Racism derives from perceptions

Published 9:59 pm Monday, June 18, 2012

By Joseph L. Bass

Racism is one of America’s greatest challenges. It always has been. Historically nations are made up of one race, one religion, one culture. Many continue that way. America was designed to include people from all races, religions, culture and so on.

The words “e pluribus unum” are on our national seal, meaning “Out of many, one.” But there has been tension among people who came from northern Europe, Southern Europe, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa and other parts of the world.


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Racism hinders economic growth for all and black Americans in particular. It hinders individuals from realizing their full potential, holding back individuals and national economic growth.

Generally there are two definitions of racism: “the belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others” and “discrimination or prejudice based on race.” In other words, racism is based on perceptions.

Racial tension has been reduced among people from all areas of Europe. This was not always the case. At one time serious racism existed among the English, Irish, Scots, French, Germans, Italians, Slavs and more.

But tensions continue to exist among European-, African-, Hispanic- and Asian-Americans. Some blacks think Europeans are economically successful because of “white privilege.” Some blacks hold antagonistic views of Asians, because Asians develop successful businesses in areas heavily populated by black welfare recipients.

For example, a large percentage of the businesses burned down during the Rodney King riots in South Central Los Angeles were Korean-owned. Many Americans hold black Americans in low regard, because 39 percent of welfare recipients are black, while blacks only make up about 12 percent of the population. Some Hispanics, particularly those that immigrate from south of the border, hold blacks in low regard; their perceptions being blacks are unwilling to do work done by Hispanics.

Although it is clear that black Americans who strive to enter the mainstream economy are highly successful, perceptions of black Americans continue to be negative. These perceptions are based on welfare recipients lounging around government housing projects not attempting to do anything to improve themselves. Because of these perceptions of some blacks, many well-educated, highly successful black Americans are shown little respect based only on the color of their skin.

Ending racism focused on blacks will have to overcome the negative perceptions others have of welfare recipients. When a much larger percentage of blacks are successful in the American economy, negative perceptions will disappear as they have among various European groups.

Blacks on welfare will strive to enter the mainstream economy and be economically successful when government programs based on 1950s thinking are restructured, applying more advanced motivational findings.

Concepts from the 1950s held that people will strive to work and create wealth if they are provided money, food, benefits, nicer places to live, etc. This type of thinking has been found to be groundless through organizational, psychological research and practical application of newer motivational approaches.

Newer, successful ideas are based on people being motivated through personal accomplishments, recognition from others regarding achievements and opportunities to learn, grow, and accomplish more. Traditional welfare programs rob recipients of nearly all opportunities for self development and self accomplishment.

These antiquated programs have created an unsatisfying, economic trap for the American poor, providing few opportunities to create personal wealth and dignity for themselves. When new concepts are applied to helping the poor, blacks in particular will benefit from these changes.

Joseph L. Bass writes on behalf of Suffolk’s Community Action Coalition. Contact him at ABetterSociety1@aol.com.