Race relations are an ever prominent issue in American society. Controversies focusing around race are a commonly seen smeared across the front page of the newspaper or headlining on the evening news. The opposition is usually between a minority group and “The Man,” a colloquialism used by many Blacks to refer to the overwhelming power stemming from white racist tendencies. This racial tension can sometimes can cause the oppressed to band together against the oppressor. Many times, the most prevalent link is between the African American community and the Latino community.
Here we find two groups of people with very similar lifestyles who find camaraderie between themselves when dealing with America s racism. Although the specifics may differ, the experiences of Blacks and Latinos, specifically Mexican Americans, has impacted the two communities very similarly. For example, many sociologists agree that the slavery experience is the cause of many problems Black America has today. Things such as “Black on Black” crime, broken homes, high poverty levels and drug problems are believed to have links back to slavery.
Much like Blacks, Mexican Americans have problems in their communities today that stem from their dealing with immigration in this country. Their problems still exist greatly because immigration is still going on between Mexico and America. The affects of slavery and illegal immigration began many years ago, continued throughout history and continue into today s culture. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, Blacks were oppressed with the use of Black Codes followed by the implementation of Jim Crow laws and segregation. These acts of racism have since been outlawed yet the ramification of which are felt even today.
Now, black must deal with harassment, police brutality, prejudice attitudes and other acts of individual racism. Mexicans were kicked out of their native lands and killed in wars over territory. Mexican American today face many of the same acts of individual racism as Blacks but there is even more of a similarity between the institutional racism that both groups face. Acts of institutional racism are rules or laws set up in society to directly and systematically exclude certain people from obtain total assimilation and often directly impact one uality of life.
Items such as zoning laws, housing and employment availability and quality of education seem to be set up so that these two groups will never be able to escape what is referred to as a “web of pathology. ” Even more so, Mexicans have to deal with institutional racism in immigration laws. Many theorists believe that this is the reason Blacks seem to be confined to the ghetto and Mexicans to the “barrio. ” Many of those who have been unable to escape their surroundings have chosen to separated rather than assimilate.
To assimilate into one ulture one must adhere to the customs and lifestyle of the host culture and take it on as their own. Some minorities choose to do this, those who do not separate, often totally from the eyes of the majority race. Both Blacks and Mexican Americans can be categorized as having members who have assimilated and separated. Theories about assimilation versus separation and the debate about institutional racism are both interesting and compelling subjects to write on. But, perhaps the most compelling issues I have found regarding these two racial ethnic groups are conflict theory and order theory.
Order theorists believe in the motto America is supposedly founded on, the notion that “all men are created equal” and eventually racial conflicts will be nonexistent and all will assimilate. Conflict theorists believe that no minority group will have total assimilation into society because “it is not in the best interest of the majority group. ” By this, conflict theorists mean that by giving all Americans that chance to assimilate, White America will lose some of it s power and influence. I found this most interesting because I never really thought of equality in this way.
I can say that I never thought that minorities will even achieve total equality but now I have a strong reason why I fell this way. It was nice to know that my feelings had a term and that I was not some “weirdo” to feel so. By agreeing with the notions of other Conflict theorists I fell that there is no way for these groups, or any others for that matter, to overcome racism. I feel that racism will always exist in this country as long as minorities are alienated by the majority race. The change must begin there.
Since the culture f both Latinos and Blacks are so diverse, it is difficult to make up a profile of the average Black or the average Latino. In this profile I will try to incorporate my own knowledge of the Latino community and personal knowledge of my own Black community. Mary is an 18 year old single female from South Central Los Angeles who defines herself as Black/Mexican Biracial. Her father is Mexican and her mother is Black. Both parents are in the home along with her father s parents. She is an only child. They are a middle class family, her father is a construction worker and her mother works at a bank.
She is the first generation to attend college. Her parents make enough money to take care of the household and give her everything she needs but they do live paycheck to paycheck, making every penny count. Mary attended Westchester High School Magnet which a very culturally diverse school. She is very popular at school and has many friends of all racial make-ups. She considers herself to have high levels of assimilation along with a very strong cultural identity. She speaks Spanish fluently and knows a great deal about her grandparent’s entry into this country. She also was taught very extensively about her mother
African American heritage. Mary has also had a long term relationship with a young man who is Phillipino. She knows that her chances of becoming a doctor are not as great as those of her white counterparts but she has proven to herself that she can achieve anything she wants. Mary finds nothing wrong with accepting and using the money the school has set aside for her to be able to achieve her dreams. Since her grandparents were the first generation in America, her father was urged to get a good job and start a family, some of the most important roles of the men in Mexico.
Since her dad was born her and her mother and her family had been here for a long time, they stress the more traditional American values to Mary: to get a good education. Mary transitions well into her two worlds and is comfortable in each. She may still face the ramifications of both individual racism and institutional racism but her overall life appears to be somewhat conflict free when regarding the issue of race. The issues of whether or not a minority group is able to assimilate are argued greatly about amongst conflict theorists and Order theorists.
While conflict theorists maintain that assimilation will never be totally existent for American minorities, order theorists disagree. Many use Asian Americans to display what they believe to be a group of people who were able to overcome racism and become a thriving, good part of this country. Due to their success, Asian Americans have been labeled the “model minority” in other words, what all other minority groups should aspire to be. These “examples” for the rest of the country are seen as hard working, self-reliant, and having strong family values and high educational achievement.
Many Asian Americans, one would think, would feel complimented by this praise given to them by the majority group but many Asian Americans have declared that this notion is detrimental to the Asian American s relationships with other minorities. The person who came up with the idea that Asians Americans are the “model minority” probably thought that he was doing his part in tearing down color lines. Many Sociologists think that the abilities and achievements of the Asian American community should be expressed as testimonies to the rest of the minority groups but what probably was not looked at as an act of racism has turned into just that.
First, many Asian American leaders have deemed this concept as no longer being just a theory but rather, a myth. They say that these “stereotypes” paint an untrue picture of Asian Americans in this country and forget to tell the country about the many Asian Americans that have hardly assimilated at all. They do not recognize the many families on welfare, those who are gang affiliated, the drug users and those that live in run-down, crowded tenements who suffer from tuberculosis and depression. It forgets the many who are forced to work in sweatshops and live below poverty level.
Secondly, the Model Minority Myth is a dangerous concept because Asian Americans are alienated from the majority race as well as the minority race pool. They are still perceived by white America as outsiders yet are set up for resentment by other minorities. This makes life hard for the Asian American that achieves because he is almost forced to turn against his other brothers and sisters of color. This is detrimental to the well-being of the Asian American in this country. This concept should not be used to describe the modern Asian American and should be recognized as a stereotype like any other in our society.