Being a person of color in American society is no small task, especially in white America. Oftentimes many white individuals will see a person of color automatically assuming the worst about that individual. This reason is because of the unjust prejudice white Americans have grown to learn at a young age; that they now take with them into their adult lives. One of our class readings notes: “Despite social norms and legal sanctions against racial bias, there is consistent evidence that negative attitudes toward African Americans continue to persist at more subtle and indirect levels of expression. For example, people show an automatic tendency to associate African Americans with crime (e.g., Dovidio, Kawakami, & Gaertner, 2002; McConnell & Leibold, 2001) and weapons (Eberhardt, Goff, Purdie, & Davies, 2004).” Before we dive deeper into that, we have to take a step back and note where these automatic assumptions and stereotypes route from.
These assumptions/stereotypes about people of color date back to before I was even a thought. I’m referring to slavery; this practice by white individuals not only was inhumane but also very unjust. Treating another human being like dirt because of the color of their skin is outrageous and deeply heartbreaking. When the practice of slavery was finally abolished, one might hope that people of color would be freed from the shackles of their oppressors. Unfortunately, this was far from the case. As Bryan Stevenson mentioned:
“Laws governing slavery were replaced with Black Codes governing free black people, effectively making the criminal justice system central to new strategies of racial control. These strategies only intensified whenever black people asserted their independence or achieved any measure of success. During the era of Reconstruction, the emergence of black elected officials and entrepreneurs was met with resistance in the form of convict leasing. This was a scheme in which white policymakers invented offenses to target black people.”
Whites, at both a systematic government level and in everyday life, worked tirelessly to perpetuate negative stereotypes about people of color. The struggle of being a person of color in America is real; when people of color took one step forward, they were also taking two steps back. I ask you, what do we do to stop these practices from holding what others would call “a great nation” accountable for their actions of how they treat people of color?