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Is Prejudice Ever Productive? MLK Day Reflections


Decades ago, Martin Luther King Jr. organized and campaigned courageously and continuously to eradicate segregation in the United States, ultimately dying on behalf of his cause. While race relations in America aren’t perfect (and probably never will be), we should not take for granted the strides we’ve made, but celebrate them. What better time than to reflect on and evaluate how far we’ve come, how far we need to go, and in what direction?

If you have tumblr or are a college student, you have undoubtedly heard the definition of racism that didn’t quite make it into Webster; racism being defined as an exclusively white characteristic, because people of color can be prejudiced and generalize white people, but do not have the socioeconomic power to institutionally oppress white people.

A brief glance at American history indicates that the consequences of whites holding other groups of people in low regards has indisputably had more serious consequences than the inverse circumstance.

More recently, animosity against whites has led to protests, riots and has contributed to an overall obsession with a narrative of victimhood and entitlements.

I can wholeheartedly condone and encourage discussion of the way the past has affected the present. But personally, I think that it’s wildly unrealistic and futile to hold people of the present accountable for crimes that they had nothing to do with. The way the past has affected the present should never supersede the way the present will affect the future; it’s all well and good to figure out how and why we got into this mess but it’s far more important to figure out how and when we’re going to get out of it.

A racist does die, but racism doesn’t. As a country, we need to encourage progress, and actual progress, not the idea of it. Not meaningless hashtags and social media campaigns, not “hope and change” progress, but progress that seeks viable, substantial solutions to real world problems.

The road to progress is not a one way street. It’s not yelling at white people until you feel better. It’s looking at history objectively and realizing that oppression and slavery were not American inventions; countless groups of people have been enslaved and subjugated, and countless groups of people have recovered.

While there are certain thoughts and behaviors that some white people need to unlearn, some black people need to unlearn behaviors and thought processes as well. Behaving and thinking like victims without any free will or agency has done far more harm than good.

No matter how many socialist professors tell you otherwise, progress isn’t lighting cop cars on fire. It’s not pretending the past didn’t happen, but it isn’t harboring an unfounded animosity towards an entire race of people.

In my mere 2 decades of life and relatively recent interest in American politics, I’m by no stretch of the imagination an expert on race relations in the United States. But what I do know is that no matter what you call it, no matter who the subject is and no matter who the object is, it’s malignant, it’s wrong, and while it can pose as progress and liberation it is ultimately stagnant and unavailing.



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