Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Only whites are real people

Chris Matthews doesn't think blacks count as regular people:
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you about how he -- how's he connect with regular people? Does he? Or does he only appeal to people who come from the African-American community and from the people who have college or advanced degrees?

This is not necessarily limited to Matthews; it's a problem with our culture that of course appears in our media. From Racist America, by Joe Feagin:
We saw earlier how European immigrants to the United States in the early 1900s came to accept this worldview and its implicit assumption that being "American" means being white. This has not changed in the intervening years. Today the term "American" still means "white"--at least for the majority of white Americans, and probably for most people across the globe. One can pick up most newspapers or news magazines and find "American" or "Americans" used in a way that clearly accents white Americans. Take this sentence from a news writer in a Florida newspaper: "The American Public isn't giving government or police officers the blind trust it once did." Clearly, "American" here means "white American," for the majority of blacks have never blindly trusted the police.

One research analysis recently examined all the articles in sixty-five major English-language newspapers for a six-month period and estimated that there were thousands of references to "black Americans" or "African Americans" in the articles. However, in the same newspapers there were only forty-six mentions of "whit Americans." In almost every case these mentions by newspaper writers occurred in connection with "black Americans," "blacks," or "African Americans." (The exception were three cases in which "white Americans" was used in connection with "Native Americans" or "Korean Americans.") A similar pattern was found for major magazines. Not once was the term "white Americans" used alone in an article; if used, it was always used in relation to another racial category. The same study examined how congressional candidates were described in news articles in the two weeks prior to the November 1998 elections. In every case white congressional candidates wer not described as "white," but black congressional candidates were always noted as being "black." In the United States blackness is usually salient and noted, while whiteness generally goes unmentioned, except when reference is specifically made to white connections to other racial groups.

Being "American" still means, in the minds of many people, including editors and writers in the media, being white. This need not be a conscious process. For several centuries most whites have probably not seen the routines of their everyday lives as framed in white. "Race" is often not visible when one is at the top of the social hierarchy. Today, major social institutions, those originally created by whites centuries ago, are still dominated by whites. Yet from the white standpoint they are not white, just normal and customary. They are not seen for what they actually are--whitewashed institutions reflecting in many of their aspects the history, privileges, norms, values, and interests of white Americans. When whites live in these customary arrangements, they need not think in overtly racist terms. Nonetheless, when whites move into settings where they must confront people of color in the United States or elsewhere, they usually foreground their whiteness, whether consciously or unconsciously.

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