Due to the persistence of racial stereotypes, contemporary American society witnesses multiple manifestations of racial discrimination. Thus, African Americans, Hispanic, and Latinos are generally considered inferior to white Americans due to lack of traditional values, including diligence, individual responsibility, and high morality. Often, mainstream society considers them aggressive, violent, and lazy. These degrading associations have an enormous effect on the public opinion and state policies. Namely, the representatives of ethnic minorities frequently experience an unjustified exclusion from social and economic benefits due to their seemingly inherent predisposition to deviant behavior. This tendency has led to the gradual institutionalization of racial oppression and the penetration of racism into multiple the spheres of human activity in the USA. In fact, the constant reinforcement of cultural differences and racial stereotypes largely explain the emergence of institutional racism and racial disparities in education and income.
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Addressing Racial Stereotypes and Cultural Differences
The popular misconceptions are the core reason for the high level of racial discrimination in the 21st-century USA. In fact, many African Americans share the common view about a strong correlation between discriminatory treatment and their subsequent exclusion from other groups (Seabrook and Wyatt-Nichol 27). Since the racially-biased prejudices, commonly promoted by the law enforcement, perpetuate negative stereotypes about the aggressiveness of black males, the US mainstream population tends to perceive them as potential criminals and avoid social encounters with them (Seabrook and Wyatt-Nichol 27). Similarly, places with the large concentrations of African Americans are viewed as dangerous and having high rates of violence and drug crimes (Seabrook and Wyatt-Nichol 28). In this view, a ghetto is the common source of stereotypical assumptions as well as the striking manifestation of racial discrimination. This helps mainstream society reinforce racial boundaries and highlight the magnitude of the cultural gap between the white and black population of the USA.
Several possible explanations for the popularity of racial stereotypes can be given. Firstly, white-dominated society of the United States tends to consider the political and economic elevation of black Americans as a direct threat to its status. Thus, they generally believe that African Americans lack traditional values, including work ethics and individual responsibility (Skrentny 65). The common distrust toward the moral characteristics of the black population largely explains the white opposition to social policies that benefit ethnic minorities (Skrentny 65). The assertion suggests that group interests are the driving force of political struggle for social and economic benefits, whereas discriminating stereotypes serve as the justification of racial disparities. Secondly, ethnic origin plays an important role in the establishment of racial domination. Some sociologists argue that the American binary mode of racial stratification based on the one-drop rule allows the dominant elite to retain the status of a racially superior group (Skrentny 66). Thus, popular stereotypes affect the enforcement of racial hierarchy. These perpetuation of popular misconceptions could be attributed to the strong desire of dominant groups to maintain the leading positions in the racial hierarchy of the country.
At the same time, the cultural approach to racial interrelations offers an alternative perspective on them. Some researchers attribute the pressing problem of massive incarceration to the cumulative impact of several factors (Rosich 5). Social isolation, unemployment, poverty, family disruption, and the traumatic experience of crime and violence are often considered as the core reasons for the formation of deviant behavior in the people of color (Rosich 5). This assertion primary underscores the role of social and economic factors in the facilitation of racial inequality while neglecting cultural dimension. Conversely, some sociologists accurately point to the prominent role of cultural factors, including symbols and language as well as and race and gender meanings in the construction of racial hierarchy (Skrentny 65). The culturally based categorization has helped the USA create strictly defined ethnic categories and promote the policy of white superiority by reinforcing racial boundaries (Skrentny 63). For example, local ordinances frequently prevent the black population from owning land, holding certain jobs, and starting a business (Barnes et al. 986). The implementation of discriminative legislation appears to be an effective method of preventing immigrant groups from challenging the superiority of the white population. Therefore, racial categorization based on cultural features tends to promote the exclusion of racial minorities from the benefits of full citizenship.
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Institutional racism refers to the complex of social practices and policies that target racial and ethnic minorities. Since the institutionalization of slavery in 1619, the oppression of ethnic minorities, especially African Americans, has led to the legalization and popularization of different forms of discrimination that range from racial profiling to the disparities in sentencing and execution (Seabrook and Wyatt-Nichol 20). As a form of assessment, racial profiling is the striking manifestation of racism. During the process of identifying cultural, physical, and psychological characteristics of individuals, the race-based assumptions about the possible target of police investigation may be highly biased (Seabrook and Wyatt-Nichol 27). As a result, racial profiling is often associated with “a regime of social dominance, institutional oppression, and structural racism” (Seabrook and Wyatt-Nichol 27) among African Americans. The US Supreme Court repeatedly declared this practice a direct violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in 1996 (Seabrook and Wyatt-Nichol 27). Thus, racially-biased practices have a significant influence on the decision-making process within the US criminal justice system. This assertion implies that the institutional oppression of racial minorities constitutes a pressing issue that undermines the popular claims about the colorblindness of the US social policies.
Indeed, the constant reinforcement of racial stereotypes has led to the disproportional arrests and the incarceration of the non-white population during the last two decades. Historically, the US racially-biased social policies targeted ethnic minorities. Due to the common belief in the inherent predisposition of African Americans to violence, the representatives of this ethnic group were the primary victims of the so-called War on Drugs during the 1980s and 1990s (Rosich 5). By 1993, the number of juvenile drug arrests among the black population increased by 231%, whereas the white rates fell by 23% (Rosich 5). The drastic consequences of public policy are evident in contemporary tendencies. In 2010, black men and women constituted approximately 20.3% and 16.1% of the incarcerated population respectively (Barnes et al. 991). Some scholars claim that the entire process of prosecution tends to favor white offenders more than the representatives of ethnic minorities (Barnes et al. 991). The statistical evidence and sociological tendencies highlight the magnitude and scope of institutional oppression, whereas racial stereotypes serve as the driving force behind the large-scale incarceration of African Americans.
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Racial Disparities in Education and Income
Lack of equal access to education and well-paid jobs is primarily the result of racial discrimination. Thus, black and Latin Americans rarely achieve success in academics due to several reasons. The high rate of dropout and racially-biased treatment by teachers largely explain the absence of academic achievements among these groups of population (Barnes et al. 989-990). Similarly, the statistical data on college graduation greatly vary by race (Barnes et al. 989). Due to lack of formal education, people of color are often employed in the economic sectors that are vulnerable to market fluctuations (Barnes et al. 983). In the globalized world, the establishment of the technology-based economy and the transfer of jobs to developing countries have drastically reduced the chances for the unskilled and inexperienced people of color to find a job with decent wage (Barnes et al. 983). The presented findings suggest that racial minorities are trapped in the perpetual circle, whereas the unavailability of a good education and well-paid jobs has rendered the disenfranchised group of population unable to transcend racial boundaries.
The above-mentioned tendencies have a tremendous effect on income inequality among ethnic minorities. Thus, black Americans tend to earn only the two-thirds of money that constitute the average wage of white citizens (Barnes et al. 986). This phenomenon is generally attributed to the implementation of racially-biased practices. For instance, lending policies tend to decrease the value of Afro-American neighborhoods and restrict the access to mortgages (Barnes et al. 986). Such a lack of legal tools for wealth accumulation imposes significant constraints on the economic prosperity of ethnic minorities. According to Barnes et al., the combination of educational and economic disparities prevents the middle-class parents from passing their advantages to children for their further accumulation of wealth (986). While the inability to overcome these artificial barriers may be justly attributed to external factors, mainstream society tends to blame the representatives of racial minorities for the low standards of their life (Barnes et al. 985). The presented evidence highlights the tremendous influence of racial stereotypes on the US social policies, whereas the dominant groups of population disregard the economic deterioration of black neighborhoods. Thus, the state authorities indulge racial misconceptions by neglecting to address the pressing issue.
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The popularization of racial stereotypes and cultural differences have largely contributed to the staggering magnitude of racial discrimination in the criminal justice system, education, and income in the USA. Thus, lack of formal education, good jobs, and disproportional incarceration appear to be the immediate results of discriminating rhetoric. Due to the influence of degrading labels on the public opinion, disenfranchised ethnic groups are prevented from the complete incorporation into mainstream society. In other words, they have no access to the legal tools and economic opportunities for the accumulation of wealth since discriminative social practices discourage the full assimilation of immigrant groups. Thus, racial stereotypes serve as an effective strategy for maintaining a strict social hierarchy, in which ethnic minorities occupy the least privileged positions. Overall, the present paper is based on the expert opinions and statistical data that highlight the causal relation between the common perceptions and the racially-biased legislation. The further study of the issue under discussion may serve as a starting point for evaluating the far-reaching influence of stereotypes on social policies.