Misconceptions believe that it is, but they could
Misconceptions of race are seen everywhere, but the biggest myth may be that racism is no longer around. Many people like to believe that it is, but they could not be more wrong about this. When comparing racism in today’s society to the times of slavery it may seem that racism has been diminished. However, this idea blurs out discrimination that is seen today, because people believe that if racism does not have to be dealt with, all problems have vanished. The authors Eula Biss and Beverly Daniel Tatum prove that this myth is not acceptable despite the differences between past and present racism. In “No-Man’s Land: Fear, Racism and the Historically Troubling Attitude of American Pioneers,” Biss illustrates the living conditions of her diverse neighborhood and the fear of living there in an outsider’s eyes. She describes the discrimination it receives because of the reputation it has due to a misunderstood concept of fear of crime and violence. Tatum points out the stages of self-identity these African Americans go through to understand who they are, in “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”. The self-segregation in which they put themselves in stem from a variety of experiences that force the children to conform to stereotypes and social standards to be able to fit into a social niche. Today we see many close-knit groups of friends that are racially diverse and may think that racism has really ended. Although people tend to believe that racism is no longer around, Biss and Tatum prove that today’s version of racism still perpetuates the same discrimination as that of the past. Today we see racism as a stereotypical fear through implicit actions rather than explicitly directed at black people. In her writing, Beverly Daniel Tatum provides evidence to show one way in which racism is still in effect. Using the perspective of what other people see blacks as, she considers race to define a person despite how they act. The stereotypes given to them are from the reputation they have received as a group. This is due to the oppositional stance taken by the blacks because they believe that they do not receive full equality in the United States. Actions are therefore taken to state what is and is not black to separate themselves from the white group. This racial stereotyping shows us the type of racism that is around today. We see that the discrimination is not like the harsh, physical abuse in the past but it is rather psychological. Words take the place of whips and unequal privileges hold blacks down like chains. This is seen every time a white person comes across a black. Tatum writes about some of these stereotypes while talking about her son. At his age, he is asked about his height but what people think about is his race. She asks, “Do the women hold their purses a little tighter, maybe even cross the street to avoid him? Does he hear the sound of the automatic door locks on cars as he passes by?” (Tatum). Even though the discrimination is not direct, it is still present. Eula Biss also mentions a similar experience within her neighborhood. As a group of black boys on bikes passed by, they yelled for Biss and her husband not to be afraid. Although Biss and her husband did not fear their presence and were only crossing the street to get to their apartment, the boys still felt the need to yell that they will not hurt them. This is because the black boys have experienced this so many times as other white people feared for their lives when they saw them. The black boys have realized what others think of them, unlike Tatum’s son who soon will experience the same thing. As they grow up, black children, experience events that will emphasize their identity. Even if they try to break the stereotypes, people will always judge them based on their race. For example, Tatum brings in a student who tries to be raceless by assimilating himself into a different group. However, he says, “I quickly realized that I’m Black…no matter how much I try to de-emphasize my Blackness”(Tatum). If the myth of racism ending was true, then fear would not exist. However, it is now implicit actions that show the stereotypical fear of people that display that racism is still around.Although verbal racism has improved compared to the past, the meaning that undermines it is still seen. It does not have to be abuse towards a person to show the discrimination against them. Just by using certain terms or words, a number of implications can be drawn. Tatum describes the teacher’s view of the students by drawing a parallel from the past to the present. In the time of Malcolm X, vulgar words were used to make it clear that he could not do certain things because he was black. The meaning behind it was that he must do what other people of his race are doing and it was not realistic for him to do something else. Tatum compares this to a present instance of a conversation between a black student and a substitute teacher. The same message is given to him that it is not plausible for him to go to a four-year college but rather a community college. Here it is seen that without knowledge of his academics, a black person is judged due to his race. This reinstates the falseness of the end of racism because it is clear here that the discrimination the student receives is solely based on him being black. Comments do not always have to be on what a black person cannot do but it certainly will be based on their race. Tatum also brings in a young black woman who was not planning to go to a dance. A teacher commented, “Oh come on, I know you people love to dance” (Tatum). The word “you” replaces the language used in the past but the notion of stereotyping people is the same. The experiences that able a black person to learn what his race means also stem from these stereotypes. In Biss’s writing, she also notes the change of terms used to discriminate against blacks. There is an imaginary fear against black people which is commonly established with violence. Using the word “gang” people think of this as a way of talking about black people that is not direct. “Pairing it with a suggestion of fear,” ables a person to get the message across when they associate something with gangs such as bad neighborhoods (Biss). Because of this, white people usually stay away from these type of things as they know there are black people there and believe in a false idea that they will be directly affiliated with them when they come to these areas. Even though new words replace old ones the discrimination against black people is still similar today as that of the past as the underlying message behind them still remains the same.Because of the psychological abuse that is forced upon black people, actions are taken to protect themselves from society. Typically, white people separate themselves from black people out of fear causing the blacks to find their own social groups. Eula Biss experiences this first hand as she lives in what others call a bad neighborhood. This is because the majority of the population in her town is composed of lower class blacks. An imaginary fear is established causing people to think they are in danger when they are really not. Biss gives examples to show the facts of violence and crime in which the people affected by it are the ones that live in the conditions of the neighborhood, not just live in the neighborhood. However, it is the people who are wealthy and in the upper/middle class that fear these areas the most. Misunderstanding the life of the neighborhoods, white people distance themselves from it to try to avoid these imaginary risks that come with living there. Also, these same people try to improve these neighborhoods through gentrification, but really, they are changing it to conform to their ways of life. This does not always work as they cannot determine what is considered better because they do not live in those conditions. Again, the renovations being made are based on it being a bad neighborhood where black people live and not on what is really helpful to the area. Similarly, Tatum points out the same social misunderstanding that causes the black children to separate themselves in school. When the teachers restrict or determine what is based on the students because of their race, the students look for someone who they can relate to. If they were to turn to a white student or teacher, their opinion of the person is from the similar ways of life that they both have. However, this can not be done with the black person as they come from different walks of life and the teacher does not know what they are going through. This causes a self-segregation with other black students that share the same discrimination as them. Also, they look for other students who have found their racial identity as they know what it means to be black. When indirectly forcing black students who are “collectively embodying an oppositional stance, school administrators want to know not only why they are sitting together, but what can be done to prevent it.” (Tatum). Tatum shows that these school administrators fear the embracement of racial identity as it is something they can not relate to. Fear is seen again as they see that these students know what it means to be black in society’s viewpoint. This emphasizes how the concept of inferiority and superiority still exists, as that the white administrators fear the idea of blacks coming together, and the possibility of them threatening their superiority, which shows that racism still exists.Although the discrimination has declined since the emancipation of slavery, racism is yet to be fully eradicated. Authors Eula Biss and Beverly Daniel Tatum provide parallels between the past and the present to show that the myth of racism being over is not true. Using examples of the racial stereotyping and discrimination that is seen today, they show that the ways of being racist have changed. Implicit gestures and meaning of words have taken the place of direct abuse towards black people but the underlying meanings and reasons for them continue to remain the same. Tatum shows the psychological side of racism by using stereotypes found in society do to two different ways of life of black and white people. Biss uses a different approach by showing the segregation of races in society and the fear of an equal society that is the reason for this. By using the changes of racism and discrimination in their writings, they are able to exemplify how racism is still around today even if it has gotten better over time. If the myth of the end of racism was to be true people would see a different society with less fear of other groups, and a much more equal and desegregated way of life. However, with the continuation of societies of separation, discrimination, and fear of treating all lives as equal, it is obvious that racism has, unfortunately, not yet ended.