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Pristine Chan

Ms. Jorgensen

English 10 Honors P.5

30 November 2018

Race and Power

Racial/ethnic bias and inequality still plays a prominent role in American society,

undermining the effectiveness of the criminal justice system, employment, education, as well as

housing. The presence of racial bias in our society has been, and continues to be, a heavily

disputed subject, being a recurrent topic sparked from the several racially-influenced events that

have recently taken place. As we shed light on this injustice, we learn that racism is a direct

result of ignorance and insecurity, and although we have made apparent progress over the past

several decades, racism still unmistakably dominates society today.

In the novel, ​The Fire Next Time​, James Baldwin emphasizes the active role of ignorance

and its direct contribution to the racial bias towards African Americans, “They [white people]

have had to believe for many years for innumerable reasons, that black men are inferior to white

men. Many of them, indeed, know better, but, as you will discover, people find it difficult to act

on what they know” (Baldwin 9). Rather than justifying their actions, Baldwin stresses the idea

that white Americans would rather base their opinions on unjustified reasoning and bias in order

to maintain their false sense of security, “To act is to be committed, and to be committed is to be

in danger. In this case, the danger, in the minds of most white Americans, is the loss of their

identity” (Baldwin 9). This false sense of security and blind hatred forces white Americans to
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conform to societal norms in which the discrimination and mistreatment of African Americans is

considered justified.

Racial power and insecurity also influences the income and housing of minorities in

America, making it substantially more difficult for an African American to match the economic

status of a white American. In ​The Failures of Integration,​ Sheryll Cashin addresses this issue

when she states, “Our [blacks] tortured racial heritage- one that initially was premised on blacks

being unworthy of the privileges of full citizenship- masks our winner-take-all system” (Cashin

1). This mentioned “winner-take-all” system gives white Americans more opportunities to

achieve economic success, which results in false complacency within lower class whites, “It is

easier for suburban whites in less favored communities to associate themselves with the

‘winners’ than to see that a system premised on separating people based upon their racial and

economic status limits opportunities for everyone, including themselves” (Cashin 1).

Gentrification, the arrival of wealthier people in an existing urban district, has a similar impact as

well, “Neighborhood change is often viewed as a miscarriage of social justice, in which wealthy,

usually white, newcomers are congratulated for ‘improving’ a neighborhood whose poor,

minority residents are displaced by skyrocketing rents and economic change” (Grant 1). These

economic disparities are a product of separatism and gentrification, which correlates to a

entitlement and complacency within whites.

America has created the construct of race, giving the title of “white people” and “black

people” solely to justify the irrational idea that a certain group of people are considered more

​ a-Nehisi Coates supports this


superior than another. In the novel ​Between the World and Me, T
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when stating, “race is a child of racism, not the father” (Coates 7), referring to the fact that

America is built on the false notion that the worth or privilege of an individual is based on the

color of their skin. In truth, race is a product of racism itself. In addition to this, Coates ​highlights

America’s hypocrisy and pretentiousness, referring to the continuous flaunting of their heritage

and valued sense of democracy,​ “​America believes itself exceptional, the greatest and noblest

nation to ever exist, a lone champion standing between the white city of democracy and the

terrorists, despots, barbarians, and other enemies of civilization” (Coates 8). Coates’ insight

reveals America’s tendency to turn a blind eye on the subject of race and power in America, and

their immoral treatment toward racial groups, which directly oppose their initial perception of

morality and freedom. Similar to the previous statements given by James Baldwin, Coates also

addresses how the ignorance of people in power and the refusal to confront the issue of racism

and ethnic bias directly contributes to the growing matter of racial injustice.

Although it may appear that racism becomes less prominent throughout the years due to

the copious progress we’ve made over the past decades, it doesn’t mean that the issue has grown

any less crucial or significant. Racism has, instead, taken a new form which holds certain

individuals in lower regard than others primarily due to their race and ethnicity. Racism is

merely a result of ignorance, we need to justify our actions rather than act primarily on blind

hatred. Martin Luther King candidly states, “nothing in all the world is more dangerous than

sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity”.


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Works Cited

Baldwin, James. ​The Fire Next Time.​ First Vintage International Edition, 1993.

Cashin, Sheryll. “The Failures of Integration.” ​Center for American Progress,​ 2005.

Coates, Ta-Nehisi. ​Between the World and Me.​ Spiegel and Grau, 2015.

Grant, Benjamin. “What is Gentrification?” ​Flag Wars,​ PBS, 17 June 2003.

King, Martin L. ​Strength to Love​. New York: Harper & Row, 1963.