The implication of West Indian success is that racism does not really exist at all–at least, not in the form that we have assumed it does. The implication is that the key factor in understanding racial prejudice is not the behavior and attitudes of whites but the behavior and attitudes of blacks–not white discrimination but black culture. It implies that when the conservatives in Congress say the responsibility for ending urban poverty lies not with collective action but with the poor themselves they are right.
These are difficult questions, not merely for what they imply about American blacks but for the ways in which they appear to contradict conventional views of what prejudice is. Racism, after all, is supposed to be indiscriminate. For example, sociologists have observed that the more blacks there are in a community the more negative the whites’ attitudes will be. Blacks in Denver have a far easier time than blacks in, say, Cleveland. Lynchings in the South at the turn of this century, to give another example, were far more common in counties where there was a large black population than in areas where whites were in the majority. Prejudice is the crudest of weapons, a reaction against blacks in the aggregate that grows as the perception of black threat grows. If that is the case, however, the addition of hundreds of thousands of new black immigrants to the New York area should have made things worse for people like Rosie and Noel, not better. And, if racism is so indiscriminate in its application, why is one group of blacks flourishing and the other not?
Joe Feagin: I have been deeply concerned with issues of social and moral philosophy since college. I majored in philosophy as an undergraduate and then went to Harvard Divinity School, where I worked with philosopher-theologians in social ethics, European theology and comparative religions. I studied with Paul Tillich, Richard R. Niebuhr, Arthur Darby Nock and others. When I switched to doctoral work in sociology at Harvard, I studied with the theoreticians Talcott Parsons, George Homans, Robert Bellah, Charles Tilly and Gordon Allport. Allport and his young colleague Tom Pettigrew got me seriously interested in studying racial-ethnic theory in social science as well as the empirical reality of racism in the United States. During this decade (the 1960s) I was also greatly influenced by major African-American social analysts of racism, like W.E.B. Du Bois, Stokely Carmichael and Charles Hamilton. More recently, my work has been used by philosophers of race including Lewis Gordon, Charles Mills, Linda Alcoff, Tommy Curry — and yourself.
G. Y.: In your book “The White Racial Frame,” you argue for a new paradigm that will help to explain the nature of racism. What is that new paradigm and what does it reveal about race in America?
J.F.: To understand well the realities of American racism, one must adopt an analytical perspective focused on the what, why and who of the systemic white racism that is central and foundational to this society. Most mainstream social scientists dealing with racism issues have relied heavily on inadequate analytical concepts like prejudice, bias, stereotyping and intolerance. Such concepts are often useful, but were long ago crafted by white social scientists focusing on individual racial and ethnic issues, not on society’s systemic racism. To fully understand racism in the United States, one has to go to the centuries-old counter-system tradition of African-American analysts and other analysts of color who have done the most sustained and penetrating analyses of institutional and systemic racism.
G.Y.: The N.A.A.C.P. called the murder of nine African-Americans in the historic Emanuel A.M.E. Baptist Church in Charleston, S.C., an “act of racial terrorism”? Do you think that definition is correct?
J.F.: According to media reports, the alleged murderer Dylann Roof has aggressively expressed numerous ideas, narratives, symbols and emotions from an openly white supremacist version of that old white racial frame. The N.A.A.C.P. terminology is justified, given that the oldest terrorist group still active on the planet is the Ku Klux Klan. We must also emphasize the larger societal context of recurring white supremacist actions, which implicates white Americans more generally. Mainstream media commentators and politicians have mostly missed the critical point that much serious anti-black and pro-white framing proclaimed by supremacist groups is still shared, publicly or privately, by many other whites. The latter include many whites horrified at what these white terrorist groups have recently done.
G.Y.: I realize that this question would take more space than we have here, but what specific insights about race can you share after four decades of research?
The Civil Rights Movement, that lasted for years, showed the stark and unequal divide between two very distinct races. The 1950s was an era of great conflict and black segregation was at its utmost. Even though many of the most important achievements happened in the 1950s for African Americans, segregation, and racial acts took place every day. African Americans had been fighting against racial segregation for centuries, however, before the 1950s, not much progress had been made. Instead, they faced life every day in fear of White Americans and the millions of restrictions put on them. The main reason that change occurred during the 1950s was because segregation started to become part of American life. When these changes took place, it started to affect the life of a White American which caused an outburst amongst them. Nevertheless, the progress of the Civil Rights Movement did not help with the social, economic, physical and political disadvantages they faced. For example, in Memphis, one of the most segregated cities in the 1950s, officials and juries were white and there had been no black police till 1948. Even when they were finally hired, they did not have the power or authority to arrest white people. The divide between the two races was so bad that even their music was separated and did not mix. The 1950s sparked off a need from the black population to gain equality with their white counterparts. Many figures the world view as important to history today arose after World War Two. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Andrew Goodman, Malcolm X and many more were citizens that risked their lives to pursue and gain equal rights for the black population. All of them stood for what they believed in and worked extremely hard to bring about a change for the one’s affected by racial segregation and hate. However, racial groups, like the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), attacked them physically and mentally making it harder to live in the USA during the 1900’s. For example, on September 15th, 1963, a bomb detonated at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, resulting in the death of 4 girls and several injuries. The Jim Crow Laws were local laws that enforced racial segregation in the Southern states, that stopped in 1965. The laws stated that black and white people had to have different schools, restaurants, bathrooms, and made sure blacks were discriminated from public services. In the South, the concept of separate but equal was not completely true as it may have been separate but it was never equal. There was a stark difference between a white children school and a black children school. How qualified the teachers were, the amount of money spent on books and facilities, and the amount of children in each class depended on what kind of school it was. The restrictions put on them led to incidents like the Birmingham attack, the Rosa Parks issue, and even the decision whether to allow a black girl, Linda Brown, attend a school for white children. In addition to all the physical restrictions and laws placed on them, racial segregation led to the belief that white people were more superior than black people and thus deserved all the advantages they received over them. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded in 1910 and helped fight for equality during the civil rights movement. The NAACP played an important role during the 1950s and their involvement did help with the changes that were taking place alongside. For this spatial photo essay, I am going to be focusing on how African Americans have been fighting for equal rights since slavery was abolished and how this process has still not granted them complete equality, as even today racial segregation can be seen.
As a result, major racial inequalities have been deeply institutionalized over about 20 generations. One key feature of systemic racism is how it has been socially reproduced by individuals, groups and institutions for generations. Most whites think racial inequalities reflect differences they see as real — superior work ethic, greater intelligence, or other meritorious abilities of whites. Social science research is clear that white-black inequalities today are substantially the result of a majority of whites socially inheriting unjust enrichments (money, land, home equities, social capital, etc.) from numerous previous white generations — the majority of whom benefited from the racialized slavery system and/or the de jure (Jim Crow) and de facto overt racial oppression that followed slavery for nearly a century, indeed until the late 1960s.
Racial segregation in housing prevented blacks from moving into white neighborhoods and that directly affected employment opportunities, economic status and health outcomes of African Americans