What is racism?
Racism is present when racial prejudice is supported by institutions and laws. For example, when Cha, the Hmong neighbor, is arrested and put in jail for killing chickens in the backyard is an example of racism. No attempt was made to understand why he killed the chickens or to explain the laws to him, thus illustrating racism.
What should have been done in this situation? One possibility would be to invite the police chief and other officers to engage in a discussion about how the newcomers to the community are affecting the way law enforcement is enforced and about biases in the law enforcers. It is likely that they have tried to explain the laws to the newcomers in order to put an end to these crimes but it may not be working because of various cultural and language barriers. One might want to try and work closely with both the police and local Hmong leaders to develop a strategy for increasing the police department's cultural competence and, at the same time, increase the newcomers' understanding about the laws in this country. This attempt could result in changes at the institutional level.
While we as a nation can never be realistically be entirely free of racial prejudice, we must be able to accurately identify and address racism in all facets of society, because the system of racism perpetuates the unearned privileges of some and imposes undeserved restrictions on others. The economic well-being of a group of people is intertwined with racism, and unless it is addressed intentionally and thoroughly, a community building effort will not reach its full potential.
Racial prejudices and racism have most been perpetrated in the U.S. by people of European descent against various other groups, such as African-Americans or Latinos. However, because of the shifts in our communities' demographics, some parts of the U.S. contain racial prejudices and forms of racism that create tensions between people of non-European descent, such as conflicts between
African Americans and Asian Americans. As the U.S. becomes more diverse and the world's residents more mobile, we must be prepared to act in a way that reduces the potential for hostility created by differences in our physical traits.
No matter what culture or part of the world one is from, they have seen the results of racial prejudices and racism. The results of racial prejudices and racism can be seen everywhere: in stereotypes, violence, underfunded schools, unemployment, police brutality, shabby housing, a disproportionate number of African-American men on death row, etc. Racial prejudices and racism can be found in many different areas of society: in the media, in service organizations, in the workplace, in neighborhoods, at school, in local government, on a local block -- in virtually every area of daily life.
It is important to reduce racial prejudices and racism because they impede or prevent the object of racism from achieving his or her full potential as a human being.
They impede or prevent the object of racism from making his or her fullest contribution to society. They impede or prevent the person or group engaging in racist actions from benefiting from the potential contributions of their victim, and, as a result, weaken the community as a whole. They increase the present or eventual likelihood of retaliation by the object of racist actions. They go against many of the democratic ideals upon which the United States and other democracies were founded. Racism is hypothetically illegal in many cases but is still present in our system today. Racial prejudice and racism feed on each other. If racial prejudice is not reduced, it could lead to racism, and if racism is not addressed, it could lead to more prejudice. This is why the strategies to address discrimination on the basis of race should be thorough and multifaceted so that both individual attitudes and institutionalized practices are affected.
In addition, here are some examples of why racial prejudice and racism should be addressed in communities:
Every participant in this effort to build community has his or her own understanding of the world and how it works. The European-American residents in the neighborhood don't understand why the new immigrants from Guatemala have to stand at the street corner to get work (they are commonly referred to as day laborers). They think it is because they are either "illegal” immigrants or too lazy to find full-time jobs. However, part of the problem is that these residents have not had the opportunity to debunk these stereotypes through direct interaction and contact with the day laborers and to hear their stories.
Andre's purpose is to reconnect people to their Dignity and Honor in Being Human.