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Roots of Racism in California

What Causes Racism?
What Causes Racism?

It's hard for some people to understand why racism still exists today.  In order to understand, it's important to look at what the possible causes are and their outcomes .  Below three causes are explored.


While everyone is entitled to their own opinion, based on research I have done on the topic these are some of causes that I have found.

          Racism has been part of America’s history since the land was first discovered by Columbus in 1492.  It would be nice to be able to say that racism is just a thing of the past and that it no longer exists; however, that is not the case.  While Civil Right’s movements have helped create an “equal” America, the mentality of superiority over other races that is passed on from generation to generation still remains a major cause of racism.  The economic and social status of certain ethnic groups is another contributing factor to the cause of racism along with the lack of diversity in certain areas and cities.  These factors can lead to hate crimes often resulting in injury, or even death.

            Racism has historically been defined as the belief that race is the primary determinant of human capacities, that a certain race is inherently superior or inferior to others, and/or that individuals should be treated differently according to their racial designation (

People are not born being racist just as they are not born knowing right from wrong.  Racism is said to be something that is learned, according to Murray from the American Pyschological Association.  Children are born ,at least that is what is told by social scientists, with purity, with no predetermined hate of others. Therefore, one can conclude that children learn hatred, racism, and stereotyping.  But where does it start from in the first place?

            Another contributing factor to racism is social and economic status.  People are often judged by where they live, how much money they make, what type of car they drive and so on.  According to CNN, in 2004 the percentage of Americans living under the poverty level was 12.5%.  In this same year the percentage of African Americans living under the poverty level was 24.4%, almost twice the national level.  This tends to cause a feeling of superiority amongst some people over the African Americans.  This also may cause people to generalize all African Americans as “poor” since the number is so high.  In a study done at the University of Michigan it was found that all minorities are viewed negatively by whites in terms of potential for violence.  In the essay “Black Men and Public Space,” the author finds that people feel threatened by him because he is black.  They see him as a potential danger to their safety and often choose to keep their distance from him even though in reality he poses no threat and is in fact a young grad student.  In the same study done at Michigan it was also found that 45% of whites think blacks are lazy; 29% think blacks are unintelligent; less than one in five think Blacks are hard working; and 56% of whites feel that blacks would rather live on welfare than work.  The location and environment of this study could also contribute to the results, however they are unknown.  According to the national consensus in 2004 the unemployment rate of African Americans was 10.9 % whereas the unemployment rate and whites was 4.9%, and the unemployment rate of Hispanic Americans was 8.2%.  This also contributes to the idea that “whites think blacks are lazy” therefore causing a feeling of racial superiority. 

            Not all people who are racist are taught from their parents or an older generation.  Sometimes it is the lack of diversity in the area in which one lives.  Generally when people are unaccustomed to something they judge it.  For example in Wallowa county racism is common due to lack of minorities in the area.  One resident of the area acknowledges this also by adding that many of the children who live in the area don’t have much interaction with children of other races because there simply aren’t any in their schools.  This also creates an atmosphere of racism (Isley).

             While not all people are “violent racists” there are some that are, and those that are commit horrendous hate crimes either injuring or killing people.  For example in 1963 members of the white supremacies group, Klu Klux Klan bombed an all black church in Birmingham, Alabama killing four young girls.  Another example of a less severe and more recent hate crime happened in Orangevale, California in July of 2002.  A mail carrier of Indian decent who wore a turban and had a full beard was shot in the neck by a pellet gun.  The shooter was a man who had a confederate flag hanging on his garage and ended up pleading guilty to the charges brought on him (  These are only two examples out of the thousands of hate crimes that are committed annually in the U.S.  In 2003 the Federal Bureau of Investigations reported that out of the 9,100 reported hate crimes 52% were targeted as victims because of their race.

            These are just some of the causes of racism.  There are numerous other factors that contribute the feeling of racial superiority that some people have over others.  However the real problem is not only what causes these feelings of animosity but rather the atrocious outcomes that are a result of it.

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