Racism on College Campuses

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Abstract:

The main aim of this research paper is to directly observe and examine the way American College students perceive the notion of race on college campuses and how they believe it can be used to a persons advantage or disadvantage. I used two different kinds of research in this paper; interviews among 4 students from 4 different universities across the United States to provide a deep and personal understanding of the topic and by surveying in an open-ended questionnaire 10 American students from Auburn University in Alabama to provide a more general and statistical analysis. These two methods supported my thesis with strong evidence and background information. I found that all the interviewees unanimously believed in the figurative use of “the ‘race card’” and that people who are aware of it are able to consciously manipulate situations and/or people in a manor that is best suited for them.

Background Information:

The term ‘race card' refers to somebody who exploits a racial prejudice against another person for some type of advantage, and it appears in social commentary as a taken-for-granted term. Its use as an unquestioned general descriptor overlooks how these moments of scandalous social interactions work to replay and reinforce longstanding ideas of national belonging and so-called racial truths. Despite the tremendous strides resulting from civil rights legislation, racism remains one of the most pressing social problems in the US (Jackson & Solis, 1995).

No setting is immune and college campuses have found themselves embroiled in the discussion. Racial issues are significant in all aspects of campus life including admissions, athletics, and social interaction. General experiments and analysis of ‘the ‘race card’’ are relatively low key to non – existent. In the 21st century, society has moved from being blatantly racist to being afraid to make any sort of “politically incorrect” comment. Focusing on the concept of modern racism or "new racism," Kent (1996) asserted that colleges and universities can no longer "pretend to offer a refuge from the swirling antagonisms of a highly racialized society" (p. 45). This new or "subtle racism" is "expressed covertly by non-minority students through behaviors of avoidance" (p. 524).

It is because of this active avoidance and a person’s anxiety of being labeled a racist or politically incorrect that there is such a void in this kind of research. Political correctness is a term most people know about and which impacts our social and political actions. The term denotes language, ideas, policies, and behavior seen as seeking to minimize being offensive. In a society obsessed with being politically correct and non confrontational, the fear of making and confronting enemies can paralyze some and cause many to suppress their true feelings.

It is important to conduct this research now because in the US, the first black president has just been elected in 2008, and the adverse reactions are still rippling through society. People are becoming more aware of ‘the ‘race card’ and it’s uses and implications. Focusing on this concept in the first three years of Obama’s presidential term really allows a directed study on an issue that is currently very prevalent in America.

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Figure 1

In Figure 1, we see a picture of Obama holding a fabricated ‘race card’. Essentially, this image suggests that regardless of Obama’s intelligence and competences, his sole basis for success (or failure) is based on race. The connotations of this image are a con that is taking his mug shot, where his identity card is instead the ‘race card’. A con is habitually associated with crime, violence, and brute force. By putting Obama in this setting, it suggests that by frequently talking about race as the contributing factor to his success or failure, he is ‘taking the easy way out’. Like the ex-con who turned down a job but robbed a bank, Obama is refusing to live up to his potential...
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