The Functionality of Racism in America

What is the functionality of racism in America? Who benefits from racism in America? Why isn’t everyone working to end racism? Many believe this country was built on racism, if not for slavery would America have been able to build wealth. Slavery ended in 1865 so why hasn’t racism dissipated over these past hundred plus years? In my point of view and some others, racism is as strong as ever in America. In fact, one could argue that racism has increased worldwide since the end of slavery in America. Now there are some who will say that Black Americans are better off today than in the past, but this may all be imaginary. Black America’s wealth percentage has not increased compared to other ethnic groups. Racism may not be as overt as in the past but racism still exist, which begs the question why does racism still exist?

In my opinion, racism has an important functionality in America and that is why racism still exists and may forever exist in America. In my opinion, racism is being used as a tool to mask classism. Past empires practiced classism and this philosophy contributed to the downfall of these empires because the number of lower class citizens outnumbered the number of upper-class citizens. In the classism system, the lower class citizens can easily overpower the upper class. Knowing that this issue has existed throughout history there must be a system in place that will keep the lower class citizens fighting amongst each other. If the lower class citizens are fighting against each other they will not be able to unite and overthrow the upper-class citizen, hence the system of racism.

This theory about the functionality of racism in America came to me several years ago while watching the election coverage on MSNBC. The MSNBC report was interviewing people from a rural town in Mississippi, one of the gentlemen the report spoke with was an older white man, I remember the report stating that the older man’s annual income was around $12,000. The report went through a number of political issues and tried to explain to the older gentleman that it would benefit him and his family financially to support a Democrat. The reported explained that many of the items on the Democrat agenda, if passed, would have a direct impact on him and they would benefit him. The older white stated he would never vote for a democrat because all the democrats want to do is help Black and Hispanic people. The older gentleman stated he was fine with his financial situation as long as the government did not provide anything to minorities. I took two things from this news piece, one the older gentlemen felt that even though he is considered poor, being white made him better than Blacks and Hispanics. The second thing was that he is willing to do without to ensure that Blacks and Hispanics do not benefit in any way. I thought to myself that white privilege is enough and if so racism will not go away.

There are small incidents throughout American history where we see racism mask classism. In 1920’s New York; Italian immigrants, Irish immigrants, and Black lived in many of the same neighborhoods. Gang violence was high during these times because poverty was prevalent, the gangs started to prey upon the upper class. The New York officials knew the city could not sustain with so many people at the poverty level, so the officials started putting the Irish immigrants into the police force and the Italian immigrants into the fire department. This left the Black New Yorkers without any outlets and the Irish to enforce the laws. This created a middle class which meant mostly Blacks were lower class and his protected the upper class because the number of lower class citizens had decreased and the now middle-class citizen were in charge of protecting the upper class.

Martin Luther King’s assassination, when speaking with my son about MLK’s assassination he assumed the MLK was in Memphis fighting for civil rights. I explained that MLK was there in support of the sanitation workers strike. The sanitation workers were striking for better working conditions and salary. One has to ask himself was MLK assassinated because of his work in the civil right movement or because MLK’s focus started leaning towards more economic fairness for all people.

For a moment let us imagine America without racism. Without racism would citizens be upset with the huge wealth gap in America? Would the older man I mentioned earlier be so excepting of his financial situation? America’s love to complain and blame others for the country’s problems, without racism who would they blame? Would the lower class and middle class rise up against the upper class?  If my theory is correct we may never get rid of racism because America is controlled by the upper class and the last thing the upper class will allow to happen is to lose control of the country. Racism may not just have a functionality in America, racism may be the engine which keeps America on the path that is on.

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