Since Black Like Me, a book which gives the true account of a white man who experiences the life of a black man in the deep south during the 1960s, was written, the role than an individual’s race plays in society has changed drastically (Griffin, 1996). Though restrooms no longer bare signs reading “white” and “negro”, discrimination and racial issues still exist throughout society, and they exist across all races, not just blacks (Griffin 1996). African Americans, Mexican and Mexican Americans, and people of middle eastern decent are still bombarded daily by racial profiling, racial gaps, and white supremacy, despite society’s apparent leap towards racial equality since the 1960s.
As America transitioned from the Civil War era to the 20th century and even into the early 21st century, past prejudices and stereotypes associated with different racial groups became integrated into every-day occurrences and even modern legislature. Similarly to in Black Like Me when Griffin (1996) was accused of being a thief and unintelligent simply because he was black, people today are still often assumed to have certain traits and characteristics simply because of the color of their skin. Racial profiling occurs among police, civilians, and even in airports (“Racial,” 2018). In a study of the stop-and-frisk procedures done by police, researchers found that most of the people stopped were people of color, over 90 percent of which had not even committed a crime (“Racial,” 2018). However, police are not the only ones guilty of racial profiling, as average citizens are often the worst offenders (“Racial,” 2018). The most popular example of this occurred in 2012, when George Zimmerman, a white man on patrol for his neighborhood watch, shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed, black teenager, with the main cause of the attack suspected to be racial profiling (“Racial,” 2018). Even in airports, the stereotypical belief that all Muslims and people of middle eastern descent are terrorists is startlingly obvious, as the people selected for “random” security checks were overwhelmingly Arab (“Racial,” 2018).
This racial profiling can be accredited to events as far back as the conquering of the native peoples of the Americas, as well as a recent rise in illegal immigration among Latinos and Syrians, and the tragic events of September 11, 2001(“Racial,” 2018; Salaita, 2006). Racial profiling has even infiltrated into American legislature and the Oval Office (Korte & Gomez, 2018). As a result of the strong prejudices against Arabs and Latinos, as well as 9/11 and illegal immigration, these racial groups in particular, have been the target of recent backlash and immigration laws (Korte & Gomez, 2018; Lind, 2018). Since 2001, and since Donald Trump took office in 2016, immigration has been particularly strict, especially among the thousands Syrians who are trying to flee war-torn Syria (Lind, 2018). Racial profiling against Arabs is at least partially to blame for the immigration ban against Syria, as well as the dramatic drop in number of Syrian refugees accepted into the United States (Lind, 2018). The president himself has even blatantly racially profiled entire groups of people, describing Mexican immigrants as “‘bringing drugs…bringing crime…[being] rapists” (Korte & Gomez, 2018, para.8). Despite the obstacles the United States has overcome in the past regarding racism, its citizens and government still struggle daily with racial stereotypes, biases, and prejudices.
Though jobs and schools are no longer formally segregated as they were in Black Like Me, racial gaps occurring in both the workplace and in the classroom have been serious issues in America for decades (Griffin, 1996; Patten, 2016). Wage gaps among races are most prevalent between the wages of white individuals, and those who are black or Hispanic (Patten, 2016). Looking hourly, the average black or Hispanic man will only earn 73% and 69% as much as a white man, respectively (Patten, 2016). These gaps have narrowed marginally, if at all, since they were recognized in the 1980s, and are part of the racial issues faced in America today (Patten, 2016). Accounting for part of the wage gap is racial discrimination, with a whopping 64% of blacks and 38% of Hispanics saying that they are treated differently in the workplace because of their race (Patten, 2016). However, the cause of the wage gap between races can only partially be attributed to racism and discrimination, as the other cause is largely accepted to be the difference in education rates between blacks, whites, and Hispanics (Patten, 2016). Unfortunately, discrimination also plays a role in the education gap (Levitt & Dubner, 2006).
The education gap, particularly between blacks and whites, begins in early schooling as white students test significantly higher in nearly all subjects at a grade-school level (Levitt & Dubner, 2006). This gap is not the result of either race’s “intelligence” but rather a result of the socioeconomic status of each group, with black children being more likely to come from lower income, less educated households (Levitt & Dubner, 2006). However, despite the fact that neither race is more or less intelligent than the other, societal expectation does play an important role in how children perform in school (Levitt & Dubner, 2006). The mere existence of the racial stigmas regarding intelligence is enough to influence how children, particularly black and Hispanic children, perform in school (Levitt & Dubner, 2006). As a result of the early education gap among people of color, those same people have a much lower rate of going to, and graduating from college, which relates directly back to the racial wage gap (Patten, 2016). Severe oppression and prejudice in America’s past, against both blacks and Hispanics, is the most likely cause for the gaps among different racial groups today.
White supremacy and the Ku Klux Klan are topics that are seldom discussed, let alone addressed as serious issues, in modern society (Gustainis, 2013). White supremacy and the KKK exemplify the racism and the bigotry that still exists in America (Gustainis, 2013). The KKK, America’s most prevalent white supremacist group, has violently targeted Jews, immigrants, and black for decades, and, contrary to popular belief, is still in existence today (Sanburn, 2014). Just as John Griffin (1996) and the blacks of the south did in Black Like Me, minority groups, especially people of color, still struggle against the hold that white supremacy has on modern-day America (“Demonstrations,” 2018). Though the KKK’s membership numbers are not nearly as high today as they were at the group’s peak in the early 1900s, the Klan still organizes hate rallies and bombings, recruits new members, and has members in the American government (Sanburn, 2014). As if to only confirm that white supremacy is a growing problem in the U.S., a former terror analyst for Homeland security “warns that the threat [of white supremacy] continues to grow in the twenty-first century” (Gustainis, 2013, para. 18).
A recent example can be found when looking at the white supremacist rally held in Charlottesville, VA on August 11, 2017 (“Demonstrations,” 2018). The rally, attended by a combination of white nationalists, Neo-Nazis, and KKK members who waved racist rally signs, resulted in nineteen people injured, and one dead (“Demonstrations,” 2018). Though incidents such as this are few and far between, the events in Charlottesville were a demonstration of the hatred, bigotry and racial violence that still runs deep in American society (“Demonstrations,” 2018). As for the cause of society’s ongoing struggles against white supremacy, its is perhaps best explained by the adage, “old habits die hard,” referring to the slavery, bigotry, and segregation that marks America’s history. However much society may deny or refuse to accept the existence of white supremacy and the Ku Klux Klan, whispers from the past are still heard today (Gustainis, 2013).
Despite the leaps and bounds that the United States has made towards racial equality, we do not live in a colorless society. The color of an individual’s skin or how they look still influences others’ opinions of them, and it is an issue that society continues to struggle to overcome. Though racial issues may not exist as intensely as they did during the 1960s, when Black Like Me was written, racial profiling, racial gaps, and racial hate groups continue to slow down America’s quest for “liberty and justice for all” (Griffin, 1996).