Time and again, incidences of racial discrimination have rocked the United States and 2013 witnessed a surge in such unwelcome occurrences.
The recent firing of Justine Sacco exposes the mindset of some people in the country. Sacco, a top PR executive of InterActiveCorp, was fired after her racist tweet went viral and generated worldwide furor. She tweeted, ‘Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just Kidding. I’m White!’. IAC distanced itself from the tweet and referred to it as “outrageous and offensive”.
It was a bad attempt by Sacco at evoking humor out of a serious issue and she irked millions of people by her inconsiderate attitude. According to dosomething.org, roughly 23.8 million people in Africa having HIV/AIDS and in the wake of such suffering, this comment was uncalled for.
The cause of concern is that such incidents are not isolated. The GAP commercial featuring a Sikh model was defaced with racial slurs in November of 2013. It is sad that we still live in an age where a person is called an “Arab” in a derogatory manner if he sports a beard and a turban. In another incidence, a U.S. man pleaded guilty for slapping a black toddler who was crying, incessantly, on a plane. The man in question, also, hurled out racial slurs.
Stories in the last few months re-affirm that racism is still prevalent in America and is not a thing of the past. Many people, however, deny its existence, more so because they have not experienced it. It is as ignorant as saying that Mount Everest does not exist because I have not climbed it.
Social networking sites have become an important conduit for hate speeches with sites like Facebook and Twitter flooded with a host of homophobic comments everyday. This online inflow has prompted a number of researchers to conduct studies on the behaviors of people across the globe and there have been some thought-provoking and important revelations. A Twitter study conducted by professor Monica Stevens and Humboldt State University shows the concentration of racist and homophobic tweets throughout America.
America’s reputation as an ethnically and racially diverse nation is at a stake because of some xenophobic individuals who are ready to hurl racist abuse at the drop of a hat.
The silver lining in the cloud is that authorities have taken stringent action against the culprits in almost all the reported incidents. Sacco was fired by the IAC; the man accused of slapping a black child has been sentenced to prison for eight months; and GAP reacted to the racial graffiti by changing its twitter background to the picture of the Sikh model to express its support.
But what about the cases that aren’t reported? What about the discrimination in the workplace, in stores, and other places that some people silently bear?
This increasing intolerance towards people from other races and backgrounds reflects a dangerous trend. Such incidents highlight that there is an increasing need for cultural awareness within the people of the country. Culture is sacrosanct and has a great importance in every individual’s life as it is a part of his/her identity. It is important to not only understand but to revere a culture which is different from ours, as in doing so, we promote harmony and peace.
It’s time for America to embrace the minorities and help transform the country into a place which Martin Luther King had dreamt of, a place where little children “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character“.
– Deepika Sharma Grover