Please note: I mention blacks repeatedly in this article, but my thesis applies to people of all skin colors. It's just that I've seen examples made of blacks more often than other races. Also, I myself am not black, but some of the statements I make explain how I imagine I would feel if I were black. I ask readers to first read and understand the content of my writing before responding in the comments below.
Something that has bothered me a long time is the problem of subconscious racism in America. Sure, we all know what being overtly racist is like. Calling a black person or a person of any other specific race a clearly derogatory word - that's racist. But what about if you're trying too hard to be politically correct, or being racist without realizing it? Shouldn't that be classified as racism too? Let me offer some examples, and maybe I can conclude this article with a generalization based on what I've seen recently and some solutions.
Whispering 'black' does not make it OK. It makes it worse.
Blacks are obviously the group most easily characterized as victims of racism in this country. However, it seems that nowadays as we strive for political correctness, we're seeing an onslaught of people being "too" politically correct. Time and time again, I've seen people try to avoid the word "black" when describing a person, and I've even seen people actually drop the volume of their voice and whisper the word "black." What is the message here - that being black is something a person should avoid? How can this possibly be acceptable? I think people actually believe that just calling someone black is offensive in itself.
And does lowering the volume of your voice make it any better? Should one be offended if you say the color of one's skin at a normal tone, but find it only acceptable to refer to another's skin color now that you've whispered the latter? If anything, whispering a person's skin color when referring to them should be even more offensive because you've basically said (albeit, indirectly) that being that color is something one should be ashamed of.
Calling someone "black" is not offensive.
At a time when using contractions and shortened phrases ("ya'll", "gonna", "wussup") in everyday speak is commonplace, why do people go out of their way to call someone African-American instead of black? "African-American" is a seven-syllable phrase, while "black" is one syllable. Common sense says people would prefer to say "black" because it's shorter, yet to be politically correct, people opt for the longer phrase. Why? Is it because calling someone "black" is a racist remark? Why is being black something that someone should avoid?
Not only that, but why do we label people as blacks on papers in academic studies and polls, but fear calling them black when speaking to them? If a person is black, call them black, and if a person is white, call them white. Do not treat one group a certain way, and treat an identical group (or so is said) differently. Brown vs. Board of Ed. declared "seperate but equal" unconstitutional and, effectively, immoral, so why do we continue to act this way in a subconscious sense?
All African-Americans are not black.
Finally, in continuation of my second point, the fact that people refer to people as "African-American" instead of "black" leads to another problem - all black people are not African-American. Haitians, Dominicans, and lots of others who live close to the equator have dark skin but are not African. Yet political correctness "teaches" people that "black = African-American". This simply is not true, and it leads to many situations where people are just plain wrong in making that assumption.
If you're reading this article and thinking to yourself, "Well, I'm not racist," I ask that you take some time to really evaluate yourself. The idea of subconscious racism is extremely important, because from what I've observed, people are being racist without even realizing it. Calling someone "African-American" and whispering the word "black" are things that occur without thought, and that is the real problem here. Rather than trying create solutions to treat the symptoms of racism in America, we need to focus more preventing racism in the first place. Actively aiming to be politically correct often ends up resulting in a more racist comment than what one is trying to avoid in the first place. Look for times where you're treating people of one race different than people of another race and change your habits. Do not teach your children words like "African-American"; instead, teach them that there is no difference between "whites" and "blacks". Once we truly understand that we all are equals, then we can really start working on eliminating racism.