Many black Americans share anecdotes about being victims of racism in daily life.  The racism is expressed through poor service in restaurants and other public venues, unwarranted attention by business owners and security guards, and many other ways.  The recent Trayvon Martin murder case brought this issue to the forefront again, as the president bemoaned the fact that this condition is so prevalent.

I will be the first to admit that discrimination exists.  However, I will question whether that discrimination is typically racially motivated.  Though discrimination based on race undeniably exists (against all groups), I believe that the reason for most discrimination is usually more cultural than racial.

Let’s look at the case of Irish immigrants that arrived in the United States in the late 19th century.  They were white.  In fact, they looked very much like the majority of the US population at the time.  However, they were poor, Catholic, and willing to do any work to support their families, which made them culturally different than the predominant American culture at the time.  The fear the predominant culture had for the invading immigrant culture resulted in severe discrimination against Irish immigrants.

In modern America, we essentially have at least two distinct cultures.  One is the “traditional” American culture.  The defining features of this culture may be 1) strong family values and relationships, 2) you deserve the possessions that you work for, and 3) human life is valued highly.  A second culture I would identify is inner city culture.  The features of this culture may be 1) family relationships are not necessarily the most important, 2) if it feels good, do it, and 3) it is the responsibility of the fortunate to support the unfortunate.

Because of the different ways of life that these two cultures lead, when the cultures collide they fear each other.  For example, there is fear by one that a member of the other will violently take his possessions.  There is a fear by the other that his possessions are being taken systematically.  Thus, there is a mutual distrust that can easily be construed as racist, but is not.  In other words, when two black men of opposite cultures encounter one another, the distrust exists, regardless of the fact that they are of the same race.

I would recommend that you test this theory yourself by observation.  Because of the continued spread of the inner city culture over the traditional American culture, clashes between the two will continue to be constant.  In other words, there will be no shortage of case studies for the social scientist.

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