If the United States truly had racial justice, all people would receive fair treatment; there would be equal opportunities for all people. There would not be inequity in the opportunities and outcomes of races. Racial justice would occur in daily life and on television.
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Unfortunately, racism still exists today. As Garner (2017) reported, racism has become ingrained in social practices as well as institutions, and it results in an imbalance of power. Often, misperceptions cause people to believe that racism must be accompanied by abuse, violence, and segregation; however, Garner (2017) asserts the absence of such drastic measures does not prevent actions and behaviors from being examples of racism. Racism can actually be seen throughout the entire social continuum. Some argue that racism only becomes an issue when academics and activists invoke the issue; for example, Adams (2006) argues that some people simply change the definition of racism at will.
Specifically, people redefine the word to support the ideas and plans they are supporting at the time (Adams, 2016). While Garner (2017) concedes that there is a lack of consensus about the meaning of racism, he defines racism as a belief system or doctrine which postulates a hierarchy among various human races or ethnic groups (page 16). As a social phenomenon, people may engage in racism through their thoughts, attitudes, actions, and behaviors.
Racism can be seen as people go about their daily lives. In fact, people do not even need to leave home to see racism in action. All one has to do is turn on the television, and racism can be seen front and center.
For more than a decade, fans have tuned their televisions to The Bachelorette on Monday nights as they watch a single woman as she dates a couple dozen men in hopes of finding love and ultimately a husband. Last summer, fans watched Rachel Lindsay, an attorney from Dallas, Texas, as she starred in the show’s leading role. In an interview prior to the start of her season of The Bachelorette, Lindsay admitted to feeling a variety of emotions. Knowing that all eyes would be on her, she explained that she was scared. Although her goal was to find love on the show, she knew that people would be judging her. Then, she decided to focus on the positives of the experience. She recognized and openly discussed being the first black bachelorette in the show’s history. Despite this recognition, she described her search of love would be just like all of the previous leading ladies in the show’s history. In describing her ideal partner, she wanted a soul mate that has a sense of humor, enjoys sports, is self-aware, has a large heart, and displays good morals (Barnes, 2017).
During the last week of June, The Bachelorette was aired two nights that week. When Lindsay was cast as the show’s first black female lead, nobody would have guessed that racism would have become a plotline as she tried to find love. One of the men chosen to compete for Lindsay’s love was Lee Garrett, a 30 year-old singer and songwriter from Nashville, Tennessee. Throughout the season, it could be argued that he got more joy from fighting with and playing mind games with Kenny King, a black wrestler from Las Vegas, also competing for Lindsay’s love. While Garrett continuously engaged in conversations about King during the show’s first four weeks, everything came to a head during the show’s fifth week. As the season unfolded, Garrett spent the majority of his time talking about King instead of promoting himself. Various instances of Garrett’s behaviors and racism can be seen at the following URL: https://abc.go.com/shows/the-bachelorette/episode-guide/season-13
As the show aired on Monday, June 26, 2017, viewers witnessed Garrett referring to King as being aggressive; the URL for this episode follows: https://abc.go.com/shows/the-bachelorette/episode-guide/season-13/5-week-5-part-1. Viewers watched as Garrett continued to refer to King as aggressive; meanwhile, King responded by calling Garrett a snake. Eventually, Will Gaskins, another one of Lindsay’s potential soul mates joined the conversation. Gaskins provided Garrett with a historical analysis of the word aggressive and what it meant to the black community. Gaskins conveyed the manner in which the word aggressive had long been used negatively against black men over the years in order for other people to justify their actions against black men. Garrett accused King of resorting to the race card. Gaskins, another white contestant, strongly disagreed with Garrett’s assessment; instead, he told Garrett that he truly believed that King was offended by his actions. Specifically, King took offense with Garrett’s choice of words. Clearly, King interpreted that word very negatively; for him, the word has a racial connotation. As Garrett was further portrayed in the scene, he did not hesitate to say that his actions were intentional; in fact, he described that his actions were calculated. After his conversation with Gaskins, Garrett blamed the incident on King and King’s worldview. He further asserted that he did not comprehend the race card. Taking no accountability for his actions, Garrett tried to portray the problem with the scene resting with King; in fact, he maintained that King has issues (The Bachelorette Video Clips, 2018).
In episodes earlier during the month, Garrett’s racist views were first revealed. In fact, he had compared The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a civil rights organization in the United States, with the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), a well-known racist organization; he described both organizations as racists and explained that one of the group’s has enough sense to know to cover their faces. Although the show’s producers claimed that they had no knowledge of Garrett’s tweets when he was cast, he had a history of posting racist remarks. Additionally, during the episode of The Bachelorette that aired on June 5, Garrett was antagonizing Eric Bigger, another black gentleman vying for Lindsay’s affections. Upon hearing of the argument, Lindsay listened to both of the men show was dating; however, she eventually took King’s side. Garrett was sent up during the two-on-one date between Lindsay, him and King. In explaining her actions, Lindsay said it was an easy decision; she explained that she was not able to trust Garrett (The Bachelorette Video Clips, 2018).
Clearly, the definition of racism promoted by Garner (2017) came into play in the June 16, 2017, episode of The Bachelorette. Viewers watched Garrett display the social phenomenon of racism in his thoughts, words, and actions. Garrett had always been careful to make sure that his badgering of King and the other black men did not happen where Lindsay could hear him. As the show demonstrated, Garrett clearly was intolerant and displayed racist behaviors.
Sexism refers to a form of discrimination or prejudice that finds its basis in a person’s gender or sex. While sexism can impact anyone, it predominantly impacts girls and women (Matsumoto, 2001). Sexism has been linked to gender roles as well as stereotypes (Nakdiment, 1984). Last December, an episode of Teachers aired a perfect example of sexism (Funk, 2017). The URL for the specific episode was the following: https://www.tvland.com/video-clips/032bia/teachers-teachers-clip–who-gave-me-sexism-
In the episode of Teachers, two teachers are talking as two other teachers approach. Three of the four teachers are females. One of the female teachers looks at the other female teacher and says, Linda, you are back from maternity leave so soon. Isn’t it hard to be away from your baby? In disgust, Linda looks at the other teacher and responds, Why don’t you ask, Dan, that. He and his wife just had a baby”a week ago! The teacher who asked the question suddenly exclaims, Oh my God! It’s a scientific law; I’m sexist! Who made me this way because I did not do this to myself! Seriously, who gave me sexism? Her friend explains that somebody probably engrained it into her when she was little. Suddenly, the sexist teacher blames in on Mrs. Wyatt, her elementary teacher. She continues to explain that she loved science as a young student, but she tells her friend that Mrs. Wyatt only encouraged her in penmanship and said she would eventually write beautiful love letters. She continues and reports that she could have been a rocket scientist for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Funk, 2017).
There are two different types of sexism; it can be described as benevolent sexism or hostile sexism. The two different forms of sexism hold different stereotypes of women. Benevolent sexism looks at women through positive stereotypes; hostile sexism views women through negative stereotypes. With benevolent sexism, women are viewed as more empathetic and kinder. With hostile sexism, women are seen as less brave and less competent (Glick & Fiske, 2001). In the episode of Teachers, the teacher displayed sexism toward Linda when she expressed shock that she was already back at school; instead, she thought she should be at home taking care of her baby. In this instance, she was viewing Linda through benevolent sexism because she is viewing women as more nurturing. On the other hand, the teacher also illustrates another example of sexism; she explains the sexism that Mrs. Wyatt displayed during her days as a student in elementary school. The current teacher reported being very good at science and dreaming of being a rocket scientist; however, she explained that Mrs. Wyatt discouraged her love of science. Instead, Mrs. Wyatt promoted penmanship and love to her. Clearly, Mrs. Wyatt was also displaying sexism. In this particular instance of sexism, Mrs. Wyatt was displaying hostile sexism. She was suggesting that her young female student should not consider science as a career because girls are less intelligent than boys; she was suggesting that boys do science and girls write.
In looking at all of this, it is important to consider prejudice. First, it is important to recognize that prejudice is an attitude. As with all attitudes, there are three components that comprise the attitude; the components include affective, behavioral, and cognitive. When someone displays that they are prejudice, they exhibit a negative or hostile attitude toward people toward people simply because they are part of a particular group. Once a behavior accompanies the attitude, it results in discrimination. It is possible for a person to hold certain stereotypes about a group without engaging in discrimination (Aronson, Wilson, Akert & Sommers, 2016).
In looking at these examples from the television shows, elements of prejudice are apparent. For example, going back to The Bachelorette, Garrett was prejudiced against black people. Garrett held an attitude in which he believed that all black people were the same. He was constantly demonstrating hostile behavior toward the black male contestants. He assigned negative characteristics to all of the black men on the show, and it was clear that he also applied these same beliefs to all black people when his racist tweets were revealed. For instance, he compared the NAACP with the KKK; in fact, he called both groups racist. He went so far to say that only one of these two racist groups knows enough to hide their faces. Meanwhile, in the episode of Teachers, we saw the one teacher display prejudiced behavior when she told Linda that she was so surprised to see her back at school already because it was so soon for her to be back at school. Meanwhile, Linda explained that Dan, her male colleague, and his wife just had a baby a week so the other teacher should ask Dan that question; however, the teacher did not ask Dan that. Even though she was a woman, she was suggesting that mothers should be staying at home with their babies. Then, we learn about the teacher’s elementary teacher, Mrs. Wyatt. We also saw that Mrs. Wyatt had prejudiced ideas. Specifically, Mrs. Wyatt had a negative attitude toward girls; she did not think that they were as smart as boys. Because science is typically considered a more difficult subject, Mrs. Wyatt suggested that science was for boys. She believed that boys were more intelligent and could do science. She thought girls should write and think about love.
At times, we hear racism and sexism referred to as being institutionalized. Institutional racism refers to racist attitudes that held against a minority by the majority in a society; the discrimination may be in a legal form or illegal form. Discrimination and stereotypes are part of the norm in institutional racism. Meanwhile, institutional sexism refers to majority held attitudes that are part of a society that accepts stereotypes and discrimination as the norm.
I do not think Garrett’s discrimination represented institutionalized racism. His attitudes do not represent attitudes held by the majority in society. In fact, the other white men in the house with Garrett did not sit by quietly. Instead, they pointed out his problems and took him to task for his behavior. In fact, by the end of the season, when the men return to talk about the entire season, the entire cast held him accountable for his behavior. As for the instance of the teacher asking the other teacher about being back at work so soon, her behavior was not institutional sexism. That may have been a form of sexism back in the 1950s when women were expected to stay home, cook, clean, and take care of their children.
However, today, our society is much more accepting of women having careers and a family. Most people hold the belief that it is up to each woman to decide whether she will have a career or stay home and have a career. When women have careers and choose to have a child, most employers will now offer women time away from work for their maternity leave. Under the Family Medical Leave Act, women can take 12 weeks off from work and have their jobs protected; some companies have gone beyond that and allow women to stay home longer when they have a baby. Thus, that instance of sexism was held by the teacher and does not meet the definition of institutional sexism. As for Mrs. Wyatt, her issue of sexism has also changed over the years. Many years ago, there was a belief that boys did better at math and science; girls did better with verbal abilities. Many teachers thought like Mrs. Wyatt did at one time. However, now, girls are encouraged to take whatever classes they want. In fact, I’ve seen some of the physics and calculus classes at my school that now have more girls than guys in the class. Also, women often enter careers in the sciences now. In fact, I just read a study last week that actually showed there are more women majoring in the sciences than men. Thus, Mrs. Wyatt’s example of sexism does not meet the definition of institutional racism in today’s society.
In trying to understand racism and sexism, it is important to think about society and how people learn such behaviors. According to the social learning theory, social behavior is learned; in fact, the theory asserts that people learn everything from altruism to aggression by watching those around them. Most social behavior is developed after watching and emulating others. Observation alone does not fully explain the learning that takes place; thus, there is also a cognitive component to the theory. Through the cognitive component, people their thought processes to what they have observed. The theory maintains that there are consequences when young people are exposed to racism and sexism. Because young people often learn from observing and mimicking the behavior of those around them, there is definitely a concern that young children will come to think that such behaviors are acceptable. They will think that it is appropriate to talk to people inappropriately. They will think that it is okay to think they are better than other groups. They will think it is okay to have prejudice attitudes. Then, they will think they can go a step further and actually engage in discrimination. When children see any aggressive behavior, social learning theory suggests that they will then engage in the behavior. One of the best ways to minimize the chance of young people becoming racist or sexist is to control their exposure to racism and sexism. If they do see racism and sexism, it is important to talk to them and explain why they are not acceptable. When children have seen aggressive role models, it is important to make sure that they later see nonaggressive behavior modeled. Likewise, if they see racism or sexism, it is important to make sure they are then exposed to appropriate behavior and non-racism and non-sexism (Aronson, Wilson, Akert & Sommers, 2016).
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