Back in the mid 1990s, Dinesh D’Souza wrote a book with the provocative title, The End of Racism. His assertion was that if racism has a beginning, it can also end. Ending racism is an ideal that certainly crosses political lines, but the process of getting to that end…well, that’s where the differences between progressives and conservatives start to show.
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The power of the White Citizens’ Council, the Klan, the Dixiecrats and, most importantly, laws that legalized racism in the United States has been diminished since the mid-’60s. Does this signal the “end” of racism? Hardly. To understand modern day racism and the way in which it reinforces social hierarchies based on skin color, language, religion and culture, I spoke to Truthout writer, Bethania Palma Markus. Markus wrote a piece entitled, “Racism and Criminalization in the Media” where she takes on the subtle and not-so-subtle depictions of race in the media. Paula Deen’s idealization of southern plantation life, the coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing and the people profiling in news stories serve to reinforce social hierarchies through a softer (but no less effective) kind of racial coding of African-Americans, Latinos, Arab-Americans and Asian-Americans and their “place” in society.
Race is an artificial construct. Yet, the power of racism lies in a time-tested media tactic that’s used to sell us everything from soap to war to the belief that whites currently suffer the same kind of racial discrimination as African-Americans. What is that tactic? Simply put, a message needs time and frequency to penetrate the consciousness of a target audience. Or to put it another way: people will start to believe a message repeated over a long period of time.