Why are many people racist?

· Philosophy

The word ‘racism’ is thrown around so much these days that we have kind of forgotten what the word actually means. It refers to the belief that one race is superior to another. People are accused of being racist when they are clearly not. President Bush was accused of being racist because his government did not help the victims (mostly black) of Hurricane Katrina quickly enough. However, if Bush were racist, he would hold people of African American descent in contempt. That is what the word means. He would not have appointed the first black Secretary of State, the brilliant Condoleezza Rice, if that had been the case. Someone who is racist would obviously not work on a daily basis with a member of a race he despised.


The Republican Party is often called racist. However, history says something else. The Northern Whig Party, the precursor to the Republican Party, was anti-slavery, not pro-slavery. President Abraham Lincoln said he was a proud Whig before the Republican party came into existence. So there are a lot of accusations of racism being charged against people, such as the Republican party in general, and President Bush specifically, that do not make sense.


However, this article discusses a deeper question. If racism means the belief that one race is superior over another, it suggests that the reason many people are racist has to do with making up for self-perceived inferiority. I think a definite connection can be made between an unstable economy and racism. An unstable economy means that people are frustrated at not being able to realize their dreams. We all have dreams. But very few people seem to achieve them. Think of how many secretaries there are who wish to be writers. Think of how many show business journalists wish to be the celebrities they write about. I am not saying secretaries and journalists are often racist; I am just using those two hypothetical examples to suggest that many people are in jobs that have nothing to do with what they really want to do. Think of how many people at the end of the day are dissatisfied with what they did the previous 8 hours.


There are many people who are not racist, but I think many people still are, unfortunately. When I was a librarian in Florida, I heard many times English-speaking people criticize non-English speakers for not knowing the language. The connection to the economy is seen in the issue of illegal immigration in the United States. People are afraid that they will lose their jobs to people in other countries, people who will work for far lower wages. We all have various defense mechanisms to help us through the day. One of them is to make ourselves feel better at the expense of others. Although they may not think it consciously, racist people may think on a sub-conscious level, something like, “I may not have much of a career, but at least I am not (insert race here).” After all, many of the opinions we hold, regardless of the subject, we would be hard pressed to explain why we feel that way. The truth is buried somewhere deep in our psyches. The more we think about such issues, the more we may realize about own attitudes toward race. 

Leave a Comment