Is Racism Really Waning?

by Britni Danielle

Racism is declining A few days ago, John McWhorter—a linguist and social critic—penned an essay for the New York Daily News that declared that racism is waning. While McWhorter conceded that racism still exists, he concluded that, with the reelection of President Obama, the influence of racism has dramatically decreased throughout the years.

McWhorter writes:

Does racism exist? Definitely. However, I am more interested in how much it matters.

Here’s what part of the mail I got that was not interesting: those infuriated by the mere suggestion that racism might be less prevalent than it used to be. There persists a heated core of people who seem to think the sentence “Racism is declining” has some kind of fetishistic power. 

They seem to worry that it will cause a backlash or reversal. They worry that white people might misinterpret the sentence and – well, I’m not sure just what they think is actually going to happen next. 

All I know is I’ve been told for a good decade now that it’s dangerous to say “racism is declining” – and the last time I checked, during that time, America elected a black President. If that’s a backlash, let’s have more of it.

McWhorter’s stance echoed a previous op-ed touting the demise of racism in which he wrote:

The times just don’t fit the grand old rhetoric, and nothing attests to that more than the fact that a black man will have occupied the White House for eight years, not just four. And the second time, he beat an opponent who gave him a run for his money. This is real. The issue is no more whether there is racism than whether there is weather. The issue is whether racism works. Increasingly, in so many ways, it would seem that it just doesn’t.

After President Obama’s historic 2008 election, many wondered if we’d finally reached “post-pacial” America. They wondered if the election of the nation’s first black President meant that black folks had finally overcome.

As the media picked up on the post-racial America meme, many African Americans resisted the idea that an Obama presidency meant that racism was a thing of the past. They argued that while a black family occupied the White House, African Americans were still disproportionally affected by poor schools, the prison pipeline, access to health care, and higher unemployment rates.

Although it’s true that systemic racism is no longer overt and legislated, the affects of the bad old days of our nation’s history continue to affect many of our citizens today.

While black folks are no longer forced to the back of the bus, we are being marginalized by lawmakers who are more concerned about suppressing the “urban” vote than ensuring all citizens have access to the support they need to improve their lives.

  • apple

    nope.. not waning.. never gone wane.. people have just became more civilized with their hatred.. it won’t go away, never disappear..unless we all wake up one color tomorrow or get attacked by aliens/zombies and there is no choice for humans (not humanity) to stick together

  • Stephanie

    …anytime you have kids complaining ( talking about the US ) that white culture is going away and a white student union is created … there is a problem …anytime you have a miss butt pageant ( talking about Brazil ) and no Afro Brazilian women are represented, I am so serious, and all the women look like Gisele Bündchen… there is a problem …If black face is seen as a norm ( talking about Korea ) and no one thinks its a bad idea, Bubble Sisters for example, there is a problem.
    we don’t live in a post racial society… we are deeply imbedded in race, ethnocentrism and the notion of us and them. Just ask a North African living in Paris, or a Palestinian living in Israel or an Afrikaner living in South Africa.
    …. how do we make all these people believe its okay to be different and that skin color, religion, nationality does not determine a person’s status or ability…
    … i can’t even answer my own question, its starts with the individual, their environment and their experiences …and then the largest factor is time. Time will tell.

  • Kacey

    Um, if he wants proof that racism is alive and well all he has to do is scroll down the page of any major news story on The Daily New’s own website and read the comments section! The commenters turn every story into a race issue, even when race wasn’t a direct factor of the event being reported, and particularly when the persons involved are black. Racism isn’t waning, it’s just taken insidious new forms.

  • Tracy

    Um, It’s John McWhorter who is surprised???

  • Treece

    Racism may have ” waned” but prejudice and bigotry still is alive and kicking. The institutionalized suppression of minorities may be on the decline (although by very little) but I constantly read about, see, or hear about people making highly prejudiced, mean, and hateful comments about Blacks since the election of president Obama. Thier influence on real racism (the use of power to suppress those of another race) may be questionable, but let’s just say there are a lot of young folks out there with a brand new hatred for people of another race than thier own. They were influenced by someone.

    I think about Trayvon Martin or the other young man shot and killed in FL for no good reason by white men. I think about all the hate speech filled websites and comment boards on the internet I read whenever there’s a story about President Obama or the first family. I think about the fact that if I were to stroll over to a high end store in my city the white clerks would either look at me strangely, follow me around on high alert, or completely ignore me if I ask for help. This happened a week ago. I hear about these instances more often now than I did five years ago. How much influence they have on the generations to come……who knows

  • beautifulmind

    Is racism waning?
    NO. If you need proof look at our economic system: whites on top, blacks on bottom; our education system: whites given a more decent education, blacks not; and our incarceration system: blacks over-incarcerated while whites mostly run free.
    And that’s just the start. Don’t even get me started on steotypes in media, politics, and police brutality. The sheer fact anyone would even ask that question shows that they are purposely blind.

  • Kacey

    Ever since the election of President Obama, white people truly believe that they have lost something – that’s why groups like the Tea Party keep talking about “taking this country back”. Who so they think they have lost it to? They’ll never say it like they want to, but it’s black people they’re referring to.

    Even though there is no evidence that blacks, as a whole, have gained any more power or influence since Obama’s presidency (and many may argue that blacks are in a worse position than before) white people feel very insecure, defensive and hostile toward blacks. It is a fact that the number of hate groups have risen significantly since Obama’s election.

    And it’s not just white people either, I’ve heard reports of other so-called minority groups expressing hostility and contempt toward blacks directly related to Obama’s election. Fear of a Black Planet is real!

  • Jointarmsxy99

    The Nature of the Harm

    Despite the enactment of national antidiscrimination laws in the 1960s, black Americans continue to experience social and economic disadvantage in significant disproportion to their numbers. For example, although whites outnumber blacks six to one, more blacks receive welfare than whites, and blacks are twice as likely to be unemployed, a figure that has remained constant throughout the forty years that such records have been maintained. Black children are three times more likely than white children to be born outside of marriage (accounting for approximately 70% of all black births) to a mother who is twice as likely to be a teenager. Black infants die at two and a half times the rate of white infants, and those who live are placed in foster care at three times the rate of white children. Black children are twice as likely to develop serious health problems, including asthma, deafness, retardation, and learning disabilities, as well as problems resulting from drug or alcohol use during pregnancy. Black children are nearly four times more likely than white children to grow up in poverty, and among the urban poor, black children are three times more likely to live in economically segregated low-income neighborhoods. Blacks live an average of seven years fewer than whites, and of that life, blacks enjoy eight fewer years of “reasonably good health.” Blacks are significantly more likely to suffer or die from serious diseases such as asthma and, especially, AIDS.

    The rates of black involvement with crime and the criminal justice system, both as victims and as perpetrators, are striking. Blacks are twice as likely as whites to be victims of assault and three times as likely to be robbed; black men are seven times as likely to be murdered. In most of these cases, moreover, the perpetrator is also black. Indeed, although blacks represent only 12.6% of the total population, or one out of eight Americans, they represent a majority of American male prisoners and are incarcerated at eight times the rate of whites. In sum, as Alexander Aleinikoff observes:

    In almost every important category, blacks as a group are worse off than whites. Compared to whites, blacks have higher rates of unemployment, lower family incomes, lower life expectancy, higher rates of infant mortality, higher rates of crime victimization, and higher rates of teenage pregnancies and single-parent households. Blacks are less likely to go to college, and those who matriculate are less likely to graduate. Blacks are underrepresented in the professions, in the academy, and in the national government.

  • Pink Lipstick

    Thank you!

  • so what?

    It’s pretty easy for someone who hasn’t and will never experience racism to question whether racism exist or not. Stuff like this makes me roll my eyes so hard.

  • Ms. Information

    In short…fck no. In long, racism is a SYSTEM has a lot to do with capitalism…white folks are not gonna give up that money…money is power.

  • Kam

    I know, I have a total love/hate relationship with this guy. Parts of what he wrote in the linked article were actually good though.

  • Anthony

    McWhorter lives for being a contrarian. He always right good essays and he skilled enough to make his points sound reasonable, but he consistently ignores fact that even the most casual observer of politics and society see. When he uses Obama as the proof of the decline of racism, he ignores a glaring fact: neither in 2008 or 2012, did Obama come close to getting the majority of the white vote. He got 44% in 2008 and 39% this year. Truth be told, he Obama did not get the majority of the white youth or female vote.

    The only disclaimer I can think of concerning Obama and the white vote is that the near total rejection of Obama in the South was so complete (around 90% in several states) that it does skew the President’s nationwide average among whites.

  • Jay Cee

    Read “The New Jim Crow” Revised Edition, by Michelle Alexander. You will see, factually, how racism is not waning now, never has and never will!

  • Billy Paul

    What is the definition of racism? How is it exercised? By whom? Where?

    These answers will arguably initiate an interesting conversation (in private).

    Unfortunately, this country will become less “racist” the less it needs the Black man to maintain its economic structure. Currently, the Black man is not suffering so much from racism as he is from neglect and economic uselessness. Indeed, the Black man is approaching terminal uselessness relative to society. Be not mislead, history shows us what happens to a people that have been deemed economically useless by this society (see the Native Americans).

    Carry on, Family.

  • Billy Paul

    ” Just ask a North African living in Paris, or a Palestinian living in Israel or an Afrikaner living in South Africa.”

    Unfortunately, the plight of these people is drastically different from that of American Colored people. To a certain degree, I am a bit perturbed at the comparison in light of that fact that at least 2:3 are invaders. Don’t take Billy’s word for it, do your own research.

    If you want to engage in negro assimilationist fantasies, at least have the decency to do your homework.

    As per your reference to individuals, show it to me in practice. Where are all these individuals that you speak. Currently, the world is orienting itself along racial and ethnic lines (see NATO, NATFA, the EU, ect.). Unfortunately, the only people in the world that have deemed such behavior immoral has been Colored people; however, the result of such an orientation have been disastrous. What will make our people see that it is highly moral to feed our own children before we feed another people’s children (see Korean, Indian, Arab, Hispanic, and other immigrant groups that feast off of our community).

    Carry on, Family.

  • Ravi

    Did you mean a black African living in South Africa? Afrikaners are the whites with all the economic power and authors of apartheid.

  • Stephanie

    …i know i just came back from South Africa. Sorry if you missed my point… same thing goes for Billy Paul. Bottom line: the plight of people seeking to be free from oppression will always be the same and time is the key factor in determining whether change in hearts and minds will occur.

  • Billy Paul

    Indeed. The very ability to shape the boundaries of a conversation denotes the power that that person/group exercises.

    However, I am surprised that an African in 2012 would be surprised by the above.

  • Billy Paul

    “Sorry if you missed my point… same thing goes for Billy Paul.”

    Touche! However, for future reference, you may want to articulate your point in a alternative manner that depicted above.

  • Keke

    Racism isn’t waning as much as it is transforming.yes things are definitely better than before but considering that in a 200 year long history of America things have improved in just the last 40 years for blacks that isn’t saying much. And that is why saying we are post racial is dangerous because it makes it easier for whites to not see areas where blacks are lagging behind. While over racism might be on the waning subtle racism still exists and is in some ways a lot more dangerous.

    Take colorist for example. It gives white the appearance of being inclusive when they choose light skin blacks over dark skin blacks. Obama is a great president and i think him being not just multi racial with a global perspective makes him representative of America. This shouldn’t detract from his accomplishments but the fact that he is a light skinned lack guy played at least a small role in how acceptable he was to whites.

    His wife on the other hand was attacked for her dark skin. And let’s not forget the fact that during the election the lack of disrespect republicans had for a president. The whole he is not one of us, birth certificate crap and let’s not even get into Trump was all racist.romney wasn’t even born in America but That wasn’t a problem. Neither was McCain I believe but Obama who was born in the states and would still be American because his mother is American identity was put into question.

    And Obamas cool perona is partly coz he trying to a void the angry black man stereotype. He can’t get angry about certain things. Oh and he doesn’t have a major policy directed towards blacks because republicans would fight it and have a field day. Oh and in the senate there are no black senators as we pek even though there are tons of Obamas out there. So he looks at his cabinet and sees no on that looks like him. And that is the crap the president of America and arguably the world has to deal with on a constant basis. Now imagine what the ever age person has to deal with.

    The reason this statement is dangerous because it gives whites the excuse to say shit like blacks just like to complain or reverse racism. Yes black people come across like they don’t recognize the changes but the truth is blacks have to shout a billion times harder to just be heard once. Especially now when things are getting better so that the areas where we are not are addressed. How better are we when we are comparing our now to the days of being en slaved and in the back if the bus. That isnt a comparison we should have to make. I should be grateful because oh white people are beating me but are fucking me over in other ways.

    True equality is the day where colorism doesn’t make one black person a lot better than another in a white persons eyes. It’s when we are picked on the basis on our ability to choose a job not just our skin. It’s when minorities are chosen by univeristies ithout the use of affirmative action to counteract instructional used racism. And it’s when a white person doesnt attack a brilliant black student for “taking his place due to affirmative action” when there are other white students who shouldn’t have been at the university.

    What Obama has done is change how black people are perceived for both blacks and white. A black peron can aspire to be president for the first time and so can minorities. A black person doesn’t have to think that being eu aged an well spoken as acting white. These things are institutionalized but now it is possible to bridge the gap . Same with jay z and will smith. They are changing stereotypes

    I get what this guy is saying but I think he would have done better to rlk about the ways that racism is transforming and why we still need to work at it. It’s like marriage: constantly work at it especially through the good times lest we fall back into the bad times

  • jollyd

    Jay Cee-get with the TIMES-No one pays attention to such crap ,except folks like yurself.

  • Rienne (pronounced Rienne)

    Im almost certain John Mcwhorter says this stuff for shock value, but the debate sickens me to no end. The fact that a black man has made this comment has proven the point entirely. Racism is a disease, a sickness of the mind. His comment shows a disregard for the impact it’s had on not just ppl of color, but those of european decent as well. If after centuries of being told you are “less than” has clearly effected our ppl to this day, how it must have also effected a ppl whove been told for centuries that they are “more than”. To suggest that lifetimeS of hatred, brutality, genocide, war, slavery, black codes, apartheid, and bombings have somehow been countered and made to “wane” by only 4 decades of 2nd class citizenship (which we still fought n bled for) “prison pipelines”, and unequal pay/education/rights, is all part of being force fed assimilation as a means for survival, as is this a serious case and point in terms of mcwhorter. It’s classic reverse psychology the way they’ve tried to convince the black man that that which plagues him does not exist. Albeit we’re not being hanged for glances and are now able to ride, eat, vote, live (kinda) where we want, we must be careful not mistake progress for change. The KKK started out as pissed off civil war soldiers of the south and wore potato sacks on their heads…which progressed into white sheets. Message didn’t change though. Obama won his election probably due to several racist/colorist notions that have worked both for and against him, but at the end of the day he earned his office IN SPITE of racism, not a lack of it. As a black man, in not just any, THE position of authority, I’m sure he has faced pure bigotry and hatred on levels we cant even begin to imagine. But before we think of that we have to rid ourselves of the notion that ideas like success, happiness, opportunity, acceptance, and privilege are tokens to be handed to us by white society. Mcwhorter is not alone in his thinking (unfortunately). The difference is in the idea of racism. Oh how we wish it was only water fountains and freedom marches. Too bad racism is a disease, a state of mind, not (just) legislature and supreme court decisions. The tactics match the times. You wont see too many burning crosses on your lawns these days. But then again, tell that to Sharmeka Moffitt who was burned on a cross by the KKK for wearing an Obama tshirt. Ok so we’re not dying in Rosewood numbers, but our tenacity makes us targets constantly. I get what he may have been getting at, but……..nah.

  • DAD

    The euphoric bubble that African Americans nationwide and blacks worldwide have allowed themselves to be encased inside of and float must be burst and relieved of all toxic, detrimental oxygen that surely and endlessly intoxicates and forever blinds. For it is imperative for all black people who truly desire and are also committed to the healthy and whole survival of the Black Race in America, Caribbean, Africa and worldwide to immediately know and understand a few things without fail to awaken their minds, open their eyes, and be able to best act accordingly to survive and thrive against rather than continue to be easily and endlessly played, divided, diluted, nullified and destroyed en mass. The incredibly rich run and control Political Parties, the White House, United States of America Government, Military, American Banks / Financial Credit, “All Big Business”, European governments / European big businesses, Employment, Public Schools / College Higher Education, Media Organizations, Agriculture / Housing / Entertainment / Prison Industries and they are all supreme masters of deception and the art of relentlessly daily, monthly, and annually deciding, influencing, and fully shaping public knowledge and opinion. As a result of these undeniable facts, freedom and democracy are America’ biggest facades and most insidious illusions given that both so well cover and belie the diabolical underbelly of those few who regularly deceive, control, exploit, betray and pit America’ virtues, which are her people of all races and religions en mass. There is a totem pole tier system in America not simply nor merely primarily tied to differences in education and income class, but more specifically and quite accurately tied to the absolute continuation of full white supremacy strength, domination, survival, control, and therefore also long ago and still current concern and conclusion on which of all the other racial groups in America present for and against white supremacy the greatest strength, weakness, opportunity, and threat. Unlike Native Americans of many different tribes and languages living throughout America armed with inferior weapons who were duped, united way too late, still aggressively fought and had their land and themselves overtaken by whites, were almost entirely wiped out, and with few left who were for many important reasons unsuitable for enslaved labor on lands and in wilderness so well known and easily traveled by them, African slaves of many different African countries, tribes, and languages were brutalized and terrorized both en route to foreign North America, enslaved, beaten, raped, degraded, stripped of their languages, religions, cultures, children, wives, husbands, manhood, womanhood, childhood, existence as human beings and treated like animals unfit for anything other than free forced hard labor, breeding more enslaved workers, rape, murder, servitude, poverty, and discrimination for hundreds of years. At the same time as all this occurred, their relatives, countries, and continent of Africa was being carved up and colonized for the taking of its lands and wealth and initiation of control and discrimination against Africa’ people. And yet, through all of this and even given deliberate introduction of the deathly scourge of illegal drugs / drug addiction, access to firearms for drug trade control, too many years long limitless welfare dependency also as a by-product of poverty associated with young unprepared, unmarried and repeated child-bearing, single female parent head of households, fatherless children, poor and inferior public school education, unemployment and employment discrimination, resulting crimes and imprisonments of massive numbers of black men and boys, wide scale destruction of black families and the HIV/AIDS genocidal virus created to most deliberately and effectively target to kill black people in America and Africa, the Black Race against all these huge and horrible odds has nonetheless managed to still survive. And so how and from who is it that black people receive such awesome incredible inner strength, physical and mental fortitude, endurance, perseverance, hope, faith, and tremendous overwhelming love that carries us through it all? Who is it that is forever for us and not against us, thwarts those always seeking to take and destroy, and to use and encourage us to destroy ourselves and one another? Who is it that no matter what strategies are developed and used and no matter what casualties there are or what things appear to be or look like is always in charge and has our backs given we are the long-suffering people spoken of that no evil of any kind including white supremacists can ever fully handle and destroy? Remember and never, ever forget to daily worship and honor our Almighty God. It is He and His Knowledge, Truth, and Justice not from any country or human being that is real freedom and sets us free, awakens our minds, opens our eyes, and compels us to see, know, and act accordingly against that and those that would and will act to destroy us. If you want to be free, stand up for and within the protection and righteousness of Almighty God.

  • Billy Paul

    Sounds like an economic and political problem to me. The above ills will arguably still exist even if “racism” were to be eliminated.

    Therefore, one’s focus on “racism” (i.e. assimilationist growing pains) deflects one’s attention from the economic aspect of the matter.

    Arguably, many of the social ills attributed to “racism” may more acurrately be attributed to the economic philosophy ascribed to in Colored communities.

    Be not mislead, there is no glory in speaking truth to power. Therefore, your cries of “racism” will arguably fall on tin ears. You stand to gain nothing for mounting a truth campaign against your oppressors.

    Carry on, Family.

  • Prospero Tempesto

    Everybody says there is this RACE problem. Everybody says this RACE problem will be solved when the third world pours into EVERY white country and ONLY into white countries.
    The Netherlands and Belgium are just as crowded as Japan or Taiwan, but nobody says Japan or Taiwan will solve this RACE problem by bringing in millions of third worlders and quote assimilating unquote with them.
    Everybody says the final solution to this RACE problem is for EVERY white country and ONLY white countries to “assimilate,” i.e., intermarry, with all those non-whites.
    What if I said there was this RACE problem and this RACE problem would be solved only if hundreds of millions of non-blacks were brought into EVERY black country and ONLY into black countries?
    How long would it take anyone to realize I’m not talking about a RACE problem. I am talking about the final solution to the BLACK problem?
    And how long would it take any sane black man to notice this and what kind of psycho black man wouldn’t object to this?
    But if I tell that obvious truth about the ongoing program of genocide against my race, the white race, Liberals and respectable conservatives agree that I am a naziwhowantstokillsixmillionjews.
    They say they are anti-racist. What they are is anti-white.
    Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white.

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