`Racism in the 1950s vs. racism today`

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The following paper presents a comparison about the racism that was present in the era of 1950s and what is racism today. To compare both the time, a reference has been taken from the play “Raisin in the sun” by Lorraine Hansberry

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Racism is a cultured behavior that is brought through family teachings, observance, and the media’s stereotypical views. Unfortunately most people tend to believe things in which they see or hear that ultimately lead to complex opinions and views. For instance, when the media repeatedly portrays young black and Mexican people as gang bangers and criminals, certain viewers take the stereotypes to heart and form their own opinions. This ultimately leads to racial discrimination. Media-driven labels have a tendency to compel community strategies as well. It is thought that media accounts of black criminality are the main cause for the justice system being so hard on today’s black youth.

In the 2001 landmark study, co-authored by Lori Dorfman and Vincent Shiraldi, it was found that the media coverage of crime exaggerates its scope and unduly connects it to youth and race.

According to poll taken by the Youth Media Council, about 62 percent of the individuals felt that the rate of the youthful crime is increasing, even though aggressive and brutal crime by youth was at the least rate in more than two decades in 1998. As a result to all this, policies that concern all of America’s youth are greatly affected. Policy makers try to make it easier for youth offenders to be tried as adults for an increasing measure of punishment correspondingly, with new levels of punishment come new levels of regulation.

Existence of Racism:

A poor weak black man being whipped repeatedly until his flesh looks as though, it is being scraped from his back. The thought of a young black kid crouched to his knees, screaming in horror as he is profusely beaten by the nightsticks of the local police. These are all situations that have been instilled in every American’s head from the time we look in for the issue concerning racism. Racism is all around us on a day-to-day basis. We see it in history books, in today’s media, and in our own daily lives. The belief that some races are inherently inferior to others is widespread throughout the world and its conviction is unstoppable. This hate and prejudice is an ongoing epidemic in today’s society and its effects are catastrophic within our social order.

Without a doubt, racism is present in the entire world. The fascinating component is that a number of individuals will declare that they themselves are racially prejudiced at the same time as others will state that they are progressive and that they are not racially prejudiced or biased. The reality is that the one who can acknowledge he is racialist is in point of fact the tolerant one. Someone who states he is liberal and that he does not see color is in the dark, he is unenlightened.

It is a depressing reality that being racially prejudiced is more normal in American civilization than to not be. As Robert Heilbroner says stereotypes are one way in which we describe the humanity in order to see it. They categorize the countless diversity of human beings into an expedient handful of natures towards whom we discover to proceed in stereotyped manner. Life would be a wearing procedure if we had to begin from scrape with each and every one human being in contact (Joe R. Feagin, 5)

Racism Now and In 1950s:

Our world has an extensive narration of racial discrimination that prolongs nowadays. Racism is affected all over the place we look. We have the conventional Asian American in our television sitcoms and we have the symbolic Black American in our commercials. One who can acknowledge that this is not acceptable in being an exact and precise representation of our population has his eyes open (Micheal Omi and Howard Winant, 75).

It is essential to comprehend that the struggle aligned with the lack of knowledge of racial discrimination has simply presently begin. Someone who is open-minded and declares that he is racially prejudiced so he possibly will then move on to become well-informed in the direction of an improved understanding of his familiarity and the knowledge of others. Admitting you are racialist gives confidence you to become conscious of the occurrence of racial discrimination in our world and in ourselves. Declaring you are racialist can be agonizing for the white-folk and for everybody for the reason that you have to declare to yourself how sick it is, but this is the establishment of the independence. Just like the drug fanatic who lastly approaches out of rejection, comprehending your illness is the only means in the direction of health.

I have often heard my fellows claim that they are not prejudiced because they do not see color as if this is a good thing; an enlightened way to be! Not seeing color is the same as being in the dark. Saying you do not see color when you look upon a person of color denies that this part of their identity exists. It is really that you are not seeing them wholly and you are filtering out the important element of ethnicity for your own comfort. I think numerous people do not even realize they do this. Like Plato’s cave dwellers in his famous work, The Allegory of the Cave, most White Americans, and all racists included, do not see real objects: real people, but instead they see and hear the shadows: a fragment of the truth, if, even that.  And presume further that the jail had an echo which appeared from the other region, would they not be certain to imagine when one of the passers-by spoke that the accent which they listened to came from the momentary shade? (George M. Fredrickson, 151)

 Just like the cave dwellers, one who has not admitted he is racist has not emerged from the cave to seen any other perspective. He has not admitted that racism is prevalent in his world and that he is fully emerged in it. He has not seen that he is racist when he makes jokes or comments about a person’s ethnicity in a derogatory manner. He remains in the darkness of the cave, not seeing color, unenlightened (Robert Charles Smith, 150).

I have observed that some of these people who claim to not see color, thinking themselves enlightened, prefer the word  prejudiced as opposed to  racist because, I believe there exists some fear in even uttering the word and acknowledging the concept of racism. Accepting you are racist is the first step to becoming enlightened as far as racial issues go. If you hold an ideal of human harmony, you must admit you are racist, educate yourself and others, and then turn it around so that you can begin to honor diversity. The alternative is to remain in the dark, not seeing color, not wholly seeing the people in the world, and not wholly seeing you.

In A Raisin in the Sun, race also acted a limiting factor on the characters by keeping them confined to only certain kinds of work outside of the home; the characters were more articulate about the effects of race than they were of gender. In A Raisin in the Sun, endured criticism and misunderstanding from Beneatha’s family and her boyfriend because she did not fit into the traditional notion of a woman; she may not be able to fulfill her goal of being a doctor because of what her family expected her to do for them (Lorraine Hansberry, 85).

Walter Younger in “A Raisin in the Sun” wanted money and wealth, Benetha wanted an education, while their mother wanted the perfect home for them all to live in.  While each person in the family had their own dreams, it was mother who was not only more realistic, but wanted to use their new wealth for the entire family not just the personal gain of a single member.  It was the strength of the family as a whole that kept them together, and in the end it took much more than money to make the family happy.

All in all, the female characters suffered more and deeper consequences than the male characters. Almost all the women did not get something that they want, or their efforts to change their situations resulted in physical harm and emotional instability. In Raisin in the Sun, gender behavior whether implied by actions or discussed in dialogue, fell into behaviors that were acceptable for men and those that were acceptable for women. These characters were not free to act or to react based on their personal motivations or feelings. Their behavior was conditioned or controlled by cultural expectations.

In keeping with the notion that gender behavior was prescribed for females and males, females who moved out of the traditional realm of behavior were often feared or eventually punished for their behavior. Women who seek to be equal seem menacing, and therefore, easily become the primary targets of male anger.

Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun introduced the characters as adhering to strict gender roles within the family, and the behaviors followed a defined and articulated pattern. But there is some sort of struggle for power within the house hold and women also worked outside the house to help in expenditures. Walter Lee also worked outside the home. A struggle existed in the home between Lena and Walter Lee over who was the actual head of the household. During the course of events, Lena relinquished the role to her son when she realized the personal pain her leadership was causing him. Beneatha was the only female character to aspire to a career and a life without a husband, but in the end, her goals and aspirations were in jeopardy. Although Walter Lee did not get to pursue his goal of owning a business; he is granted leadership in the family. Beneatha may lose her dream so that her family can maintain ownership of their home (Emma Chastain and Spark Publishing, 700).

As a final point, the connection between race and gender cannot be overlooked. As with other traits, the influence of race became more pronounced. Raisin in the Sun addressed race and its effects on the characters in the play. However, the characterization of black women in the modern period and the postmodern period changed drastically, which indicated a profound loss of stature and voice.

The majority of the characters was assigned traditional gender roles and displayed traditional gender behavior traits. Based on their gender roles and behavior in their roles, characters faced limitations that confined their actions and restricted their choices. Characters experienced consequences for their behaviors, and female characters received harsher punishments for deviant behaviors than male characters.


Racism is the most important matter that has influenced the United States from the time when it was discovered.  Racial discrimination is the extreme dislike by a human being of one race pointed at an individual of another race. The United States has grown-up to get better as an entire but this procedure is an extended way away from achievement.  Some inhabitants still consider that African-Americans are substandard to Caucasians and that they are believed to be slaves.  In the 1950s, whites and blacks were isolated to a point that they could not go to the similar schools or even use the equivalent restroom.

 The reconciliation of schools has assisted citizens of all races grow up mutually in a non-hostile surroundings where they can expand associations with individuals of other races.  All the way through the play A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry condemns the ethnic and prejudiced environment of America in the 1950s and early 60s. All through the play, each and every character is strained out regarding one thing or the other. If it’s not cash, its schooling or a larger house to live in, but it’s always something. But somehow they all get it together and show the most significant value, feel affection for and each and other, not race, division or money.


Hansberry, Lorraine. A Raisin in the Sun: The Unfilmed Original Screenplay. Published by Plume Book, 1992

Chastain, Emma and Spark Publishing. Literature. Published by Spark Educational Publishing, 2004

Smith, Robert Charles. Racism in the post-civil rights era: now you see it, now you don’t. Published by SUNY Press, 1996

Omi, Micheal and Howard Winant. Racial formation in the United States: from the 1960s to the 1990s. Published by Routledge, 1994

Fredrickson, George M. Racism: A Short History. Published by Princeton University Press, 2002

Feagin, Joe R. Racist America: roots, current realities, and future reparations. Published by Routledge. 2000

Youth Media Council. Looking Deeper. Grade the news. (2005) Retrieved on 20th March ‘2009 from http://www.gradethenews.org/2005/youthmercurynews.htm


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