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According to a recent NBC News poll, 62 percent of Americans polled said racism is a “major problem.” Last year, Gallup found that 42 percent are “very worried about race relations.” In 2001, when Gallup began that survey, the percentage was only 28 percent, and in 2010 it was a mere 13 percent.
There are many plausible explanations for this jump, including a spate of media-highlighted, race-related police shootings and the controversial presidency of Donald Trump. What is less clear is how our society can reverse this trend. One tremendous obstacle to improving race relations is that Americans cannot even agree on what racism is.
Definitions - Racism - United - States - Progressives
There are two basic definitions of racism in the United States, one roughly associated with progressives and one roughly associated with conservatives. The former describes racism as the failure to acknowledge and seek to redress systemic discrimination against select disadvantaged minority groups. It is very broad and captures everything from unconscious bias to white supremacy. The latter views racism as making assumptions about, or taking action towards, an individual or group on the sole basis of their race. It is narrow and generally requires belief, intent, and animosity.
These definitions don’t simply differ; to a great extent they actually contradict each other. Much of the contradiction stems from the fact that the progressive definition of racism requires that an advantaged individual or group must be attacking the less privileged. The more conservative and narrow definition of racism requires no appeal to power structures, only to bias, and can be committed by anyone towards anyone.
Example - Disagreement - Term - Media - Treatment
A very current example of this disagreement over the term can be seen in the media’s treatment of white women after the 2016 and 2018 elections. Many progressives have argued that white women voted in a racist manner in order to uphold their privileged place...
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