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Posted at: Dec 16, 2018, 12:03 AM; last updated: Dec 16, 2018, 12:03 AM (IST)

Is America inherently racist?

Tanushree Ghosh
Tanushree Ghosh

Tanushree Ghosh

With the FBI statistics this week citing 17 per cent increase in hate crimes, the narrative that emerged in the election of the current US President makes this question hard not to be asked. Far-right white supremacist shows and podcasts in the US have always spurted out threatening, factually incorrect and hateful sound bites. But when these come from a democratically elected President, it puts the entire nation in question along with the “democracy” that allowed the man to reach the highest office. 

What is going on with a nation formed by immigrants on free market principles? Is America then, inherently racist? It is not unknown that America does have a history and a problem with race. This is no different from any nation. Segmentations caused distinctions, distinctions caused biases, which caused further segmentation. The US, however, is one of the most tolerant and sensible places to end up in. Of course, there are pockets of deep-seated hate, sections which misbelieve and misbehave, but there is also a consistent, vocal majority against them. And that is what makes sense for a nation like the US.

What is less known and possibly incomprehensible to gather about America is that it has its own economically disadvantaged sections — and life is getting harder and harder for them. There are many not too poor and not too rich people in the richest nation on the earth. Are they better off than the rest of the world? Yes (I mean this strictly in terms of access to resources and quality of living). But does that matter? No. What matters is the discrepancy on account of the expenses on health care to higher education; the lack of access to higher skill sets and, therefore, higher skilled jobs; the climbing costs of housing in most major cities; all-round unaffordability for most Americans in blue-collar jobs; and the rising homelessness in several American cities.  

Besides, affordability in America that used to be from credit (loan the lifestyle) shattered in 2008. It hasn’t yet recovered from that shock, leaving the US middle class without much footing. The financial recession had another aspect too. Asia, including China, fared better during the crises, while the West faltered. It gave discontent a platform. Everything is a matter of perspective, and the US’ perspective is not used to be lagging (or even equal) to the rest of the world. America is not any more racist than any other nation that comes to mind, but it has always been ‘classist’ —  a class above the rest of the world.

The US also has two very different identities. It has its coasts, but it also has a massive heartland. The non-coastal America has remained untouched for decades by the goals of globalisation. What makes Trump possible is folks from the coasts joining in. It has more to do with economics than anthropology. 

However, when resentment sets in, it is rarely logical. A lot of folks might not sympathise with the extreme rhetoric of hate and bias, but they are willing to be tolerant for the sake of economic betterment. It is not too different from the recent Indian scenario, or the pre-World War II, which witnessed the rise of strongmen across several nations. 

Hate crimes, abnormalities and abhorrence under the umbrella of the larger narrative are finding support or tolerance with an extended population for aforementioned reasons. It is dangerous, definitely, but not enough to categorise America as any more or less racist.


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