• Flux Magazine

"The Phantom of Modern Racism" by Awah Fonteh

We live in what could be called one of the most progressive times in history. Younger generations challenging previously accepted norms have led to serious like racism being addressed and handled progressively. This belief, as nice as it may sound…is not exactly true. As someone who was born the first generation into a traditional African family in the United States, I am a minority amongst minorities. This raising, though it has made it even hard to understand the American Black culture, has given me some interesting insight on the matter. The big issue behind the matter as to why progression seems to be limited is not that people don’t discuss the issue…and more the way it is discussed in this country.

To understand the issue, one must understand the myths beyond this phantom racism. The first myth that I have personally heard is that racism isn’t that big of an issue because it is called out if present. This statement is true, but only to a certain degree. Racism still does exist, even if you can’t see it. Even though it is called out, 100 plus years of oppression doesn’t just disappear overnight. Racist expressions have just evolved to be a lot more subtle than they used to be. An example of this is the feeling many African Americans/Black individuals may relate to, of being watched intensely by store employees while shopping. This is done out of stereotype induced fear they may steal from the establishment. Never are these workers direct with these suspicions, for they tail you under the guise of just doing their job, you always in sight.

It is behavior like this that composes the new age of phantom racism in the US. This new kind, it’s hard to see if you are not a member of a minority group. Because it is harder to see than the explicit racism that was once normalized, there are some people genuinely believe racism isn’t an issue anymore. This belief is something I have run into, in my previous years in college up to becoming the junior I am now. If the existence of it is not looked over, those who do see it don’t always want to talk about it. This decision to overlook racism when it is inconvenient is something existent in the education system from a college down to elementary level.

I only realized this after I talked to my professor, who loves to discuss feminist literature. When I mentioned that the works we read only fight for the rights of white European/American women, he didn’t think it a big deal. He just told me ‘there are some that do talk about minority feminism’. This may be true…but it doesn’t change the fact that a lot of the heroines he endorses were racists. What else would they be, as products of their time? Though this is true, not even once has he ever mentioned the racist aspect of women suffrage. This decision doesn’t make sense, as both topics historically have strong ties with each other. Any efforts to bring it up usually get it sidelined as part of ‘another conversation’. This word choice may seem insignificant, but it has a lot of real-world implications.

This word use, it is a tactic to separate racism from the racist individual. If the idea of racism being tied to an idea makes people uncomfortable, this is one of the common ‘escape routes’ to dodge discussing the matter. It is commonly used to save the face of someone, with something being endorsed as ‘good.’ This tactic is used by both common people and politicians who don’t feel they benefit from bringing up the issue. This behavior of bringing up racism only when it’s convenient, it is a dangerous yet commonly used tactic. If this manipulative word use doesn’t stop, ‘phantom racism’ will never be dealt with.

If we are to make progressive change, we must all realize that racism is racism. It does exist, even if you cannot see it. It doesn’t matter what the gender, race, or sex of the racist is. To believe this means that even minorities like myself must be self-aware, for even we can be racists if not careful. Acknowledging it where it is present, regardless of how uncomfortable it may make you feel, is important. All inquisitive individuals ought to be wary of that common trick, as this thinking model can even tackle other matters like sexism. Try to pay attention to when we as individuals and others push for positive social reform. Being vocal isn’t always easy, but it must happen for improvements. After all, if we all don’t hold ourselves just as accountable as we hold others around us, how can we make this world fairer place for everyone?

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