Class and Race Barriers in America

Class and Race Barriers in America


Despite a change in social perception towards different races, racism in America has continued to punctuate the American society taking on different forms of discriminations. These discriminations can take the form of preferential treatment for a particular race in a restaurant; accommodating stereotyping that creates a negative image of a particular race, to a perceived form of discrimination from a law enforcing officer, to even the drafting of recruitmentprocedures and process that incline the results towards favoring a particular race.

This paper addresses the issue of racism, borrowing heavily from the experience of DougGlanville, and in the process handling the issue of racism as it relates to class oppression, class mobility and racial profiling

Nature of Racism and Class Oppression in America

In the United States the issue of racism and class oppression cannot be divorced from each other. They are more of collocations for the reason that they cannot be dissociated and they go hand in hand. Racism and class oppression in America is still alive and influences many aspects of the social and economic life of the normal citizen. The unspoken issue of racism in America is not one that began during the commencement of capitalism; it has always been there albeit in the background influencing decisions. From that moment on December 1 1955 when Rosa Parks refused to surrender her bus seat, to the mammoth rallies that martin Luther king junior addressed, to the countless who decided not to vote for Obama for no other reason but his skin color, to the more recent shooting of Michael brown and the discrimination of Doug Glanville, all prove the existence of racism or perceived form of racism. These social occurrences go to reflect the central seat that racism and class oppression has occupied in the American social system with everyone assuming its existence yet very aware of its existence. Racism has survived protests, legislation, sacrificial deaths during the martin Luther king junior era and outlasted more protests, more legislation, and even more sacrificial deaths and community meetings in the modern American state. The American society no longer expresses it openly but implicitly it is perceived and it remains hidden in the hearts of many Americans.

It is worth noting that in present American society, there has been more tolerance to racism. However, this does not mean that the society is free from racism. The ideology still stands that some racial groupings believe that they are better than others, some deserve better treatment than others, some are more American than others, and other are in America to steal their opportunities. That is the nature and state of racism and racial discrimination in the United States society. No matter how many anti-discrimination laws are established, or the number of times “discrimination of any form is not allowed” is mention in the American constitution, these laws cannot change how the society feels about race. The dogma is that believing and legislating that discrimination and racism is wrong does not qualify and mean that some minority racial groupings are equal, or worthy of the American name.

Race and Class Mobility

While the country is celebrating the historic election of the first African-American president, in the shadow lurks the ongoing struggle of African Americans and other minorities to achieve racial equality in terms of equal access to opportunities, fair treatment and acceptance into the American social structure.Since its birth, the United States’ racial make-up has largely been biracial, consisting of a white majority and black minority. Although different races have made great gains and the relationship between different races have improved, particular racial groups have preferential treatment when it comes to opportunities, while the remaining few are left to scramble for the remaining slots. This is particularly so with the white and African American relationship. Skin defines the opportunities of success that an individual can gain. It determines to what level an individual is going to rise in the corporate ladder, and what events or neighborhoods one will be allowed to reside in.

In the contemporary American system, racial inequalities persist in income, employment, education, and healthcare. Long term joblessness continues to contribute to African Americans difficulties in other sectors including home ownership, income, education, employment, and healthcare. White privilege is present in every white mind whether it is acknowledged or expressed. The mentality is that whites are superior. They deserve everything. America’s rightful destiny is to be a white country and serve whites. The American dream is for whites only and whites first. Anything blacks or any other immigrants achieve implies a loss of what white should have. While whites acclaim black athletes, they resent their success and wealth. Even when whites are not necessarily against blacks, they must be first. Immigrants of other races do not really belong in America; they are a burden that threatens the American way of life.

In America, race supersedes social class in establishing status because racism gave race value, superiority or inferiority (Bonilla-Silva, 2013). Therefore, class mobility in the United States becomes a function of the skin color of an individual not his academic credential, not his experience, not his personal achievements or determination, or hard work or drive to succeed, just the color of the skin is enough to determine which social and class circle one can rub shoulders with. Skin color determines how up an African American can be allowed to climb in the corporate ladder and social class, and how low, a white would be allowed to go in the corporate structure and social standing. That is how strong a role race plays in the land of the free and the land of opportunities.

Racial Oppression over the Years

Racial oppression has been the hall mark of the American society prior and after the proclamation of independence. Beginning from the first time that the first slave ship docked in the shores of America, racism has continued to fuel the economic and social exploits of the American system. Slavery can be deemed as having been the genesis of the issue that is racism. Poor and abled blacks from Africa and Jamaica, brought to the Americas provided not only free labor, but also the perception that white is better than black. White privilege became the social norm, present in every white mind whether acknowledged or expressed. Since the beginning of slavery, the mentality has been that whites are superior. They deserve everything. America’s rightful destiny is to be a white country and serve whites. The American dream is for whites only and whites first. Anything blacks or any other immigrants achieve implies a loss of what white should have. Negroes were enslaved because they were inferior. They were a corrupting force, the reason for everything wrong in the south. As the stain on America, they were responsible for white atrocities. Whites kept Negroes from literacy and education and blamed them for being ignorant. In slavery, they took away incentive and any sense of responsibility, and blamed Negroes for being lazy. Slavery made racism a predominant cultural value, America’s true religion and an unwritten constitution.

The civil rights movements tried to qualify African Americans as equal citizens like any other Americans. The movement wanted an America in which skin color was simply the color of the skin, not a determinant of access to opportunities, or a source of discrimination, just a skin color that reflected ones roots. This movement can be credited with the rights and equality of opportunities that are being enjoyed in the present day America. In present day America, the only stride that has been made with regards to reducing racial oppression and economic oppression is the drafting of more laws that favor the poor, who are assumed to be mostly African American. The drafting of key legislations such the setting of Obamacare was meant to increase the poor’s access to health care, a right that had been denied to the poor.

The Future of Racial Discrimination

The issue of racism and class discrimination has been a concern whose debate began decades ago. The constitution made no references to discrimination based on any differencing characteristics; this was further embedded through the legislation of various laws such as the Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, these measures notwithstanding, racism and class discrimination has continually punctuated the American society. Despite the apparent public calmness of the issue it still silently influences many major economic and social decisions that touch on the American society. This proves that the issue of racism and class struggle is not in any way in a hurry to go away it will continue to influence policy makers, and influence how the society interacts and how opportunities are shared among people from various racial backgrounds. But one thing that is clear is that the issue will not go away at least not in the short run, and opportunities will always be inclined towards favoring the whites while limiting the opportunities available for African Americans to progress and rise in societal class status. Racism and class discrimination has not changed despite the steps taken to address it; it has just transformed and wore a different face.

Therefore, it would only be prudent and wise for any African American, parent, Doug Glanville included to aptly prepare their children for this harsh reality of life. Children should be made aware that racism and class oppression is alive and active in the American society, and therefore should expect opportunities to be tilted towards people from particular races. However, equally, important is that the children are made cognizant that the color of their skin should not make them feel any less an American citizen or a second class citizens, they have the potential, capacity and capability to be the best they can, after all the president of the united states of America is an African America, several secretaries of state have been African Americans. Indeed African Americans can reach social and economic echelons that no white has reached.

Police Culture and Racial Profiling

The Emancipation Of Slaves, the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act many would consider them ancient history. But even in the face of such well-established legislation, racial inequality in employment, education, and even law enforcement has remained widespread in the United States. It has for long been assumed that these racial patterns stem fundamentally from individual prejudices or even racist attitudes. However, according to sociological research discrimination on the basis of race is usually a product of organizational practices that have unintentional racial effects or are founded on cognitive biases linked to social stereotypes. However, it cannot be assumed that racial profiling among law enforcement officers can be a result of unconscious bias. Racial profiling, the searching or stopping of drivers based primarily on race, rather than suspicion or observed violation of the law is particularly problematic because it is a form of discrimination enacted and organized by federal and local governments.

Ethnic profiling has been entrenched in the law enforcement system. In the 1990, civil rights organizations challenged the use of racial profiles during routine traffic stops, calling them a form of discrimination, however, the department of justice responded by stating that the use of race as an explicit profile produced more efficient crime control than random stops. This notwithstanding, recent data has showed that random searches on white drivers has resulted to the seizure of more contraband relative to minority searches. This raises the question of whether racial profiling is the best approach to controlling or abetting answer to the negative calls for the need for a system to be put in place that will ensure that no profiling that is based on race or ethnic background of an individual is undertaken. This may include the training of law enforcing officers on the issue of racial profiling and racial sensitivity. This will avoid probable law suits that would have been a probability if Doug Glanville had opted to proceed with the charges, and save the police station that was involved in the incidence from undue negative publicity that may have dented their image in the face of the public. Training police officers on racial profiling and sensitivity would also improve policing in the sense that any individual has a equal chance of being stopped and searched, with no person, white or African American feeling a perceived form of false safety in the course of carrying out a crime.

Practical Steps to Address Racial Profiling

While agreeing that racial profiling has declined, there are many avenues through which racial profiling can be addressed in law enforcement agencies. This form of racism can be addressed through reprimand or punishment of officers who are seen to be actively involved in this form of racism. This organizational mechanism would prevent, or at least reduce, this behaviour.Another more effective way of addressing the issue of racial profiling as a result of unconscious bias is through education and exposure to minorities who do not fit common stereotypes. This strategy can be coupled with law enforcement enforcers being held accountable for their decisions.

Additionally, citizens and Police Review Boards can play a proactive role and reactive role in monitoring individual police behavior in addition to monitoring problematic organizational practices. Aggressive enforcement of civil rights can also play a role in encouraging local police chiefs and employers to continue to monitor and address prejudice and discrimination inside the police force. Cities and states which reflect a pattern of racially biased policing can be sued by the federal government. This will send a clear message to other police agencies that routine discrimination of minority citizens is unacceptable.

The issue of racial profiling is not a respecter of individuals, rich or poor; it is applied to all, wealth notwithstanding. The first thing that police enforcers see in a person of African decent is skin color; in fact a good car attracts more suspicion. This can be evidenced by the racial profiling of Doug Glanville, despite his social standing, class and clear manifestation of opulence, he was perceived first as a black person capable of being employed as a snow mower and not as a person capable of owning a home of his own. This clearly shows that any African American, rich or poor, educated or not educated, accomplished or not, it is his skin color which first defines him. Doug Glanville was viewed as the black successful man, not just the successful man.


In conclusion, racism is a concern that needs to be addressed; it is embarrassing to the American society that an issue as trivial as racism and class oppression should be a concern in the twenty-first-century American society.  The black person standing in the society or his access to economic opportunities is being influenced and determined by the trifling subject of the color of his skin. This issue is further worsened off by the issue of racial profiling that is being propagated by law enforcement agencies who make it even harder for a man of African decent to live a life that is free from discrimination. However, the positive news is that this form of discrimination has been on the decline in past several decades; hopefully the next generation of American citizens of African decent will not know the meaning of racism let alone experience it in their lives.


Bonilla-Silva, E. (2013). Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Dennis, B. G., & Dennis, A. K. (2008). Slaves to Racism: An Unbroken Chain from America to Liberia. Algora Publishing: New York.

Feagan, J. R. (2001). Racist America: Roots, Current realities, and Future Reparations. New York: Routledge.

Glanville, D. (2014, April 14). I Was Racially Profiled in My Own Driveway. Retrieved December 2014, from The Atlantic:

Smith, R. C. (1995). Racism in the Post-Civil Rights Era: Now You See It, Now You Don’t. SUNY Press.

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