some form in over thirty states, including California where I live – puts the lives of black and brown-skinned people at risk. In New York, the excessive use of the stop-and-frisk police tactic, targeting blacks and Latinos, is under attack.
I fear for my young adult sons. One of them, a service provider in home-remodeling who owns a white pickup truck with rack for his equipment, is often targeted by local police for traffic and parking violations. One night some months ago, the police stopped him in their search for a hit-and-run driver of a white SUV. While he sat subdued on the sidewalk, it took them almost an hour to learn that the vehicle they were looking for did not have a rack.
African Americans and Latinos fill our prisons. Although they made up approximately 25 percent of the US population, they represented 58 percent of all prisoners. African Americans alone accounted for 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated Americans (2008 statistics, NAACP).
Racism also exists between African Americans and Latinos. At the retail store in West Los Angeles where I worked, the divide between the majority black and Latino workers became evident during lunch breaks. Each group clustered together in separate fixed areas in the company’s lunch room. Joining the Latino team members was a challenge for me since they conversed in Spanish among themselves. At the time, the only two white team members occupied the middle table in the room. Working together as one, yet separate.
The apartment complex where I live reflects some of the racial/ethnic diversity characteristic of Los Angeles. My neighbors include African Americans, Indians, Japanese, Korean, Latinos, and Whites. Their children play together. My sons and I have never experienced any form of racism.
Racial profiling continues to plague us. I am not without guilt. Growing up in Guyana, I learned to fear black men in hoodies, like the one used by Trayvon Martin, and big built, tattooed white men who rode large motorcycles. Although these racial stereotypes were not common in my world, they were frequently portrayed in British and American movies featured in our cinemas.
Our culture is filled with racial/ethnic stereotyping. I suppose it serves a purpose in helping us to cope with our cultural diversity. Subliminal racial/ethnic messages, whether intentional or not, bombard us daily through innumerable forms of media.
I am guilty of racial profiling. I need to change.