A guest blog artcle by Asha Gentry (world citizen, student)
Everyone denies it but it is a well-known and unspoken fact that prejudice exists. It is prevalent in the communities we hold dear, in the classrooms we “learn” in, and in the social gatherings we find laughter in. The prejudice we all face is in the looks we are given and those we give to people who are different races than us. I, myself, have given a boisterous group of white people the “eye” and not thought twice about the effects that my actions have on this issue.
To me, prejudice is the acceptable form of racism in our society. It is the one thing that people have no problem with expressing without being a so-called “racist.” In our culture, prejudice towards the next predominant racial group is acceptable within our own racial group. We are so okay with judging a group of people (white, black or other) that we don’t think about how divided it keeps us as people.
Prejudice comes from racism, which today is not at all blatant as it once was. What started as a power struggle is still one today. If everything were so equal, as so many people claim, there wouldn’t be the division that we all see.
Back when slavery was okay and no one but white men had rights, there was a deep hatred that began to seep into this culture. Every black man, woman, and child has struggled to fit into this culture that now has a silent fact hanging over its head. There is something about having sight and having different skin tones that sets people apart so much that reminds them of this ancestral pain. Although it is not just black people who were mistreated, the deepest of rivalries that live through little snide comments and dirty facial expressions is usually between the whites and blacks.
When I look around a school cafeteria, for instance, I can see the dividedness. All the black kids sit with one another, crowding around a single booth to hear the funniest stories. Or groups of white kids will pull tables together to create their own little island of fun and joy. There are a few exceptions of those who will scatter and at their expense they are considered traitors. People who don’t associate with their “kind” are ridiculed or given the “eye.”
Sociological theorist C. Wright Mills (1959) would say the structure of this unspoken-ruled society is predicated on silence. It survives based on the silence given to the true issue. The structure itself is silent and differs from other social orders because it is powerful enough to not have to be spoken about in the first place. Other social orders have to be spoken about in order for them to function properly. This little silent society functions best on its silence. He would contend that the history of this society lies in the memory of voicing injustices in the 1960s to the voices becoming quieter and quieter as little victories were won as the years waned on. The people who inhabit this silent society are black and white and they believe just as much as the next person how vital it is to keep this society alive, regardless if they admit it or not.
It has become an unspoken rule that either you are in or you are out. There is no in-between, no double allegiance.
Regardless of the space, place, or area, this prejudice that we are all so silent about is a killer of our society. I am willing to admit that I am more likely to sit alone in the cafeteria than to sit among my “white friends” because of the stigma of being a traitor. Even sitting with other minorities is better than sitting with white people in this small culture of my college. The issue is not the existence of prejudice itself. Hell, everyone has biases. The issue is it divides everyone to their respective groups and those who stray are not allowed to bounce from group to group. Even with small issues between different races, it is spoken among racial groups and a small but angry discussion is had about “messing with those kind.” Of course I can’t say for sure because I have not heard other racial groups talk about black people (in a negative manner) while in my presence, I’m pretty sure black people are NOT the only ones who run to other blacks to talk about the injustices and the dirty looks that they know for sure their own kind will be ready to rectify (if necessary).
Though many people refuse to admit it, there is a code of silence surrounding the issue. Particularly because no one wants to seem racist. And yet the one person who brings up the issue is automatically that.
Just the other day I was talking to a Hispanic classmate of mine and as I was walking away, I laughed aloud. A white woman was passing me and frowned in my direction. There it was! Back in the day she might have said something but that isn’t conducive to the moral standards of our secretly prejudice society. My response to her frown was to frown back.
THAT’S THE OTHER PART OF THE PROBLEM! Not only do people deny that the issue is real, they do nothing to rectify the situation.
Not any one of us say we are equal and all about equality if no one wants to talk about the problems with prejudice. We all ignore each other and stay among our own as long as no one gets hurt because that is easier than admitting we have a monumental problem. None of us want to be called racist or even seem the least bit concerned because in the end the silence is most comfortable to be in when it isn’t spoken about.
Mills, C. Wright. 2000 (1959). The Sociological Imagination: Fortieth Anniversary Edition.
Oxford University Press.