Racism is no longer just one race hating another. It has enveloped almost all aspects of our society. Many people today live their lives oblivious to what is happening in the world around them, often trying to convince themselves that racism is not a problem in their world. Others know all about the problem, but don’t really realize that they themselves could possibly be adding to the problem by discriminating against someone else’s human rights, and at the same time going around saying how open-minded they are.
That racism exists today is indisputable, as evidenced by the resegregation of schools and neighborhoods, the extraordinary numbers and proportions of incarcerated people of color, the higher rates of disabling illness and lower life expectancies among people of color, and the continued presence of racial stereotypes uncovered by social psychologists conducting research projects across the country to mention only a few indicators. And yet, unlike in the 1950s and 60s, there is no major social movement comparable to the civil rights movement, virtually no government initiatives to address racism, and little public discourse in mainstream media about race and racism.
Here, then, are the two competing ideas about racism side by side: the manager issues a blanket condemnation of American blacks even as he holds West Indians up as a cultural ideal. The example of West Indians as “good” blacks makes the old blanket prejudice against American blacks all the easier to express. The manager can tell black Americans to get off their butts without fear of sounding, in his own ears, like a racist, because he has simultaneously celebrated island blacks for their work ethic. The success of West Indians is not proof that discrimination against American blacks does not exist. Rather, it is the means by which discrimination against American blacks is given one last, vicious twist: I am not so shallow as to despise you for the color of your skin, because I have found people your color that I like. Now I can despise you for who you are.