Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Understanding Racism

By Isaac Simon

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While engaging in a passionate conversation with my friend at Franklin Dining Hall a couple of weeks ago, the discussion quickly turned from Janet Yellen’s lecture at UMass to that of race in both the United States and on college campuses.

My friend and I tried to tackle why talk of racism in the media seems sparse, and why national commentators and political figures do anything but tackle race head on. In fact, the two of us came to the tragic conclusion that it is unfortunately the opposite of what permeates our culture. Talk of racism on the national level only seems to occur when a monumental incident takes place. Incidents such as the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, or the death of Michael Brown and Eric Garner – instances that clearly involved race.

But the culture of “Hands up don’t shoot” and “I can’t breathe” continues to exist in different forms even if the issue is not ignited by law enforcement. Mike and I then came to understand that the result of only discussing race in the context of national news headlines has permitted racism to go underground and be largely accepted by the surrounding community. This has made it socially acceptable for people to jokingly mock the state of race in America saying things such as, ‘everything is racist’ or ‘then again I probably shouldn’t say that because someone is going to call me a racist.’ Racism means less and less to people because they feel that the race card is constantly being played, where there is always someone to go after and there is always a victim. This line of thought delegitimizes what it means to be a racist. Then again, even that term is still somehow unclear in the minds of so many Americans.

Following the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina that killed nine people, all of whom were black, the South Carolina State legislature voted to remove the Confederate Flag from its capital grounds. Despite the tragedy that sparked the conversation, the issue became a national one, igniting huge amounts of controversy. The fact that nine people had to be murdered in order for a racist flag to come down is despicable. The idea that taking down such a flag would be hugely controversial and therefore a big deal in the eyes of the public is a testament to our country’s continued intolerance.

This past week, Rupert Murdoch made comments suggesting that Obama wasn’t black enough, and how we could find a real black president in Ben Carson.


The GOP’s problem with Obama has always been that he’s not black enough. Thankfully they have never taken issue with the fact that he is black to begin with.

There are more African-Americans in prison now than were enslaved in 1860. African-Americans born today have a 33 percent higher chance of being incarcerated than that of their white counterparts. These statistics are true are borne out of a culture of mass incarceration that specifically targets people of color, and signify the continuing problem of racism in American society.

At the Golden Globe Awards this past year Tina Fey said that the film “Selma” was about, “the American civil rights movement that totally worked and now everything’s fine.” The joke was met with thunderous laughter. I hope I see the day where a joke like that eventually becomes a statement of truth and that the racism of today becomes the history of tomorrow.

Isaac Simon is a Daily Collegian Columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]


5 Responses to “Understanding Racism”

  1. David Hunt 1990 on October 14th, 2015 10:46 am

    Probably the single biggest reason why we’re stuck where we are – and, definitely, things HAVE improved over the years – is that anyone who does not toe the PC line gets RAAAAACIST! thrown at them.

    Question affirmative action, even logically and with evidence? RAAAAACIST!

    Opine that it might be the fatherless situation of so many black people leading to multiple issues? RAAAAACIST!

    Point out the “knock out” or “polar bear hunting” games? RAAAAACIST!

    Is there racism in America? Sure. No question. Then again, there are people who still think Elvis is alive. What’s my point? That you’re holding America up against a standard NO COUNTRY meets, and complaining that America is not utopia.

  2. Arafat on October 14th, 2015 3:35 pm


    Indeed. If one cannot discuss these complicated issues without liberals turning the discussion into “You’re a racist” than what is the point? The conversation will go nowhere and nothing will come of it.

    Sadly this is where we are today. Blacks are always the victims. Cops are always the bad guys. It’s a black and white argument if I am allowed to use this expression without being called a racist.

  3. Rob on October 16th, 2015 8:56 am

    Isaac – I think it’s time we stop referencing “Hands up don’t shoot”. It was proven that he never said that.

  4. Joleri on October 16th, 2015 2:04 pm

    Exactly as pointed out above. Frankly, most people are fatigued by this conversation and the false accusatory assumptions that go with it. The Collegian editorials on this issue haven’t evolved in at least the 30 years. Makes me think the history and polisci professors should be forced to update their curricula at least every decade or so.

    And how about how “institutional” racism cuts the other way with the way the U.S. tax code is designed so that the middle class (read: blue collar whites in declining economic circumstances) pay the freight for all sorts of entitlements. Or how about an honest discussion about how often black on white crime overwhelmingly is based at least partially on racial animus to the point where it should be considered de facto as “hate crime.”

    This passage is particularly amusing:

    There are more African-Americans in prison now than were enslaved in 1860.

    The population of African-Americans is tens of millions more than in 1860. How is this even a relevant comparison? My UMASS intro to logic professor would have given this statement an F but perhaps my political debate professor would have given an A for a successful obfuscation of relevant facts when they aren’t in your favor.

    African-Americans born today have a 33 percent higher chance of being incarcerated than that of their white counterparts. These statistics are true are borne out of a culture of mass incarceration that specifically targets people of color, and signify the continuing problem of racism in American society.

    The culture of mass incarceration is borne out of a society that tries to hold accountable criminal activity. I have no idea what a “culture of mass incarceration” means (although it is a nice turn of a phrase), but this culture, although imperfect, seeks more than any other on earth to punish criminal activity. You don’t explain how people of color are specifically targeted today, and such a momentous statement ought to be backed up at least with some rudimentary facts, no? Unfortunately, the simple fact is that African Americans commit a tremendous portion of the overall crime in America, whether in proportion to their population percentage or as a percentage of overall crime.

    Overall, this is a tired argument. If you are going to try to convince your fellow students of the unjustness of this society, at least bring something to the table that hasn’t been heard before OR at least a story that at least minimially comports with reality.

  5. KB on October 17th, 2015 3:01 pm

    You guys want a “conversation” …here a conversation.. naa… nobody wants to talk about this
    Black males aged 15-34 are only 3% of the total US population….yet according to 2012 FBI Statistics these guys commit:
    54.9% of all Robbery
    49.4% of Murders
    34.1% of all Aggravated Assaults
    32.5% of Forcible Rapes

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