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Roundtable: Can racism be solved in this lifetime?

It feels like we’ve made progress, like we can finally take a breath and look back at how far we come.

That is until we realize we have a president that openly used an anti-Semitic slur reminiscent of Nazi rhetoric against an NBC anchor, police brutality is so prevalent it feels commonplace and hate crimes against Muslims rose by 20 percent in 2016, according to the FBI.

Today, problematic and deeply bigoted statements that were once completely socially acceptable receive immediate backlash, yet racism and microaggression are still prevalent.

This roundtable asks the question: Will racism end in this life?

Drew Jones

Drew Jones, former news editor for The Cougar, is a print journalism junior. This is how racism has impacted his life as a black man. 

To say racism is a fact of life in America is almost an understatement. America was built on racism — literally.

Nothing can change the historical events that were the creation of chattel slavery, the Atlantic Slave Trade, the subjugation of generations of African descendants in bondage, the terrorism of Jim Crow and the birth of the incarceration state. Some people still believe the plight of African Americans was caused by our inferiority and thereby justifies the treatment we’ve received in American society.

Explicit racism is much more taboo now than it was until the end of what we now call the Civil Rights Era, but racism in all its facets hasn’t gone anywhere, and I don’t think it will any time soon.

Today, according to reporting by Nikole Hannah-Jones of the New York Times, American schools are as segregated as they were in the 1970s. Cities all over the country are dealing with a wave of gentrification, which pushes poorer inhabitants, mostly people of color, out of areas where they’ve established roots, which then, bleeds those areas of resources.

Forty percent of black men who grow up at any income level in America will be poor in adulthood, according to the study, which decreases the inheritance of wealth and increases the likelihood that they will face prison, poverty, an early death or all three.

Until substantial changes are made in the way we perceive equal treatment or gargantuan efforts are made to alleviate the ills of the past, racism will be here to stay. The only way forward is to ask the privileged to give up some of their advantages while truly internalizing the history that has gotten us to this point, and I for one don’t believe they’re up to the task.

Zach Appel

Zach Appel is a political science sophomore, and this is how racism has impacted his life as a white man.

The question of racism for white people is one in need of scrutiny because being white in America makes acknowledging the politics of race optional.

Most Anglo people will experience zero repercussions for not engaging in those questions because their interests will be taken care of by a system made to benefit them.

Doing things like recognizing your privilege or combating personal biases are just treating symptoms of a larger overarching issue of racism. White people cannot combat their privilege because we live and breathe it. 

Ta-Nehisi Coates in his Pulitzer-winning piece “The Case For Reparations” identifies housing as the start of generational wealth inequality. People of color were systematically excluded from the most massive wealth-building opportunity in American history, having to take more debt than an entire racial group.

Racism was created along with the law. There has to be serious reform in the law and a reparation for people of color that were prevented from building wealth, that is just the first step to dismantling a 200-year dynasty of privilege that was built on the marginalization of people of color.

Janet Miranda

Janet Miranda is a marketing junior, and this is how racism has impacted her life as a Hispanic woman. 

We live in a world that claims to be color blind where our skin color will no longer dictate who we are to become. If you’re a minority, you know that’s not always the case.

Growing up as a Hispanic woman, you grow up suffering the effects of America’s racist past. Although we live in a post-segregation society where justice supposedly asserts no bias based on race, black people are arrested for waiting at a Starbucks. ICE is called to arrest a groom on his wedding day because his skin is too brown, despite his claims of being a legal resident.

Life as a minority in this country is spent trying to avert unpleasant situations. I am always aware of the external factors that I can’t control, the melanin in my skin and my gender, that morphs how the world around me sees me.  My successes are exceptions to the rule and my failures only enforce it. 

I live in a world where the color of my skin feels like the biggest determinant of what I deserve. A world my white friends would never recognize.

We like to pretend racism is a thing of the past, enshrined in America’s past of slavery and Jim Crow laws, outlawed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and in the courtroom of the Supreme Court, yet racism has adapted to the 21st century and has become an ingrained obstacle that I, a Hispanic woman, must overcome every day of my life. 

I’d like to remain optimistic in humanity and believe one-day racism will be truly eradicated. Progress will certainly be made in my lifetime, but I cannot claim the pervasive problem of racism will be solved in my lifetime. I hope my generation pushes harder than any before us. 

Roundtable contributors can be reached at [email protected].

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