Racism is deeply ingrained in American life and has been since its beginning. There have been periods where it looked like there would be advances in creating a harmonious life that included all people from all backgrounds but, they were short lived and often subverted very quickly. Many of the people that I know from other countries, particularly the UK, were unwilling to believe me when I told them this, until they say Trump running for president. They were aghast at the racist statements he was able to say and not be soundly dismissed for. They were completely stunned by what his followers were saying. They had little or no capacity for the amount of white supremacist/nationalism that was on display as they watched the election.
Trump tried to point out during his campaign that he was for all people. But, when he pointed that his audience was not purely white, he pointed to an African American and said. “…there is my African American.” This is the kind of statement that harkens back to slavery, which should have been long gone from the American psyche and language more than 150 years after slavery was abolished.
An example of the racism that is present, a friend of mine had gone to America to do his PhD. While he was there he worked to establish a multi-cultural church. It was an attempt at multi-cultural mission and an opposition to racism. He ultimately moved away from America because of the amount of racism that he encountered. He is of African descent and didn’t want his daughter to grow up with that kind of discrimination. I don’t blame him.
The disdain for political correctness in America has more to do with the ability to be openly racist than it is about free speech. As Slavoj Zizek has suggested, political correctness makes it harder to identify the oppressor. Racism is a form of oppression and those so vociferously opposed to this just want the ability to be openly racist without the effort it takes to carefully phrase what they want to say. They don’t want to make the effort to try to continually come up with buzzwords or euphemisms that take time to catch on. Trump has capitalised on this and given the freedom to many people to openly proclaim their racist ideology without shame.
The depth of racism is so systemic and deep that you begin to miss much of it in the American culture. You can quite readily see it in memes all around Facebook. The call for taking away welfare benefits from rioters always includes a picture of an African American. The idea of the welfare queen that Reagan gave to America was always understood to be someone who is African American. When politicians and other people feel free to call the former President and the former First Lady, monkeys or apes, racism is rampant on too many levels.
While I am on the topic of welfare and racism, they are deeply connected in American political and social structure. When welfare was being expanded in the 1960’s some changes were made to it. One of the changes was that single mothers would get more help. The prevailing understanding at the time was that the man of the house was to have a job and provide for his family. Since African America men, then as now, are the last hired and the first fired, they were often left in a position where they couldn’t provide for their children. They soon learned that through divorce, their children would be provided for. It was that paternal instinct. It didn’t take long for many in the poor parts of America to realise that if they skipped getting married they would have more ability to care for their children, especially as they realised the good jobs were less and less likely to come their way.
The simple policy implementation helped to create a culture within the welfare community that made it easy to mock and continue to write legislation that further marginalised and already oppressed community. It made it easy to stereotype and scapegoat the African American community as being a burden on society, because of their loose moral values and weak familial relationships that grew out of a response for their own survival.