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Not Yet Beyond Black and White

Earl Ofari Hutchinson


In the recent poll by the National Conference for Community and Justice, a Washington D.C. public policy group, far more blacks than Latinos, Asians, and women said they were victims of racial discrimination. This harsh self-appraisal by blacks of their treatment flies squarely in the face of the notion that racial discrimination is an equal opportunity victimizer of all non-whites. That a far lower percentage of Latinos and Asians felt that they were victims of discrimination in jobs, housing and public and private accommodations is a sad reminder that blacks still believe that they rank at the pinnacle of America's racial hit list. The poll results also flies in the face of the notion that race conflict in America can no longer be defined as a prime conflict between blacks and whites.

In fact blacks are admonished repeatedly that seeing themselves as the exclusive target of white bigotry without including other minorities is narrow, outdated and even racist.

Racial and gender discrimination is, of course, still a painful fact of American life for minorities as well as Jews, gays and lesbians. The poll amply confirms that. A substantial majority of Latinos and Native-Americans claimed that they experienced some discrimination. More than half of gays and lesbians polled not only said that they were victims of discrimination but also felt that they were just as likely to be victims of hate violence as blacks. The statistics gathered by the FBI and the Southern Poverty Law Center on hate violence don't back up their claim. But the rash of highly publicized murderous assaults on gays has caused enough furor that Congress is under intense pressure to strengthen the hate crime law to include attacks on gays as a hate crime.
While hate violence and racial discrimination against gays and non-whites is a hard reality even the most cursory look at numbers bolsters black claims that they are the biggest victims of racism. Blacks make up more than half of the 2 million prisoners in American prisons. They receive stiffer sentences than whites for possession of drugs. They have the highest rates of poverty, infant mortality, victims of violence, and HIV/AID affliction then any other group.
  • They are more likely to live in segregated neighborhoods, be refused business loans, and attend decrepit, failed public schools than non-whites.

The beatings of black motorist Rodney King, the shooting of Amadou Diallo, the torture beating of Abner Louima, and the racial profiling of young black males by the police are ample proof that blacks are still at mortal risk from police violence. The troubling question then is why blacks remain the greatest target of racial animosity. The reason can be found in the three crucial differences in their plight and that of other minorities.

  • Immigrants. Many Latino and Asian immigrants came to America fleeing war, political repression and dire poverty in their countries.

Their language, culture, customs, and most importantly family continuity remained intact. By contrast blacks were forcibly brought to America in chains. Slavery systematically obliterated their African cultures and languages, shattered family ties and cunningly fostered deep rivalries and divisions as a brutal method of control.

  • Post civil rights.

Many non-white immigrants came to America after the major civil rights battles of the 1960s broke down the barriers of legal segregation. This gave them the political and economic breathing space needed to open businesses, gain access to public and private education, enter the professions, and the freedom to buy and rent in neighborhoods of their choice. They also were not subjected to decades of relentless racial terror as were blacks.

  • Racial stereotypes.

Through the decades of slavery and Jim Crow segregation African-Americans were transformed into the poster group for racial dysfuntionality. The image of blacks as lazy, crime and violence prone, irresponsible, and sexual predators has stoked white fears and hostility and served as the standard rationale for lynchings, racial assaults, hate crimes, and police violence.

The respondents in the poll make it abundantly clear that no single group has a monopoly on racial victimization or at least the feeling that they are being victimized because of their color or sexual preference. It also provides yet another sad testament to the harsh fact that the cornerstone of America's racial woes is still the mistreatment of blacks. That's why it's no surprise that blacks still bitterly complain that they are the most racially despised group in America.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is the author of The Disappearance of Black Leadership ORDER INFORMATION Middle Passage Press, Los Angeles, Ca. 90043, 323-298-0266, email: bramwell.usc.edu

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