Racism In America

     Racism is an institution in America. It has existed since our Nations
beginning, and it is now woven into many facets of society. Historically, white
males have held all of the power positions in society. White males were the
doctors, lawyers, and policy makers. Although minorities hold some positions of
power today, white males still hold the majority of them. Despite legislation
that has attempted to alleviate inequality in America, The Department of Housing
and Urban Development maintains that, "disparity in home ownership is still
great"(Washington Post, p.E10). Housing secretary Andrew M. Cuomo cites home
ownership rates of, "72.5% for whites, 45% for African-Americans, and 44% for

Hispanic-Americans (Washington Post, p.E10). Home mortgage denial rates are,

"26% for whites and 53% for African-Americans" (Washington Post, p.E10).

Given the fore-mentioned statistics that obviously indicate racism, federal
housing officials launched a year long 7.5 million dollar study to investigate
the racist practices of mortgage lenders, landlords, and other housing
officials. Discrimination has become more sophisticated since the Fair Housing

Act became law 30 years ago, according to complaints from the department. Cuomo
commented, "Then it was more in your face. Now it is not as loud, not as
flagrant, but just as devastating" (Washington Post, p.E10). The article,

"U.S. Study to Target Racism in Housing," explains the link between
attitudes and behavior related to issues of power, inequality, and
discrimination. The racist attitudes of people in power, carry over to their
behavior, which result in the unfair treatment of minorities. One explanation
for this cycle is the Reasoned Action Model (text, p.240). The Reasoned Action

Model is a theory of social psychology that examines the relationship between
our attitudes and our behaviors. The theory suggests that our behaviors are best
predicted by our behavioral intentions. If a person intends to do something,
he/she is more likely to do it. According to the Reasoned Action Model, our
behavioral intentions are shaped by a personís attitude toward the behavior
and their subjective norms. A personís attitude toward a behavior is based
upon his/her beliefs and evaluations of the possible outcomes of a behavior. A
person's subjective norms are comprised of his/her beliefs about what
significant others will say about the behavior and its outcome. Subjective norms
are also affected by the personís motivation to comply with the wishes of
significant others. The behavior of housing officials who discriminate against
minorities can be explained using the Reasoned Action Model. Although the
majority of housing officials probably do not say, "Today I intend to be a
racist," their attitudes toward minorities cause them to behave in a racist
manner. A housing official who discriminates against minorities is doing so
because of his/her beliefs about possible outcomes of the behavior. What would
happen if minorities were awarded home mortgages? Racist housing officials are
not concerned about limiting where minorities will live. They are concerned
about what will happen to their communities if minorities are awarded home
mortgages. Housing officials are taking the issue personally. They are
wondering, "What if they move into my neighborhood? What if they move into my
motherís neighborhood? What if they attend school with my children?" These
housing officials also believe that they are protecting their families and
carrying out their wishes. Racism is simply fear that comes from ignorance. No
one will ever know every single person in a particular race, yet people tend to
judge people according to their personal beliefs about a particular race. Why do
some people feel like it is okay to judge an entire race based on stereotypes? A
stereotype is, "a schema of beliefs that attributes a set of characteristics
to most or all members of a social identity" (text p. 454). Stereotypes are
typically inaccurate. Most stereotypes about minorities are negative. Racist
people use stereotypes as justification for having negative attitudes toward
minorities. Housing officials do not want minorities in their neighborhoods
because they believe that minorities will not keep up their property. They
believe that drugs and violence will enter their neighborhoods, and that the
house they paid so much for will lose its value. Some people actually believe
that African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans ruin safe, peaceful neighborhoods.

Stereotypes are perpetuated by American society. The media typically portrays

African-American and Hispanic-Americans as lazy, poor, and uneducated. Some

African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans are lazy, poor, and uneducated. The
problem begins when the whole race is characterized negatively, and good people
have to suffer. Every American should have the right to be judged as an
individual. Another factor that contributes to the racist attitudes and behavior
of housing officials is stigmatization. Stigmatization is, "the process by
which negatively evaluated attributes cause a personís identity to be
discredited or spoiled" (text p.484). This means that racist housing officials
not only believe stereotypes about minorities, they believe that

African-American and Hispanic-Americans perpetuate negative images and deserve
to be treated unfairly. Stigmatization is used as a justification for
stereotypes. Stereotypes are used as a justification for racist attitudes, and
racist attitudes eventually become racist behavior. Federal housing officials
across the United States recognize that housing discrimination is a problem. I
wonder what they will specifically do to eradicate the problem. Unfortunately,
people are going to do what they belief is right even if it is not. Racist
people believe that having "certain people" living in their neighborhoods is
a threat to their families. Racist attitudes are passed down from generation to
generation and they are further encouraged by American society. An investigation
into the racist practices of housing officials will probably help some, but
according to the Reasoned Action Model, attitudes have to change before
behaviors can change.


"U.S. Study to Target Racism in Housing." The Washington Post. November

21, 1998. P.E10 Wiggins, Wiggins, and Vander Zanden. Social Psychology. New

York: McGraw Hill Inc., 1994. Paper Assignment #2 SOCY 230, McLaughlin November

24, 1998