Is there something more shameful and immoral than racial discrimination? How does it influence our life and activity? It does not worth mentioning that all people are different. They differ according to their appearance and worldview. Everyone has his own opinion about the material and spiritual values. Finally, everyone has his personal point of view about the people whose appearance is different. On the one hand, people have always treated the representatives of a different ethnicity with apprehension. They have always felt better in the mono-ethnic environment and looked at the strangers from different parts of the world suspiciously. On the other hand, today we live in the completely different world. Its rules and standards are different. We call it the age of globalization. Modern civilization is multicultural and there is hardly a country in the world, which has preserved its mono-ethnic background. The representatives of different cultures and ethnicities work together for their common goals. Consequently, it is hard to understand why racial discrimination still exists. This problem is very urgent and controversial. I will try to analyze its elements in brief.
Everybody knows about the roots of racial discrimination in the USA. When the first European colonists came to America, they wanted to develop these new territories for their own profit. They decided to choose the worst way of making money.
They introduced slavery in America and used free labor of the slaves transported from Africa. With the run of time, slavery disappeared but racial discrimination remained in the mind of the society. The white population of the country required more than a century to understand the idea of equality and tolerance. As a result, it is possible to say that the discrimination of African Americans is more or less defeated. They have the same rights, freedoms, duties and privileges. They are able to receive education, work and develop their personality in the way they want.
Unfortunately, there are still many cases of black discrimination in the USA. To begin with, African Americans and Latinos are arrested more frequently than white people are. Moreover, such people are the targets of police brutality. Very often, police officers apply their excessive force during law enforcement activities against non-white people. There is a stereotype that the majority of African Americans and Latinos are involved into various street gangs and drug trafficking. No wonder, when a non-white person is captured by the police, he/she is treated like a drug dealer. Moreover, non-white people are at the huge risk of being stopped by the police in the street. Finally, African Americans and Latinos are luckier to receive life sentence for the same crimes committed by the whites. In addition, it is possible to speak about segregation. Many effective schools, perspective jobs and ‘safe’ streets are located in the neighborhoods where primarily white people live. As a result, non-white neighborhoods are the centers of unemployment and poor-quality education. Children are brought up in the street and they are often involved into various criminal street gangs. Doubtless, they do not see anything positive in the surrounding areas; therefore, they do not receive motivation for education and self-development. Very few non-black people manage to reach their goal if they come from such neighborhoods.
Nearly everybody knows about black discrimination but very few people speak about the problem of white discrimination.
This type of racial discrimination exists in the areas where white population is minor. Naturally, such people have troubles at school and at their workplace. White children suffer from physical and psychological abuse applied by their non-white mates.
In non-white neighborhoods and countries, it is often unsafe for whites to appear in the street at night. In my opinion, this problem exists everywhere. The definite areas of the USA, the UK, France and Germany suffer from white discrimination and abuse from the side of the non-white population.
The problem of racial discrimination is extremely relevant nowadays. Both white and non-white people have not learnt to treat one another in the proper way. If we want to live in the peaceful and flourishing society, we should learn to respect and support one another in spite of the color of skin, gender or religious views.
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Sufiya Abdur-Rahman teaches at an after-school program. She is also a researcher for The Crisis magazine and a freelance writer. A native of Long Island, N.Y., Abdur-Rahman lives in Hyattsville, Md. Courtesy of Sufiya Abdur-Rahman hide caption
Sufiya Abdur-Rahman teaches at an after-school program. She is also a researcher for The Crisis magazine and a freelance writer. A native of Long Island, N.Y., Abdur-Rahman lives in Hyattsville, Md.Courtesy of Sufiya Abdur-Rahman
I'd been searching for a job for months with no success. I was just about ready to settle into permanent unemployment and a deep depression when my siblings suggested I try something I'd never before considered.
"Why don't you put a different name on your resume," they proposed. Something less ethnic-sounding and easier to pronounce, something that doesn't set off alarm bells like my name apparently does.
Out of the question, I said. "If they don't want Sufiya Abdur-Rahman, then they don't want me."
I'm the daughter of two 1970s African-American converts to Islam. I am black, I am proud and I don't shy from showing it. I wasn't going to downplay my cultural identity to accommodate someone else's intolerance, because I believe that black is beautiful. I believe in living that old 1960s credo, as out of style as it may be.
Growing up black, and to some extent Muslim, colors almost all that I believe and just about everything I do — how I talk, what I eat, the clothes I wear, what I fear and love.
In fifth grade, while my friends disguised themselves as witches and zombies for Halloween, I became Queen Nefertiti, celebrated Egyptian wife of the pharaoh Akhnaten. I thought I really looked like her with my tunic belted above the waist, feet exposed in my mother's sandals and heavy eyeliner, just like I saw in pictures. My neighbor thought I looked more like an ancient Roman or Greek. Back then I didn't know how to articulate to her the dignity I had for my heritage, so I said nothing. I just cut my trick-or-treating short that night.
I learned, along with every other American school kid, that at one point in this country being black meant being less than human. But that never made me wish I wasn't black. I love that my African people were among the most innovative in the world and am constantly amazed that my ancestors survived a period of unimaginable hardship. I'm forever grateful to my grandparents' fight for equal rights and equally admire my brothers for creating a music and culture with impact worldwide.
So I could never mask who I really am, not even to get a job.
People like me may have gone out of style, with leather Africa medallions and embroidered FUBU T-shirts, but I still believe in celebrating my blackness. It starts with my name and remains at the forefront of my identity because for me, there is no shame in being black. And I don't mean just having brown skin. There's no shame in having thick nappy hair, big full lips, a colorful melodic vernacular or even an inherent sense of rhythm, stereotype or not.
So I refuse to be anyone but myself: hip-hop listening, nappy hair-having, Girlfriends-watching, James Baldwin-, Zora Neale Hurston-, Malcolm X-reading me. I've internalized that black is beautiful, not a condition to rise above. For as long as it takes, I'll keep being Sufiya Abdur-Rahman on my resume and everywhere else I go.
Independently produced for All Things Considered by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman with John Gregory and Viki Merrick.