Examining the link between social inequality and racism in America

Social Inequality“We, as a nation, have failed.” This was a recent comment by Attorney General Eric Holder in a candid interview published in New York magazine. Holder is the first African American to hold the top law enforcement position, and sadly, (to the delight of many Republicans,) he announced his resignation in September.

Although certain aspects of racial inequality has made progress throughout history, it is apparent when examining recent events that there is still a major white influence in America today. It is clear that we, as a nation, have a further need for dramatic improvement on racial considerations, and we need to begin bridging the gap of racial and social inequality within all of society.

In People Magazine’s exclusive interview with Barack and Michelle, the President is quoted as saying “There’s no black male my age, who’s a professional, who hasn’t come out of a restaurant and is waiting for their car and somebody didn’t hand them their car keys,” said the president, adding that, yes, it had happened to him.”

The U.S. justice system seems to lean to the side of white power, finding no fault with law enforcement murdering black people… Eric Garner, for instance, strangled to death by a New York police officer for selling cigarettes, and teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. There’s plenty of this happening, (76 people of color killed in police custody in the last 5 years!) and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.

Many American’s are trying to change this recent spat of injustice, such as the Millions March NYC where tens of thousands of protesters met at New York’s Washington Square Park and marched their way through Manhattan. Thousands of others across the country joined in the protests. According to a recent Washington Post article however, 52% of white American’s have actually increased their confidence in law enforcement, believing their local cops treat black and white people equally!

There are plenty that somehow think these “murders by cop” are okay. I have read post after post in Twitter, Facebook and other social media websites and blogs by white people who think that black people exaggerate far too much when it comes to claiming how they are mistreated, misunderstood and judged in society. Some actually have the grossly mistaken belief that we are all treated equally under the law, and whites get an equal amount of bad breaks and misfortune. Black people just make too big of a deal about their own culpabilities and injustices.

According to an article published in Contemporary Sociology, Allen and Chung believe that perspectives such as the woes or “blues” of a black person are the same as those of their white counterparts and stem from a narrow summary of social inequality on a broad level.

Social InequalityBear with me while I go all “sociology” on you…. I’m simply giving my perspective on this article now. I want you to think about the intersection of race and social justice, perhaps give yourself pause to think about what this really means, and how our governments and ourselves as human beings can help end inequalities in all of society simply by acknowledging a truth that race is a social construct.

While Karl Marx stressed the economic inequalities, Max Weber saw status and power as factors in the social hierarchy. Emile Durkheim went further by researching suicide, religion and social organization to show how structured, hierarchical relationships produced distinct, patterned outcomes, namely, inequality. Neither of the three put much significance on the race issue. This was finally address by W.E.B. DuBois when he stated “the most significant problem in the twentieth century is the color line”.

The article authors write: “In the United States, the contemporary debate on race has been affected largely by major cultural and structural transformations that have occurred since the 1960s Civil Rights era.”

They continue further to stress that race is a social construct, and should not be viewed as a singular fixed object, but rather one of intersectionality, which includes hierarchies of race, ethnicity, nationality, class, gender, sexuality, religion, and nativity among other hegemonic systems that determine the status and lived experiences.

This line of thought seemingly coincides with the black socialist feminist perspective, one that claims gender, class, and race/ethnicity are socially constructed according to power relations, and that unequal power between races, classes and gender results in a type of supremacy by the dominant group, limiting some while privileging others. This is certainly true when surveying racial and social inequality.

What the authors are suggesting is that various studies and research showing racial inequality fail to address the combination of issues which create the inequality, and that many studies are too narrowly focused so as to obtain insufficient and misleading results.

Race, ethnicity, gender, class, sexuality and religion are social constructs. They are not tangible, they are created in the imagination of society. The dominant group defines the categories in simplistic terms – black and white, male and female, heterosexual and homosexual, and so forth, then place them in ranking order. They justify their polar opposite thinking and hierarchies by claiming these ideas are fixed because they are based in biology and nature, when in reality these categories have evolved out of group struggles caused by these social constructs.

It almost seems we are trapped in a vicious circle of constructs. Our concepts of self and others are defined by our culture, our environment, and our social life. We are who we are as we define ourselves through these external influences. We react with varying degrees of emotion and behaviors when our inner self, our core values and beliefs, are brought into question or challenged, and accordingly, we feel threatened.

When we react to the perceived threat as a cooperative group process, however, and examine all aspects thoroughly, from all positions – negative, positive and neutral – societal changes can be, and are, initiated.

Summing this up, it’s simply a matter of recognizing that race, gender and class are all ideologies which we, the people, have constructed in our imaginations to benefit ourselves, consciously or not. The problem is that white people of the male gender in higher socioeconomic classes are the only ones who benefit, and they are in power. The rest of us are left to protect ourselves the best we know how and fight for the resources available only to those in power.

Pretty lopsided when it comes to “equality”, heh?


  1. Doncline, there is a wealth of information gleaned from case studies on racial discrimination in the workplace, and none of these make the bold statement you’ve just claimed… “A corporation today will hire anyone who has the skillset they need, is presentable in a professional manner, is polite, and doesn’t come off with an attitude.”

    Racial harassment and discrimination occurs both in society AND in the workplace environments, and it is ignorant comments such as yours that perpetuate this prejudice and injustice.

    Your comments are simply not true. Study after study shows statistically that there is racial discrimination in employment practices. Just a small sample…

    The National Bureau of Economic Research showed that “job applicants with white names needed to send about 10 resumes to get one callback; those with African-American names needed to send around 15 resumes to get one callback. A job applicant with a name that sounds like it might belong to an African-American…can find it harder to get a job.”

    The EEOC has determined that “unconscious biases and perceptions about African Americans still play a significant role in employment decisions in the federal sector…and…Insufficient training and development assignments perpetuate inequalities in skills and opportunities for African Americans.”
    The NLCATP states “From 99, 947 charges of employment discrimination, race discrimination tops the list with 35.4%.”

    The Low Income Housing Authority states “Statistics show that African Americans are twice as likely to be unemployed and earn about 25 percent less than white employees.”

    I could go on, but I doubt any of this would make a difference in your line of thought.

  2. When minorities stop trying to convince each other they are terribly oppressed by that wicked white man and that wicked corporation that provides nearly all the jobs to nearly all those willing to put forth the effort to get an education, learn a skill, develop a work ethic, make themselves more valuable to an employer than it is to themselves — and stop dealing drugs — there won’t be any more racial discrimination. A corporation today will hire anyone who has the skillset they need, is presentable in a professional manner, is polite, and doesn’t come off with an attitude. If corporations hire more whites today than they do minorities, it is because more whites put forth the effort to develop those qualities. Many, many racial minorities have proved what I say above, yet there is still the massively unemployed who don’t get it and won’t try to get it. And they blame whitey for it because it gives them an attitude and justifies, in their own mind, scamming the system and ripping people off.

  3. David, I have to stand by my statement about rich white men. Who do you think owns the majority of Fortune 500 companies? Only a small single digit percent are owned by anything other. In U.S. history, it wasn’t that long ago that W.A.S.P.s (White Anglo Saxon Protestants) determined who was and was not “fit” to live and work in the U.S. and where they should live according to their race/ethnicity. It’s been white rich men in power for far too long.

    • Mike, If you look through out history there are one factor that yields people to become oppressive power. Money is the easiest form of power because we allow people to buy anything but there have been rulers who were not necessarily rich but who were every effective at destroying and using other. Think of women like Imelda Marcos who had a fortune valued at 10 Billion stolen from the people of the Philippines. Doris Duke who murdered her boyfriend and was found not guilty with a net worth of 5.3 Billion. She literally ran him over several times and got off claiming it was an unfortunate accident. The top 20 richest women in America control $160 Billion of the nations wealth. 58.7 billion of that is within females who control the Walmart Empire. To say it is just rich white men is no longer accurrate.

  4. I’m sorry but it is not white males who benefit, it is people of wealth wnd power who buy or manipulate their way out of the law. Whether it is a corporation that takes advantage of their workers by not following employment laws or rips consumers off who have nobway to protect their rights, police who disregard civil rights and break their oath to serve and protect, or any individual who can afford to buy politicans, judges, jury’s etc. Look at OJ Simpson and how he was treated by the police- he is black but he was not abused. Why? because he is rich and famous. White males are not the problem and equality can only be reached when money and power cannot override the laws and constitution of a country.

  5. This is so accurate. It seems if the police can get a conviction, brutality continues. Depending on wealth, that would not result in a conviction, let the guy go. Unfortunately, this not the case for professional or wealthy black men and women. I have noticed that police brutality has expanded to poor people of any ethnicity.

    • And the inequalities aren’t confined to the U.S. justice system only (obviously.) I was reading an article lately that specifically addressed inequalities in Canadian prisons, with research showing that Aboriginal Canadians lose as much as six times the life-years due to incarceration as non-Aboriginal Canadians, with the differences more pronounced in women than men. They further establish serious negative health consequences associated with incarceration, meaning the over-abundance of Aboriginal Canadians are more likely to suffer these consequences. Isn’t there already plenty of inequities between Aboriginal and indigenous Canadians, like nearly a 30% median income gap, for instance? This is why I address social justice issues in my writing, to bring awareness of the gross injustices in society in hopes of changing hearts and minds.

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