Racism in America

What's really going on here?


Few topics divide Americans more than Racism. It was the basis for slavery in our country. It caused the deadliest war in American history. And it fills the public discourse to this day. President Obama went as far as to say “Racism is part of our DNA”.

Something this important and this divisive should surely be talked about with great care. Is it?

Webster’s dictionary defines racism as “a belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race”.

Webster’s defines a racist as “having, reflecting, or fostering the belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race”.

But what is race?

Webster’s defines race as “any one of the groups that humans are often divided into based on physical traits”. By that definition, you could consider blonds to be a race, but nobody seems to do that. However, we regularly refer to people as “Black”, “White” and “Brown” in the context of race.

Many people refer to Barack Obama as America’s first “Black” President. Joe Biden said that "White" Supremacy is our biggest terrorist threat. We have Black Universities, and "Black" Entertainment TV and "White" fragility. Some people are really sure “White” cops are killing “Black” people disproportionally. They felt so strongly about it that they burned entire neighborhoods to the ground to show that “Black” lives matter.

Considering all of that, it should be easy to define what “Black” and “White” people are. Let’s give it a try.

The most universally accepted criteria would be the color of a person’s skin. The boxes below represent the color Black and White, as represnted by their hexidecimal codes which are #000000 and #FFFFFF respectively. Have you ever seen a person whose skin was black or white?

I haven’t, and I’m pretty sure you haven’t either. Instead, most people are somewhere on the brown spectrum like in the photo at the top of the page.

The nice thing about brown is that we generally accept that there are several shades of it. Black and White are more rigid as most people don’t describe things in shades of Black or White. We even refer to issues as “black or white” to show there is no middle ground.

So if there are no people that are completely Black or White, does this seem like a great way to describe race and enter into some very heated arguments?

What about using people’s geographical origins to describe race? Most people think of “Black” people as having ancestors from Africa. In the last century, Jesse Jackson popularized the term “African American” to describe this group.

According to the Smithsonian Institute, “Humans first evolved in Africa, and much of human evolution occurred on that continent. The fossils of early humans who lived between 6 and 2 million years ago come entirely from Africa”.

So then we are all African Americans, right? Not if you are Jesse Jackson, who reserved the term for “Black” people, whatever those are.

Confused yet? It gets worse…

Some folks talk about “Yellow” people, generally referring to people from East Asia. But according to Professor Michael Keevak, at National Taiwan University, these people were referred to as “White” until the 17th century.

Yet others refer to native Americans as “Red” people, but a lot of folks say that’s Racist. In fact, the same people who talk a lot about “Blacks” and “Whites” in an effort to fight Racism, acuse people who use the terms “Yellows” and “Reds” as being Racist.

The squares below are yellow (#FFFF00) and red (#FF0000). Have you seen any people with skin that looks like that?

A lot of people like to use the word "Caucasian" to describe a race of people. However, very few people even know that the word Caucasian is derived from a range of mountains, let alone could find those mountains on a map.

According to Wikipedia, the Caucasus Mountains are a mountain range at the intersection of Asia and Europe. Stretching between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. Do you know anybody in America whose ancestors came from the Causauses Mountains? Does anybody know if these people even share physical traits with Americans currently referred to as Causasian?

This is indicative of how completely absurd and outdated the discussion of Race is in the United States. Even the US Government regularly asks people to identify if they are Caucasian. It would be literally be more meaningful to ask them if they identified as Cockasian1.

Fact Check

Did President Barack Obama say “Racism is part of our DNA”?

In 2015, Investor’s Business Daily Journalist Andrew Malcolm wrote an article titled, Obama declares racism inhabits Americans' DNA. In it, Malcolm cited a quote from President Obama in an interview with a comedian named Marc Maron, "The legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution of our lives. You know, that casts a long shadow and that’s still part of our DNA that’s passed on. We’re not cured of it. Racism we are not cured of, clearly."

In this article, the citation from President Obama, doesn’t match the quote we are fact checking against exactly. So it doesn't get a True rating. However, the citation includes, "that's still part of our DNA" and the "that's" in question is referring in part to "Racism" along with the "legacy of slavery, Jim Crow and discrimination in almost every institution of our lives." So we give it our Mostly True rating for now and as always, we are open to changing this rating if other information comes to light.

It's important to note that the title of the article infers that President Obama said “racism inhabits Americans’ DNA”. However, the article itself doesn’t restate that as a quote. So it can only be considered the author’s interpretation of President Obama’s remarks. That is unfortunate, and leads us to believe that the objective of the journalist and their editor was to appeal to the emotions of readers to get them to click on the link to read the article, aka "clickbait".

In another 2015 article in the Hindustan Times, titled US president Barack Obama says racism 'part of our DNA', to deliver eulogy for slain pastor, writer Yashwant Raj states that, “…in response to the same question about the massacre last Wednesday at an African-American church in South Carolina, [Obama said] that race relations have improved — they are much better now than, for instance, in the 50s, 60s and the 70s but the legacy of slavery and discrimination “cast a long shadow, that’s part of our DNA that’s passed on”.

In this article, the author cites a direct quote in the title, but only four words of multiple paragraphs dealing with the subject. The four words, taken out of context, seem more damning to Americans than the entire citation.

Why is all of this important enough for us to fact check and aren’t we splitting hairs?

If President Obama did indeed state that “Racism is in our DNA”, implying that Racism is a fundamental part of who we are as Americans, it would be a rather damning statement. The citation is obviously metaphorical, but implies that, like DNA, we can’t really change it in our lifetimes. Yet, in the same discussion, President Obama states that things are “much better now than, for instance in the 50s, 60s, and 70s”, acknowledging things have changed dramatically.

Any person with a modicum of curiosity about history, knows that slavery, which has at times been one of the worst manifestations of Racism, has been practiced in every corner of the globe since the beginning of humanity. If you subscribe to the idea that Racism can be metaphorically compared to DNA, then you should acknowledge that Racism is in the DNA of all people.

What is unique about the United States, is that it's citizens fought a war to end slavery in which over 600,000 people died. No other country can make this claim. From that perspective, it would be more accurate to say that ending Racism is in the DNA of Americans. And considering the importance of this issue, we wish President Obama and others would adopt this language.

What can you do to end Rascim in American?

Stop being a Racist!

If you still are referring to others as "White people" or "Black people", you are a Racist. Refer to them simply as "people", or "people with dark brown skin" and "people with light brown skin" if you are really sure it's beneficial to the conversation.

If you need to use the terms "White people" and "Black people" to address an issue, then make sure to enclose the terms in quotation marks or air quotes to show you are citing others.

If you have created a social program or policy based on skin color, then you are a Racist. Not only is that unhelpful, as it reinforces stereotypes, but it is illogical as people like Jay-Z and Oprah would probably qualify.

A much better criteria, would be to help disadvanted people, or marginalized communities, and acknowlege that in some circumstances, that might include straight, white, Christian, men. For example, the state of West Virginia is one of the "Whitest" and poorest in the nation. In the last century, the majority of those working in the coal mines have been heterosexual men with light colored skin, and many of them developed severe health ailments as a result. If you are unable to acknowledge that these people are disadvantaged and worthy of assistance too, then you are a Racist.

Rest assured that helping disadvantaged people and marginalized communities will help people with specific skin tones disproportionally, if they suffer disproportianlly. For example, it's true that people with dark skin are more likely to live under the poverty line. So if you create programs for people living below the povety line, most of the people you help will have dark skin, but you won't exclude those with light skin who live below the poverty line as well.

Programs that provide assistance based on financial need, help people regardless of skin color, gender and other physical traits. They are more equitable than race-based or gender-based programs. And they foster Unity, instead of pitting victim-classes against each other. Great leaders like Martin Luther King understood this which is why he founght to elimate poverty for all races and dreamed of a color blind society.

Identity politics helps politicians and hurts everybody else. It's taken over American society and it's now the primary reason for division and hate in this country. And while it's diplomatic to blame all parties, it's clear that identity politics, and systematically accusing opponents of Rascism, have become the hallmark of the Democratic Party. If we want Unity, we need to give the DNC a time out to reflect, and come back with programs that help the needy, regardless of skin color an other immutable traits.

If you like this article, please share it with the buttons below.

Ebony Whitman

Ebony Whitman is a pen name and avatar representing input from numerous people to this article. We have drawn on the viewpoints of people with skin colors across the spectrum, mostly brown, but even including people with shades of pink, beige and other colors. And if you turned green reading the article, then feel free to contact us and tell us why, and we may include your perspective as well, if we feel it helps to unify the country. As explained above, none of the people contributing to this article could accurately be described as a "White person" or a "Black person".

1. It’s called “humor” bitch, Google it 😜

Other articles you might like...
- John Cleese on Extremism
- How to Fix Presidential Debates
- A pocket history of US presidential debates

Have you written an article we should link to? Email info@americans-united.us to let us know.

© Americans United