"When school children start paying union dues, that's when I'll start representing the interests of school children." - Albert Shanker, Former President of the American Federation of Teachers

Racism Survey

by nikki

Racism is one of the world's major issues today. Many people are not aware of how much racism still exists in our schools, workforce and millions of other places where social lives are occurring. It is obvious that racism is everywhere as it was many decades ago, but it doesn't seem to be getting better with the years. People see racism constantly each day across the United States. A gathering of white people burn down a black church, someone gets murdered from a racial slur, or fights break out at school or in public. These are the extremes of racism. Racism also occurs in more subtle ways such as pay scale differentials, favoritism in the workforce and racial quotas. Each day we as Americans are faced with choices that are sometimes hard to make in this area. Is racism okay? How will the targeted person feel after they have be subjected to this violence? While conducting my survey I learned a lot things that I was blind to throughout my adolescence and teenage years. Each person I surveyed for this project contributed to my research significantly.

The first part of my survey that I want to touch on is the different attitudes that face on this topic. I approached one Vietnamese woman and began talking to her about my school project. As I continued to explain the survey to her she immediately tensed up. She interrupted and said she had to go to work as she walked away from me hurriedly. This woman seemed as though she had experienced some sort of racism in her life that had been tragic and she was unable to talk about it. Another black woman that I spoke to answered all of my questions to the best of her knowledge but was extremely defensive. A lot of the attitudes that I detected from these people showed me that racism is truly a sensitive subject. Some experiences that people shared with me were troubling. Nine out of the ten people I surveyed had experienced racism at some point in their lives, and I suspect that the tenth would have also but she was only fifteen. At a gas station I interviewed a fifty-five year old black man. He told me about his great grandfather who was a slave on a cotton gin. The hardships that his great grandfather experienced seemed so unjust. Not eating for days, lashings, fifteen-hour workdays and starvation. After he spoke of these things that happened one hundred and thirty years ago I asked him about things that he has personally experienced. He told me about basic things that happen to minorities such as the use of the N? word. He said that if a white person calls you that then it's very offensive, but if another black person says it to you then its ok. For some reason this man compared racism to the prejudice against gay men. He said that people treat gay men badly because it's not normal in this society to be gay. Its different to be gay just like its different to be black so people treat you unfairly because your different. I wrote down a quote from this man that I thought to be very interesting, he said, Over the years slavery has been abolished and racism is slowly getting better, but it's not the whites I'm worried about, it's the retaliation that the blacks are going to have against the whites. After speaking to this man I was extremely satisfied with my survey, he had brought up many fresh question is my mind and I was eager to talk to the next person. An Arabian woman and her child always frequent a place where my friend works, so for my next survey I asked her some questions. She told of her family and some of the values and morals that they all share. Then we spoke of racism in her life. She told me that recently since the tragic 9-11 happenings racism has grown immensely in her life. She said that people actually yelled at her and her children to go back where they came from because they?re not wanted here. She also told me about her daughter attending public school, and how the other children don't like to talk to her, instead they shun her. She complained how it's not fair and I agreed with her. Her response to this racism is just to wait it out, and hope that someday it will get better, but she wont give up because she wants the best life for her children.

Although I did hear some really amazing stories from the different people there was one who really stuck out in my head. I spoke to a fifteen-year-old white girl. I know I was supposed to talk to minorities, but I wanted to reverse the whole process to see the results I got. The girl lives in a richer part of Agawam with her family. She told me that she doesn't mind black people all that much as long as they stay away and don't bother her. When I asked her where all of these feelings came from, she said that she doesn't know, but she has felt that way her whole life. I then asked her to specifically tell me what it is about black people that she doesn't like. Her response was that her Dad says that they are all dirty people. That was obviously the root of this hatred in this little girl. Where does all this come from? This was one of the questions none of my surveyors could answer. So after my work interviewing was complete I looked up the roots of racism. I found that notions of "black" as negative and "white" as positive go back further than the first publication of Roget's Thesaurus. These notions became institutionalized in the language of the Bible and in the language of Shakespeare.

In bringing this survey to a conclusion I realized that this is a subject that I am unable to draw conclusions on. Racism will never end, although it may fade out for a while, I believe that it will always be present in our world and in people hearts. I feel very lucky to have met these people and spoke to them about their personal feeling on such a sensitive subject. I was very successful in my survey.

Written by: nikki
22 January 2004

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