April 14, 2012
Part One: Introduction
Racism and anti-Semitism in America or any other modern Western society was never simply based on individual prejudices, attitudes and emotions, but was always structural and institutional, especially toward blacks in housing, jobs, education and the criminal justice system. For example, even though blacks are they are among the most culturally assimilated groups in the U.S., they are far less structurally assimilated than Jews or even Hispanics and Asian Americans. Racism is also a matter of group identity, with feelings of superiority, distinctiveness, entitlement to power and fear and suspicion of subordinate groups that vary in intensity among individuals. Modern concepts of race and racism originated during the era of slavery and colonialism beginning in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Early social sciences like anthropology and sociology operated on expressly racist assumptions about the superiority of whites or ‘Nordics’ and ‘Aryans’ which were not really challenged until after the Second World War with the rise of civil rights and anticolonial movements. These issues of segregation, caste systems and discrimination have by no means disappeared today, although they are far less potent at provoking mass social protest movements than they were forty or fifty years ago because of the ameliorative social reforms that have been put in place since that time. Part Two: Argument
For most of American history dating back to the 17th Century, racism was simply a given both structurally and culturally, especially against blacks, Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans. After the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945 “an enormous challenge was raised to established systems of rule by racially defined social movements around the world” (Winant, 2000, p. 182). By the 1960s and 1970s these had demolished most of the old European empires as well as the racial caste system in the American South. Certainly this did not lead to the abolition of personal prejudice or feelings of superiority, since these were historically rooted and had always existed as a means of protecting “the integrity and the position of the dominant group”—violently so in the American South (Blumer, 1999, p. 102). Massive institutional racism and structural inequalities still exist in the United States especially in housing, public education and the criminal justice system. In every urban area, the quality of education available to poor and minority students is demonstrably worse by any measure than that of their white peers in the suburbs. This type of institutional discrimination is not caused by genetic or cultural deprivation but by the fact that the U.S. has always been and remains a highly segregated and unequal society based on race and social class. Of course, this violates the liberal, egalitarian and meritocratic ideals on which the nation was (supposedly), but after all, the U.S. managed to survive with slavery for almost a hundred years after its founding, and with legal segregation and disenfranchisement of blacks for a hundred years after that. Chicago, Detroit, East St. Louis, Camden, New Jersey all have crumbling public school systems serving mostly black and Hispanic students funded at levels far below those of white suburban districts. Ghetto neighborhoods also lack banks, supermarkets, parks and other public services, and have high levels of crime, gang activity, unemployment and drug dealing. Racial profiling against blacks, immigrants and minorities has always existed in the American criminal justice system, as has the belief that minorities in general and blacks in particular are always more likely to commit crimes. American society and its legal system were founded on white supremacy going back to the colonial period, and critical race criminology would always consider these historical factors as...