Institutional Racism Essay Example
By means of historical literature and artwork, the ability to emulate a bygone mindset is allocated to the individual. The use of widespread media such as political cartoons may trigger the resurfacing of puzzle pieces from the past, thus sparking an opportunity for reflection. Such ideational images may often encapsulate elements that can be traced back to the Reconstruction era, dating from 1865 to 1877.
Following the Civil War, Northern political leaders strived to rejoin the disjointed “United” States by attempting to restore the Union to its former glory, seemingly achieved through the passing of several amendments with the intention of confronting slavery’s inequities. However, this pursuit went hand-in-hand with the surge of Southern resentment, and, later, Black Codes: Southern laws that possessed African Americans with the ghost of an antebellum slave system, ultimately mangling black “freedom” and causing blacks to stare into the eyes of a distorted, unjust labor economy (“Black Codes”).
Moreover, during the Great Depression in the 1930s, the relegation of African Americans to lower-paying jobs subsisted, and black unemployment was triple that of the white population (Klein). In retrospect, the discrimination of African Americans in the American workforce is nothing short of a disease which continues to plague the nation long after Reconstruction, clawing into modern times and causing many to question the true meaning of workforce equality in the current age.
SOURCE: “American Born Fascism.” Cleveland, 1950
“American Born Fascism” depicts the repudiation of black integration into the American industry as showcased by a black man recoiling in the path of a paternalistic finger. The enlarged hand and pointer finger serve as the focal point of the image, reflective of the potency and control of whites in 1950, and from it stems the words, “No job for you, boy!!” This is an indictment of white dominance in a labor economy cradled by Jim Crow Laws and racial hierarchy.
Comparatively, the white hand and the black man are juxtaposed via a drastic size difference, perpetuating the idea that blacks were seen as beings of minimal substance not deserving of a stance in the workplace. “American born fascism” is displayed on the wrist of the hand, suggesting that white Americans are falling back into old systems -- regressing. Elements of fascism follow the ideology that race transcends all other aspects of the individual, and this is heavily illustrated in the working environment of blacks vs. whites.
Essentially, the black individual is deprived of occupational opportunities upon the basis of his or her skin, thus dismissing any qualifications that he or she may possess. “Will Korea open the door?” is headlined to act as a mockery of communist North Korea, taunting them to “open the door” for blacks, implying that blacks are so much of a hindrance to America that it would be foolish to even incorporate them into North Korea -- a society that preaches socioeconomic equality (or, at least, the guise of it). Overall, this piece serves as a midway point between the Reconstruction era and the modern day, highlighting the notion that African-American workforce inequality has run rampant for an extended duration of time.
SOURCE: Tomi Um, “Underpaid Black Employee.” Feb 2019
Um’s “Underpaid Black Employee” is demonstrative of racial bias in the modern workplace. A white woman and a black woman are pictured working on laptops, which is a clear indication of the cartoon’s modern setting. Each laptop is perched upon a table comprised of money; however, the black woman’s table of money is significantly shorter, epitomizing the fact that she is underpaid in comparison to her white counterpart although the twosome are virtually performing the same duty. Furthermore, the disadvantages that a working African American may face can also be derived observationally: the black woman’s office chair is smaller in size compared to the white woman’s office chair, suggesting that whites could potentially have easier access to luxuries and opportunities in the workplace.
It is also seen that the black employee is bending down in order to work on her laptop, which exemplifies the notion that African Americans may have to overextend themselves in order to achieve certain job positions or workplace opportunities; on the contrary, the white woman has no visible struggle: she is doing her job conventionally with a lack of obstacles. Behind the employees is what one can infer to be an onlooking employee. Though the spectator takes notice of the inequality before her, she appears hesitant, unwilling to take action. In spite of the fact that a white individual may recognize injustice, he or she may not readily interfere due to being devoid of a complete understanding regarding the magnitude of discrimination, for he or she has never been discriminated against. As conveyed by Um’s work, it is evident that in America’s current society, many blacks have been forced to “settle for less,” a truth that many fail to realize.
SOURCE: Joost Thissen, “Cultural Ceiling.” Jan 2017
“Cultural Ceiling” portrays yet another limitation that prevents African Americans from thriving in the American workforce. A “cultural ceiling” can be defined as a barrier that impedes the career progress of minorities due to racial stereotyping in organizations. As pictured, the black man on the left is hindered by the presence of the cultural ceiling, whereas the white man on the right is unaffected. This concept amplifies the idea that blacks often face issues with attaining a higher stance in the workforce, rendering them “locked out” of leadership positions and resulting in the underrepresentation of African Americans in leadership ranks. For example, only a meager 0.8% of CEOs in Fortune 500 companies are African American, whereas a staggering 95.8% are white (Burns, Crosby, et al).
Accordingly, blacks are demoted to a “settle for less” mentality that may discourage them from achieving what transcends the cultural barrier. On the contrary, the white man needs not to worry about any ceiling inhibiting him because he has never been susceptible to racial oppression, and this is reflective of why positions of power in society are primarily dominated by white men. After the black man screams for help, the white man exposes his ignorance by stating, “What cultural ceiling?” Again, this illustrates the idea that whites may be unaware of workforce oppression due to the fact that as a majority, they have never experienced racial discrimination firsthand. Above all, it is clear that Thissen has made an effort to spread awareness on the subject of workforce inequality, and he makes known the presence of the problematic “cultural ceiling” phenomenon.
SOURCE: Theresa McCracken, “Equal Opportunity Employer.” Aug 2010
In McCracken’s “Equal Opportunity Employer,” an employer is depicted in an office, conversing with a monkey figure. She states, “We’re not THAT equal of an opportunity employer,” which formulates a sense of satire, portraying “equal opportunity” as a farce. Though some equal opportunity employers may market themselves as such, they only consider themselves “equal opportunity” when it benefits them, and they still continue to exclude targeted minorities.
Though the monkey-- or metaphorically, the African American-- is seen with a resume in hand, his qualifications are dismissed by the employer, and the “equal opportunity” employer sees his skin color rather than his personal qualities by succumbing to her inherent racial bias. The monkey serves to symbolize the fact that throughout history, blacks fell subject to the racist trope characterized by monkey-like, subhuman, and animalistic behavior, most notably hyperpresent in the era of the Civil War.
The Coon Caricature was used as a way to justify slavery and the Jim Crow laws by diminishing blacks to simian beings, making them vulnerable to overtly racist Southern pop culture (“The Coon Caricature”). McCracken’s depiction of the monkey shows how humans can still be tied to old racist mindsets even in the modern age, grossly bridging the past and the present. This begs the question: is society really progressing toward equality?
SOURCE: Joseph Rank, “Colorblind Company.” 2001
Joseph Rank’s “Colorblind Company” acts as a compendious portrayal of the main message conveyed by all aforementioned images. In this case, a white employer is seen speaking to a black man, saying, “We’re a colourblind company here, Johnson. To us you are black and invisible.” The words of the white employer perpetuate the idea that racists may perceive African Americans as useless beings that serve no purpose in the workplace. Throughout history, white supremacists regarded blacks as liabilities rather than assets, and this renders individuals “colorblind,” unable to “see” black potential. In present-day companies, blacks may feel invisible since old racist mindsets have caused people to be predisposed to the perception that blacks have no value, thus drawing said beings back to primitive mentalities in close connection to slavery.
Similar to the previous image, “Equal Opportunity Employer,” there seems to be a common denominator: a company may portray itself as accepting, but the reality is the opposite; employers hide under the guise of equality and they make the conscious choice to disregard blacks as viable employees. As a result of previously mentioned factors, African Americans may encounter various implications in the American workforce due to being viewed as “useless” or “incompetent” by companies and society. Rank’s cartoon precisely encapsulates a cardinal struggle that blacks face in modern times through the bluntness of the white employer’s biting words.
Fragments of drastic racism against African Americans have resurfaced in the years following Reconstruction, trailing into the present-day United States. Notwithstanding major oppression, blacks have learned to endure a harsh society. To get back on their feet, blacks cautiously introduced themselves into the American workforce; however, they were not readily welcomed by the American embrace, but, rather, were strangled by it. Even in the current age, Americans continue to alienate African Americans and suppress them in ways that should have been abandoned long ago. Evidently, society needs to take a step back and realize that blacks deserve the chance to take a step forward.