United States is called a melting pot because of the influx of immigrants from diverse backgrounds who have all somehow adapted well to the life in the U.S. We are talking about the U.S. In multicultural context because no other country can claim to have a society so diverse as America. But with multiculturalism come few serious problems too including racism. Racism had been a pervasive issue in the United States for a very long time and just when we think it has been effectively dead, some incident occurs to remind us that it is still very much a part of this society. African-Americans still suffer from racism in variety of ways. But it is not the only minority group that has endured racial attacks, there are now other groups facing similar problems including Muslims after the 9/11 attacks and it has become a much wider issue affecting many social and racial groups and hence it is a common problem which must be resolved with collective effort as Jones (1997) observes:
the problems posed by prejudice and racism belong to all of us. Problematizing one group or another is a hindrance to finding solutions to the discord wrought by prejudice and racism. By framing the issue in terms of the total cultural fabric, we see clearly that we cannot solve a problem this complex and ingrained in society by singling out a particular group -- whether the group be white men, say, or Latina immigrants. (p. 531)
Racism is the prejudice that members of a one particular race are superior to members of other races. Racism also includes the abusive or discriminatory behavior towards another race. Ridley (1995) defines racism as "any behavior or pattern of behavior that tends to systematically deny access to opportunities or privileges to members of one racial group while perpetuating access to opportunities and privileges to members of another racial group"(p. 28). Since the earliest records of history, a more powerful race has always tried to discriminate the other. This form was seen in the acts by the "Whites" on the "Blacks" during the Trans-Atlantic shift where the Blacks were used as slaves. In the present day, after September 11, it was noted that extreme racism was directed towards the Muslims living in the West. For a Muslim woman with her hijab or a bearded Muslim man to go into public was as if one was walking without a hijab and beard in Afghanistan. What is known of the Afghans is that they would literally gather around a non-bearded man and punish him for not having a beard. In the scenario seen in the West the people ganged up on the ones who did have a beard. France went a step ahead to try to ban the head covering by a female. Many confused the Sikhs to be Muslims because they grow a beard as well. While Afghans forced people due to their misunderstanding of their religious scripture, the violence against Muslims in the West was purely racial. Racism installs fear in the hearts of people and many Muslim women are known to have taken off their Islamic head-covering (hijab) and men to have shaved their beards. Racism is a disease which gives rise to racial profiling and crumbles a society in any part of the world where it is practiced.
Racism is widely seen today on the internet as well. One can come across many "hate sites" on the net dealing with all sorts of racism. We will find websites on anti-Semitism, against Blacks, Christians, Muslims, Whites, Orientals, etc. This widely practiced racism crumbles the society and instead of people coming together and living in peace, we find increasing hatred between them. Many people consider themselves to be superior or their religion to be superior hence they are hateful and abusive towards others. "The most devastating aspect of the legacy of racism and sexism is the poor human and intellectual resource base our society has to contend with" (Neville Alexander, et al. p.505). Racism is playing a major but a negative role in the society today and due to its harmful effects on society, one must get rid of it. When a group of people indulge in racism, it leads onto violence and a higher crime rate with injustice to the group against whom the racism is practiced. What humans need to do is love each other and treat each other equally. With the absence of such values and the increase of racism, hatred is propagated and the world cannot be at peace and harmony as a global village. Racism today is recognized as a disease by the high offices in society. "Because racism and its related violations affect people everywhere in the world, the United Nations was mandated to plan and implement the third World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance (the WCAR/the Conference)" (Rita Maran, p.177).
After the attacks on the World Trade Center, Muslims were not only attacked by the public but increased racial profiling led them to face severe treatment at airports. This was also true for the born Americans who had converted to Islam. A similar racial profiling exists in Pakistan who aided the United States in the war on Afghanistan. Moreover when moving to the Middle East and looking into the law of Israel, one finds it to state that equal opportunities should be given to all citizens. Ground reality shows that this is not the case and of course the Israelis are not the only people to blame for this. Palestinian militants and extremists attack the Jewish community, which is a mistake on their part, and in turn Israel discriminates against all Arabs which would be the mistake on their part. It is important for Israel and Palestinians to address to the root problem rather than racial discrimination. Racism can also lead onto discrimination in the labor sector in society today. The result would be that the racially profiled group would be hired for the lowest jobs regardless of their qualifications. Additionally it can also lead to a stage where a racial profiled group member would be paid comparatively less as compared to the non-profiled counterpart.
Social stratification is not an isolated phenomenon. It is a result of series of events, incidents, protests and struggle. Race, class and gender have always been some of the key pillars on which stratification rests as Andersen and Collins (1998) noted, "Race, gender, and class are interlocking categories of experience that affect all aspects of human life. . . And are indeed the basis for many social problems." (p.3)
African-Americans have had to face an uphill task in the American society to achieve equal status which I am afraid is still a dream. But they have come a long way since the days of slavery and their current status in American society can be best illustrated with a brief overview of historical changes.
Slavery of the first and most painful prejudice that African-Americans had to face when they came or were forced to come to the United States. Slavery was inconsistent with the ideals incorporated in the Constitution and yet it was allowed by the founding fathers because they wanted to preserve the Union at all costs. Slavery was an abominable practice, which should have been abolished immediately after the formation of United States Constitution because it clashed with the ideals of freedom and liberty for all. However while North had some reasons to oppose it, South had numerous others to maintain this oppressive institution and in 1856, they asserted, "we are entitled to demand the opening of this trade from an industrial, political, and constitutional consideration. . . . With cheap negroes we could set the hostile legislation of Congress at defiance." (McPherson 102)
Fortunately for millions of slaves in the country, emancipation came at an important time. Civil war of 1860s brought an end to the ugly institution of slavery and it was felt that blacks would finally be treated as equals. Unfortunately that did not turn out to be the case. Racism, wide-spread discrimination, white supremacy, inequality, lack of civil rights and poverty- all combined to create a highly prejudiced society where blacks were still barred from participating in elections, they were almost always sidelined in the job market, access to quality and equal education was obstructed along with numerous other subtle and obvious displays of discriminatory practices.
Finally in 1960s, African-Americans did something meaningful to effectively curtail discrimination and get civil rights- they launched the civil rights movement which later made monumental advances in the United States during the 1960s under the leadership of people like Martin Luther King Jr. And Malcolm X The bus boycott played a significant role in the Civil rights Movement as Roberta Wright wrote, "It helped to launch a 10-year national struggle for freedom and justice, the Civil Rights Movement that stimulated others to do the same at home and abroad."