Racism and prejudice comes close to being similar but each of these attitudes exists on two different levels when you examine the history of the United States. In the article entitled “Thoughts about Restitution” by Randall Robinson, he discusses the historical reasons behind racism on page 563 by starting with Abraham Lincoln when he wrote:
“…Lincoln had invited a group of free blacks to the White House in August 1862 and told them: “Your race suffers greatly, many of them, by living among us, while ours suffer from your presence. In a word, we suffer on each side. If this is admitted, it affords a reason why we should be separated.”
Abraham Lincoln is implying that white people were uncomfortable living around people whom they had enslaved and the racism that whites showed towards blacks was evidence of their need to be kept apart. This form of racism kept blacks living in a state of fear, instability, and anger because whites had control of the power through Black Codes that were similar to the Slave Codes before the Civil War. They could suppress blacks by issuing fines for speaking to groups in public and they could imprison blacks for quitting a job. These acts enforced a system of racism that was designed to keep whites in power and in control of black people. As you can see, racism is used as a control factor so whites in power can continue to exploit and abuse people who they considered to be inferior to them.
In the definition of prejudice, it has many different causes and Vincent N. Parillo discusses them in “Causes of Prejudice.” He starts his analysis on page 578 when he writes:
“The status of the stranger is an important factor in the development of a negative attitude. Prejudicial attitudes exist among members of both dominant and minority groups.”
The above quote indicates that prejudice has nothing to do with race, power or control but familiarity. Each opposing group doesn’t have to be of a different race but one can be larger than the other. The key element in this situation is that they are strangers to one another and both groups have hostility towards the other. It could be that each member of the group has been trained to dislike the people who are strangers.
When we think of strangers, prejudice for others could also be a result of economic competition. In the practice of racism, there is no real competition because one race dominates the other in an unjust manner while it controls the wealth and economy. This fact is pointed out about the European when Randall Robinson states on page 575:
“Europe followed the grab of Africa’s people with the rape, through colonial occupation, of Africa’s material resources. America followed slavery with more than a hundred combined years of legal racial segregation and legal racial discrimination of one variety or another.”
In the case of prejudice, it is instituted without the need for legal approval. Vincent Parillo states on page 587 that:
“People tend to be hostile toward others when they feel that their security is threatened: thus many social scientists conclude that economic competition breeds prejudice.”
As you can see, a competition among different groups of people can breed prejudice and this bias attitude has nothing to do with race in some cases. It has to do with survival in the job market. A scarcity of jobs will therefore increase prejudice among different groups because each is trying to compete for the same jobs so they can feed and shelter their families.
Racism was at its highest level during slavery in America and after blacks were freed they still had to endure poor educational facilities, low wages, and very little political freedom. Randall Robinson showed how powerful racist practices were when he stated on page 564 that:
“Ingrained low expectations, when consciously faced, invites impenetrable gloom.”
The stench of racism destroys the mind of the weak blacks when it is constantly shown in every facet of life. Some African Americans still suffer from racial abuse and they experience it on a daily basis. The effects of the mental cruelty behind racism are exemplified in their abuse of alcohol. Randall Robinson illustrated this when he wrote on the same page:
“Grandfather drank and expressed his rage in beatings he administered to his wife and his son. Grandfather disappeared into a deep depression and never seemed the same again.”
The above quotation shows us how racism can even drive a person insane when it is shoved down a person throat day after day. The constant abuse from a system of racist practices can even affect the strongest of men. It is this widespread phenomenon of racism that makes it more powerful than the simple use of prejudice.
The closest similarity that prejudice has to racism is best described by Vincent Parillo when he states on page 589 that:
“Intimidation—sometimes even severe reprisals for going against social norms—ensured compliance.”
The compliance with certain prejudices is the social norm in many cases. Racism is maintained the same way because in the above case whites were forced to obey certain rules of socializing by social norms. If they dared to cross the line of socializing and helping blacks, they would be dealt with in a harsh manner by others within their group. In the case of racism, the system of racist practices is firmly entrenched and some practices of racism after slavery originated with Black Codes that were established to keep blacks in their place. Randall Robinson elaborates upon this racist practice when he wrote on page 574:
“For Blacks, the destructive moral crime that began in Jamestown in 1619 has yet to end.”
In conclusion, we have racism and prejudice coming together to make life miserable for millions of people around this nation. Prejudice is caused by a host of factors and racism is perpetuated for socioeconomic and political reason. They are related in several ways but racism goes much further. All groups, in some form or another, practices prejudice but racism is a system of ideological beliefs designed to enslave a group that is deemed inferior and unequal in every respect. It is a brutal system of injustice that keeps a person who is non-white in a constant state of anxiety, confusion, and depression. If racism continues, chaos in America is not only imminent but inevitable because history has proven to us that as long as there is injustice, there can never be peace.